and now for the songs — November 2, 2021

233) Bob Seger and the Last Heard — “East Side Story”

234) Bob Seger and the Last Heard Persecution Smith”

Bob Seger was writing and performing garage rock classics in the mid-sixties? Who knew?! Well, if you lived in Detroit at the time, you knew. And offering a spot-on impersonation of Bruce Springsteen — decades before “Johnny 99” — and a hilarious parody of the other Bob (Dylan)? Who knew?!

Dave Marsh said in Rolling Stone in ‘78 that:

Bob Seger began it rougher than most. He grew up in Ann Arbor[, Michigan]. It was tough enough to be a townie in a college town, but it was far worse if your father went off when you were ten, leaving your mother, you and your brother to tiny apartments, cooking on hot plates.

Wow, I went to law school in Ann Arbor, and I didn’t know!

Then came the music. Cut to Mark Deming in All Music Guide:

[Seger’s mid-sixties singles are] as passionate and powerful a celebration of “the big bad beat” as you could hope for, and Seger’s first step into inarguable greatness. . . . proof that Seger was a major talent as a singer, songwriter, and frontman right from the start, and this is as good as Midwestern rock of the mid-’60s gets.

As to “East Side Story,” Dave Marsh elaborates:

The record cost $1200, cheap even in those days; it sold more than 50,000 copies, almost all of them in Detroit. Cameo-Parkway soon picked it up for national distribution, but couldn’t spread it. . . . . [The] lyric . . . antedated Bruce Springsteen’s fantasies of juvenile street violence by a decade : . . .

“She begged him ‘don’t go out tonight. If we work out somehow maybe we could find a way out baby.’ And he laughed and said ‘I got to go.’ And she cried ‘no, Johnny Johnny no’ . . . . His arms were warm and strong and young. ‘I promise I won’t hurt no one. Oh baby when you gonna learn. Them folks uptown got bread to burn. When they see me flash my knife they’ll be fearin’ for their live. They won’t give me trouble this I know.’ . . . The night passed like a thousand years. The tenement room had culled her tears. Then came a knock upon the door. Two men she’d never seen before. ‘Did you know Johnny Brown miss? We hate to tell you this but has he a relative you know?’ And she cried ‘no, oh Johnny Johnny no, oh Johnny why’d you go?’”

Deming says “Persecution Smith” “may be the greatest fake Bob Dylan song (Highway 61 Revisited era) ever committed to wax.” Well, yes, unless you consider some of Dylan’s own.

“He rises every morning but he don’t look at the sun. He reaches in the corner where he keeps his loaded gun. Then he checks the firing action, as he straps it to his chest. Plans an ambush for the mailman, even though it’s all in jest. He’s here he’s there he’s everywhere. He’s found uptown and underground. Unlike my friend Flicka you know he’s not a myth. He’s persecution, persecution, persecution Smith. He’s found at every protest march you’ll see him looking on. He’d soon join in to help but he thinks it’s all in fun. . . . He knows how things should be but he ain’t out to change no rule. . . . When you’re finished with your ideals and you’re finished with your dreams. When you’re finished your crusading and no longer hear the screams. When you’re finished trying to picture a world with people free. When you’re finished looking up and the down is all you see. : . . [Y]ou won’t be alone my friend you know who you’ll be with. With persecution persecution persecution Smith.”

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