We’ve Got Tonight: Love and Sex according the Bob Seger Manual
At the perfect pubescent age of 13, I discovered Bob Seger. My father bought his Greatest Hits CD and popped it in the car stereo on the way back home from a shopping trip. From the opening piano of “Roll Me Away” to the crying guitar of “Main Street” I was transfixed by a vision of masculinity that registered in my imagination and promised good things for my crotch. The bravado and toughness of Seger’s voice personified an earthy, earnest, and energized manhood that resisted the traps of tawdry machismo, but embraced the restless and liberated aimlessness of the male experience. The muscular punch of the Silver Bullet Band playing thunder on the drums, driving guitar riffs, and lending tenderness in the form of female backup vocalists made Seger’s sparse, minimalist, barstool-wisdom lyrics sound, and more importantly, feel epic. The Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Beautiful Loser was from Michigan and he sang about open fields, small town characters, and lonely teenage nights that struck a chord with my own Midwestern home. Just at the onset of my sexuality when I, in my lost cluelessness, needed a manual for approaching, charming, and loving women, I found it in the songs of Bob Seger.
“You’ll Accompany Me”: The Attitude and the Approach
The music of “You’ll Accompany Me” is marked by a strong and steady beat that, like most of Seger’s songs, emphasizes movement to celebrate action. Seger sings with confidence that the long-haired object of his desires will someday accompany him. When she shows signs of resistance, he doesn’t command her to stay nor does he vomit out of his soul in a pool of emo-tears. He tells her, “Before you leave there’s something you should know” in a bad ass baritone. Seger proceeds to tell her that her reticence and cynics’ warnings will not prematurely end his campaign: Some people say that loves a losing game…/I’ll take my chances, babe/I’ll risk it all/I’ll win your love or I’ll take the fall. It’s “written down somewhere,” and he’s “made his mind up that it’s meant to be.” She’s gonna walk with him and talk with him. She’s going to accompany him.
For a teenage boy, the strength and sureness of Seger’s approach was an injection of testosterone enhanced testicular fortitude. I feared rejection like every other kid my age. But, Bob told me that there is no reward without risk and authentic manhood is inseparable from the unblinking, unflinching acceptance of risk. When I was a sophomore in high school, I twice came on to a high school senior named Megan who to this day is the sexiest specimen I’ve ever seen. Her strutting hips, pink hair, and punk rock beauty was too much for any 16-year-old. I expected to fail and did, but was able to go to sleep with the comforting assurance that I took my chances and risked it all, and in doing so, gained the respect of one surprised, unaroused, but not unimpressed sexual powerhouse. Bob Seger—in his music, lyrics, and stories—is all about boldness. My boldness got me a smile, wink, or flirty “hey hun” every time I saw the anti-social and mysterious Megan, which was more than every other guy in school.
“Roll Me Away”: The Adventure
Most men stupidly believe that sex and love is all about the result. Locker room talk graduates to barroom banter and boardroom bullshit about women that skips the important parts and goes straight to anything signaling conquest. Love and sex are about the adventure leading up to and continuing after the “conquest”—to use the chauvinistic language of men who have not undergone or understood the Seger education. The songs of Seger instruct men that what really matters in life, but most especially in relations with women, is the sexual, but also social and spiritual value gained from an important experience.
In “Roll Me Away” Seger is a drifter taking a cross-country road trip on his motorcycle. He connects with a woman in a bar and takes her along for part of the ride. The sweeping music and Seger’s soaring vocal take us with these adventurous travelers “across the high plains” and “deep into the mountains.” The pounding drum could power the Harley down the highway. When the “air turns cold” and she says she “misses her home,” Seger lets out a simultaneously tough and pained cry. But the beat never stops. Seger keeps moving. Finally when the music does slow down, he stares out from a mountaintop, sees a hawk flying, and announces that he’s going to keep riding, promising that the next time he’ll “get it right.”
Seger has a literary sensibility when it comes to love and sex. The story is the most important element, and the more interesting, more intense, and better the story, the more valuable the experience. The destination isn’t nearly as important as the trip there, or even the trip leaving it. Heartbroken laments and teary regrets have no place in the musical world of Seger, and he taught me to avoid them in my love life. Give it your best. And if it doesn’t work out? Full speed ahead.
“Night Moves”: The Memory
Every man should be able to relate to the story of teenage lust told over yet another driving beat in “Night Moves.” Just like the narrator in the song, in my late teens I’d “steal away every chance I could” with a “black haired beauty.” No different from Seger and the young woman in the song, “We weren’t in love…/I used her/She used me/But neither one cared.”
There is a moment of bittersweet nostalgia in “Night Moves.” The beat momentarily stops and Seger softly reminisces about his lost youth: “Strange how the night moves/With autumn closing in.”
Only a few seconds later the beat is back and the backup singers emphatically repeat “night moves!” while Seger joyfully and viscerally shouts “I remember!”
The man who accepts risk, seeks adventure, and demonstrates boldness can look back on a life of texture, story, and memorability.
I fondly remember practicing night moves in my Pontiac with my own “black haired beauty.” I remember Megan. I remember many other sexual adventures gone greatly and poorly, and I will continue to make memories, all while studying the manual of Seger.
David Masciotra is the author of Working On a Dream: The Progressive Political Vision of Bruce Springsteen (Continuum Books). For more information see www.davidmasciotra.com