November 22, 2021 5 min read
Welcome to Nick’s Picks Volume 8!
“As I told everybody last night, I was reading in Rolling Stone where they said, "Detroit audiences are the greatest rock & roll audiences in the world." I thought to myself, "Shit! I've known that for ten years!"
Few things can be said about Bob Seger, especially in our area, that haven’t been said before. Some things, However, bear repeating. Seger is a monster songwriter, has a hair-raising voice and had the best damn band on the planet! Before there was “Night Moves”, “Against the Wind” or “Stranger in Town”, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band delivered the Knock-Out punch of “Live Bullet”. Recorded across two nights in September 1975 at the legendary Cobo Hall in Detroit, Michigan. Seger & Co are at their most young and hungry. This week for Nick’s Picks we take a deep dive into this incredible record that is so quintessentially Detroit
“Live Bullet” begins with the roar of the capacity crowd at Cobo, A venue which held just 12,000 fans which is crazy as I am pretty sure at least 2 million people in this city will tell you that they were there right?! The show kicks off with the Ike and Tina Turner barnburner “Nutbush City Limits”, a driving rendition by the Silver Bullet Band gives way to Seger’s natural and powerful grit in full voice. This is followed by the incredible 1-2 Punch of “Travelin’ Man”/Beautiful Loser”, this truly could be Seger at his finest moment, telling a tale of love, heartbreak and youth. The line “He wants to dream like a young man, with the wisdom of an old man” is up there for some of the best of all time. “Jody Girl” a laid back ballad with some incredible backup vocals from Charlie Martin (Silver Bullet Drummer) arrives next before Side 1 gives way to Side 2’s high energy funk throw down, a cover of Van Morrison’s “I’ve Been Working”. The rhythm section of Charlie Martin and Chris Campbell is locked tight as can be. As a drummer, I have stolen the infamous hi-hat “Swoosh” Charlie does so well throughout this record. This track in particular is a perfect example of how it’s carrying so much of the feel of the song. What can be said about “Turn the Page”? It’s a masterpiece. We’ve all heard it a million times so it’s hard to really appreciate it’s greatness. The Saxophone intro by the late Alto Reed (Recognized as Tommy Cartmell in Bob’s introduction of the band) just sets the scene for the bitter cold and restless vibe Seger so well describes. If you’ve been in a band that’s spent time on the road, then you already know it’s never been summarized better than this. It’s no debate, the “Live Bullet” version is the definitive performance. P.S. Keep the Metallica version FAR AWAY from me. “U.M.C. (Upper Middle Class) A swampy, southern vibe for this track with some outstanding slide work by Drew Abbott, organ from Robyn Robbins and a powerful vocal from Seger. The “Bo Diddley” medley that closes side 2 is another romping showcase of the Silver Bullet Band. SO SO Tight and extremely funky! Listen closely to the foundation the rhythm section is laying down behind the Sax solo! Everyone in the band gets a little bit of a solo spot here and Seger lays way back, showcasing a band he himself was even floored by!
Is Side 3 the best side of the double LP set? It might be! Kicking off with “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”, Seger’s largest hit before excelling into the stratosphere after the release of “Night Moves” just 1 year later. “Ramblin’” is the definition of a Detroit rock n roll anthem! Drew Abbott is just blazing on the guitar solo. Fantastic harmonies from the entire Silver Bullet Band. “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” segues into “Heavy Music”, a classic Bob Seger System track. It’s an absolute gem of the early Seger catalog and works as the sing along portion of the show with some help again from Charlie Martin. “Katmandu'' closes side 3 and the main portion of the show. Some killer piano work here from Robyn Robbins and another guitar solo spotlight for Drew Abbott. The band is cranking full throttle! This version far exceeds the original studio recording originally released on “Beautiful Loser”. “Good Night Everybody!” Seger exclaims! The place goes ballistic. With a little rousing from the MC, side 4 begins with the often overlooked “Lookin’ Back”, one of Seger’s most political moments, never released on a full length LP before “Live Bullet” this is my favorite “deep cut” of the album. “Get Out of Denver'' is up next, this is hands down my favorite moment of the entire record! These lyrics are a mouthful! A tongue twister around every corner it must be mentioned that Charlie Martin is doubling the entire vocal while playing the drums. Unbelievable! In my opinion Martin is bringing the entire band together throughout this album and “Get Out of Denver” is a prime example of his greatness. Also, the boogie that Chris Campbell is laying down on the bass is just perfection! Seger says goodnight again before it sounds like the crowd is ready to tear Cobo to its very foundation if another encore isn’t played. Seger returns to tell everyone to take it easy and they’ll “rock you one more” before launching into the Chuck Berry medley of “Let it Rock/Little Queenie”. Again everyone takes a solo spot before Bob introduces the band one by one before bringing the show to a close! The band takes their bow, The house lights come up and Seger has just written his legacy as far as Detroit is concerned.
Although Seger would go on to accomplish his greatest successes as a songwriter over the next 5 years (“Against the Wind” is an all time top 5 song for me) it is “Live Bullet” that every Detroiter will point to as his greatest achievement. You can find a copy in every record collection we buy and I would say we sell it 2-3 times a week to music lovers of all ages. Listening for the 10,000th time it’s clear the fire, hunger and passion from Seger cannot be touched even 45+ years later. It also represents the hardworking, no bullshit attitude that Detroit is so known for. My parents played this record all the time when I was growing up and I always have loved it, it’s still one of my “go-tos”. One of my prized possessions of my entire record collection is a copy of “Live Bullet” that I have had since I was about 10 years old, signed by everyone from the Silver Bullet Band except the man himself. I have obtained all of these autographs myself throughout the years and hope to one day complete it with Seger’s signature (Bob if you’re out there…. Please?). Upon obtaining these signatures I asked every member of the Silver Bullet Band, many years after this classic was recorded, “How much of this was touched up in the studio?”. All of them answered exactly the same “None of it! That was a regular night for us”. Incredible!
To celebrate its 45th anniversary of release “Live Bullet” has been officially reissued on black vinyl as well as a limited edition Orange/Red Swirl Vinyl. Released TODAY! Remastered from the original analog tapes this is a true representation of the original release! It was fantastic for me to hear a brand new, fresh copy of this jaw dropping classic!
November 22, 2021 5 min readRead More
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