For several years now, most of my music listening has been shaped by the various shuffle features connected to my digital collection. That particular batch of MP3 files spans far and wide, a result of concerted effort to essentially create the automated radio station of my deepest longings, one that operates with at least some of the limitations of format knocked asunder. At different points, that entailed me securing all sorts of songs that I didn’t necessarily find familiar. I wanted surprise as the playlists unwound. I relied on the robust song-sharing blog community to help me shape my fictional station’s library.
There are plenty of instances when a song will spin up and send me momentarily reeling, left snatching up whatever device is serving as the delivery system with a single, urgent question: “Who is that?”
For a while, one of the songs that most reliably grabbed me was a cover of “Love the One You’re With.” While the Stephen Stills original strikes me as wispy and strangely pleading, informed more by anxious justification than true hippie-love celebration, this cover version bursts forth with a bluesy hustle and a high voltage charge. It’s powerful, questing, sweaty, glorious. It’s just over four minutes long, but it feels like it goes on for hours, in the best way possible. To borrow a bit of phrasing from David Letterman, it blows the roof off the dump.
Because my indie elitism is stronger than I’d like, I was always a little shocked when I confirmed the identity of the artist: Bob Seger. To give myself a little leeway, the song prominently features female vocals (both Pam Todd and Crystal Jenkins are credited contributors on the album that houses the track), which isn’t really an element I associate with Seger’s most prominent hits. Regardless, the song stands for me as a reminder that there was a ton of Seger material predating classic rock mainstays like “Night Moves.” And at least some of it is better than I ever would have guessed.
And I was reminded of that once again this week, when Tim Quirk, lead singer of Too Much Joy and titan of the digital distribution industry, delivered an entirely unexpected paean to the music of Seger, scored with concern that the artist’s resistance to new modes of culture delivery is eroding his legacy. Published on the NPR website, the article is fascinating, not just because it offers a very personal view of Seger as an artist (and a recounting of the bygone exploratory risks of music collecting that closely mirrors my own experience), but also because it digs into the unsettled realities of the music business in this tumultuous day and age.
And, as a bonus, it reminded me of Seger’s take on “Love the One You’re With.” There are so many happy side effects to great music writing.
Listen or download –> Bob Seger, “Love the One You’re With”
(Disclaimer: Part of Quirk’s motivating premise for the article is the unavailability of sizable chunks of Seger’s catalog, both through digital portals and as physical objects that can be purchased from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner than compensates both the proprietor of said store and the original artist. It is with that understanding that I humbly share this file in this space, believing that doing so causes no real financial harm. Still, I know the rules. I will gladly and promptly remove this song from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)