For Serger, touring is tiring, but his kids wear him out Rock: Thirty years ago, Bob Seger hoped he would last till he was 25. He thinks now that the old-time rock and rollers are finally being put out to pasture.

June 11, 1996|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

Bob Seger never figured he'd spend his 51st year on tour as a rock and roller.

"I sure didn't," he says, over the phone from a tour stop in Lexington, Ky. "When I was 20, I thought I'd be lucky if I lasted till I was 25. I remember the Beatles said that, too. I remember seeing an interview with the Beatles when they were real big, and Lennon figured, 'Yeah, when we're 25 we'll be done.' I think he was about 21 at the time." He laughs at how silly it all seems now, but back then, who knew?

Who would have guessed,30 years after he made his first recordings with the Bob Seger System, that he'd still be rocking out? Yet here he is, touring behind his 16th and latest album, "It's a Mystery," and playing the hits for his fans.

It's nothing like what he thought the rock and roll life would be like.

"I remember backing up a guy in '66, Freddy Cannon," he says. "He had 'Palisades Park,' 'Tallahassee Lassie' and some other hits. We backed him up, and he said, 'Save that money, because it only lasts a couple years.' And really, when you look back on it, Little Richard was only big for about three years. Of course, now he's a legend, and everybody still likes to go see him.

"But I had no idea that would happen [to me]. For years, I thought, 'Well, I'll do this as much as I can, and then I'll be like B.B. King or Albert King, and play the blues."

Seger laughs, and rightly so. Life on the road is pretty pleasant as his current tour winds down. He has his band with him, as well as the familiar faces of his manager and crew. That's nothing to sing the blues about.

But best of all, he has his family with him, and Bob Seger is nothing if not a proud papa. "The first one came 3 1/2 years ago, my son Cole," he says. "And now my daughter Sam, Samantha, is 14 months now. And they have really enjoyed it. They've had a lot of stimulation. I think they really get off on the hotels, and going to different cities and seeing different stuff.

"I would say it's actually more tiring taking care of the kids than doing the show," he adds. "They're a handful, the two of 'em, racing around here. They're at that age where you've got to watch them every second."

Seger's joy at parenthood comes through as clearly in his music as it does in his conversation -- just listen to "Golden Boy" or the title tune from "It's a Mystery." But rock and roll is still seen by many as a young man's game, and that has begun to work against Seger.

"We're sort of all being put out to pasture here in classic rock, and the alternative thing is happening," he says. As a result, it's getting harder and harder to hear his kind of rock and roll on the radio. "Some of the classic rock stations have been playing the album anyway, even though it's not old," Seger says. "But still, there aren't nearly as many of those as there are of the alternative stations. We've lost about 700 or 800 stations where we got a lot of play.

"And, of course, the medium-tempo stuff still gets played on the adult contemporary stations. But it's kind of sad. We're rockers, and that's what we want to do."

Rockers like Seger aren't the only ones being squeezed out by the age factor. "Unfortunately, country has completely run away from Waylon and Willie and the bunch," he says. "It used to be that older guys like Hank Snow were still drawing crowds. But now it's as if Randy Travis started the modern country era, and everything pre- that doesn't get any airplay."

Ironically, many of those younger country stars have drawn their inspiration from Seger. "I see a lot of my stuff in the way they write," he says. "I pick it up because I do buy a lot of country records. Some of them are really good. I really like some of Patty Loveless' records, and a few of Vince Gill's are pretty good, too. And Dwight Yoakam and some others.

"When I listen to their music, I hear the type of songwriting myself and the Eagles did, in the sense that the title is all-important and everything seems to lead toward the title. I don't do that all the time, but when the Eagles and I started out, I remember I used to talk to Don [Henley] and Glenn [Frey]. If we'd get stuck and we couldn't write anything, I'd say, 'Well, think of something that sounds like an interesting title, and work backwards. Try to fill it with some meaning.'

"That's one way we did it, and I pick up a lot of that in country music, that style of writing."

Seger is used to going through changes, though. Indeed, change is a consistent topic in his songs, and part of what gave albums like "Night Moves" and "Like a Rock" their power. But even though he's clearly living a different life now than he was then, he doesn't have any trouble doing those old songs.

A lot of it has to do with the fans. "I can't tell you how many older women, like my age, come back and say, 'I'm so glad you played "Against the Wind." ' I'm trying to be conscious of what the audience will like, rather than self-indulgent," he says.

But there's also the sense that if he doesn't play those songs now, he may not have the chance again. "This could very well be the last time out," he says. "You know, I'm 51 years old, and our contract is running out with Capitol, so it's a good time to stop now, if I want to stop. I won't have any contract commitments." He adds that he's also very attracted to the idea of spending the next 18 years or so just being a dad.

But Seger's not making any definitive statements -- at least not yet. "I'm not really saying never," he says. "You know, it's the end of the tour and I'm a little tired now.

"But we'll see."

Old-time rock

When: Tonight, 8 p.m.

Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion

Tickets: $35 pavilion, $20 lawn Call: (410) 481-6500

Sundial: To hear excerpts from Bob Seger's latest release, "It's a Mystery," call Sundial at (410) 783-1800 and enter the four-digit code 6208. For other local Sundial numbers, see the Sundial directory on Page 2A.

Pub Date: 6/11/96

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