Old Time Rock and Roll

Pardon me if you’ve heard this story before…

It was a warm summer night in 1980. My brother and I were sleeping over our friend Jimmy’s house. His parents had put up a tent for us in the backyard, so it was almost like a campout. The night was dark, the heat oppressive, and I could not sleep, so I crawled out of the tent as quietly as possible, being careful not to wake the others, and laid in a hammock on the back porch, a tiny blue transistor radio pressed to my ear. Bob Seger’s “Against The Wind” came on, and the lyrics filled my 11-year-old head with ideas. This was a song about an older man looking back on his youth with regret, and not only did the words seem to perfectly fit that very moment – there in the darkness with the radio playing low – they made me realize that I was young and carefree, but this would not always be so. I didn’t want to one day look back and lament paths not taken, and I wanted very much to feel alive. Right then and there. So I switched off the radio and took off, running against the wind. I ran until my legs ached and my breath came in sharp little gasps, through an empty field of knee-high grass teeming with fireflies, beneath a dark and starry sky, all the way to the edge of the woods that served as a playground for us back then, Seger’s lyrics tumbling through my brain the entire way.

Things changed after that. We left Ohio a couple of months later, and I felt like an important part of my youth disappeared then. Decades later I would return, to the same field and those same woods, older and wiser. That eleven-year-old boy had been naive, because it’s impossible not to lament paths not taken. But hopefully we can learn from those choices we have made. I thought of that night when I strolled through my old stomping grounds, an evening that has since taken on almost mythic proportions in my mind. I thought of Bob Seger. I thought of running against the wind.

Saturday night, Tara and I saw Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band live in concert at the Rose Garden Arena. The second rock ‘n roll legend we have seen in four months. And I got goosebumps when he launched into “Against The Wind” to start his first encore. Once again, I thought of that summer night in Ohio, and how surreal it was that the voice once coming through my little transistor radio was now filling an arena, and I was there to witness it live. It was a special moment for me, and filled me with melancholy. And also happiness. I never dreamed I would see Bob Seger play live. The guy is 67 years old, and the window of opportunity to see such a legendary performer is inevitably narrowing with each passing year. Seger himself says, “I’m definitely nearing the end.” But he’s still got it, and the show was terrific – even if Tara and I were among the youngest people there. There were guys with canes and walkers. A wheelchair or two. The hipsters who so often fill the little clubs where we go to see our favorite up-and-coming indie rock acts were replaced by geriatric folk, balding and gray, and I guess that makes sense. I may have been 11 when “Against The Wind” came out, but these folks were doubtless in their 20s and 30s then, or older. I’m not making fun of them; I think it’s great that these old fogies were big enough fans that they would go out and see their idol perform a live rock ‘n roll show. I’m sure when we’re their age we’ll still be doing the same thing.

Joe Walsh was the opening act, and that in itself was a great performance. We both love Joe Walsh. He’s an old guy too, and he seemed a little “fried” for lack of a better word, but he was funny and cool and played an electric set that included his biggest hits (“Rocky Mountain Way,” “Funk #49,” “Life’s Been Good”). He even updated the lyrics to that last one; I’m making records/my fans they can’t wait/they write me letters/tell me I’m great became they write me e-mails. We enjoyed Joe’s performance, even if we did miss the beginning. We had gone into Portland early to grab a bite to eat at Little Big Burger and, since we still had time to kill, stopped in Peet’s Coffee for a latte, where we lounged around for a while. Too long, it turns out, because when we made our way to the Rose Garden, every one of the parking lots was filled. We had to backtrack into downtown and hop on the light rail, finally arriving a few minutes after the show began at 8:00.

The highlight, of course, was Bob Seger. He took the stage and played for a solid two hours, running through a string of hits that everybody in the crowd knew and loved. “Tryin’ To Live My Life Without You,” “The Fire Down Below,” “Mainstreet,” “Old Time Rock and Roll,” “Turn The Page,” “Beautiful Loser,” “We’ve Got Tonight,” “Roll Me Away,” “Katmandu,” “Like A Rock” (which they’re playing on tour for the first time in 26 years). He introduced a new song, “All The Roads,” from an album they hope to release in August. It sounded great! And we were treated to not one, but two encores: “Against The Wind,” “Hollywood Nights,” “Night Moves,” and “Rock ‘n Roll Never Forgets.” Bob Seger may look like an old man, and he’s not quite as energetic as Springsteen was – he didn’t leap off any pianos or crowd-surf, and was mostly content to sit at a stool while strumming his guitar – but he was humble and genuinely seemed to enjoy the whole experience. And his familiar, gravelly voice has aged well. Great show, one that Tara and I will long remember.

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20 thoughts on “Old Time Rock and Roll

  1. Mark, I LOVED your opening childhood memoir. Beautifully written!

    Actually, my favorite song of Seger is “Against the Wind.” In fact, I can hear it as I type this. “Night Moves” is my second favorite.

    Awesome slide show! Wow…I can’t believe how close and clear those shots of Seger are!!!

    Sounds and look like you and Tara had a faaaaaaabulous time!

    Thanks for sharing, bud!

    P.S. LOVED your mom’s comment!!!!

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  2. I had not heard that story before. Why I don’t know. I love how your mind was already an authors mind in the making. I love that story!!

    I was 20 when Against the Wind came out but I had been a Bob Segar fan for several years before that. Mainstreet always reminded me of Ely’s Mainstreet which was big for me in my teens. Anyway, I’m so thrilled that you and Tara were able to see him together. It’s something you’ll never forget. That I can guarantee. I still remember seeing him at the Salt Palace and that was eons ago!!

    Bob Segar is, in my mind, one of the greatest story tellers and since he does it through music, makes him even greater that most musicans out there.

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    1. He was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame last year, testament to the fact that he (much like Bruce) truly is an excellent storyteller. I’m glad you got to see him in his prime!

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  3. Isn’t it amazing how we forget that our music & stage idols age at the same rate we do. I don’t feel old, so it surprises me sometimes when I look in the mirror & see how I’ve aged or hear how someone I used to idolize (like Davy Jones) has died.

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  4. Enjoying all the music-related comments and memories. My earliest musical memory is round about the age of six or seven. After attending church with my grandmother she invited some of her Church Lady Friends over. Imagine the horror this shy, quiet child felt when dear Nana said, “Oh, Pammy, sing that song you like so much for the ladies.” *GULP* I didn’t want to but managed to get out the first verse of ‘Country Roads Take Me Home’ by John Denver. The Church Ladies were delighted. I swiftly ran off to the play room with the promise of milk and cookies soon to follow.

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  5. What an amazing concert that had to have been!!! One of my biggest memories of listening to Bob is with my Dad when I was about 10. Ever since I was a baby he used to have me sit with him and listen to his favorite music, BB King, Clapton, Skynyrd, The Eagles, Bob and many others. Those were some of my favorite times. However this time in particular we were listening to Bob and Dad played the song “In Your Time” for me. What those words meant to him have resonated across the years and from time to time I turn it on and think of my kids. One of my favorite things about Bob’s music in that it tells a story and in today’s age of music that’s a hard thing to come by. Each of his songs paints a picture in my mind and I close my eyes and just watch the screen play and feel the notes. So glad you shared this post with us, music is one of those awesome things that bring people together. Also, I must add when has Joe Walsh not look “fried”? LOL

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    1. “In Your Time” is a great song, but didn’t make the concert cut. That’s okay, a lot of his best music (“The Famous Final Scene,” “You’ll Accompany Me,” “Sunburst,” etc.) got left out. You have to make tough choices in order to please the majority of the audience, I suppose. Everything he DID play was great. As was your memory – thanks for sharing!

      We have tickets for an amphitheater concert featuring Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company in June. That should be a good show!

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