A real Detroit punk As I work through this project of compiling the top 100 albums that have changed my life (update coming soon), I find myself listening to some music I haven't listened to for a long time. And I mean really listened to. The music of Bob Seger is one example.
Spoiler alert: I've got a couple of Seger albums coming up on the list. Stranger in Town is not one of them. It's a mediocre record, best known for one track ("Old Time Rock & Roll") that helped make Tom Cruise a star and a lot of forgettable, formulaic, cookie-cutter rock of the R&B flavor. But there's one song on that album that's been getting into my head lately, and if I ever compile a list of great punk rock songs, this track will definitely make the list (and ruin all my punk rock credibility).
The song? It's called "Feel Like a Number."
Seger is an over-the-hill Detroit rocker who's paid his dues over the years. By the time he gained some notice in the mid-'70s, he'd already been toiling in obscurity for much of his musical career. He's from the region that gave us Iggy and the Stooges, the MC5 and a bunch of hardcore punk bands, but he hardly fits the punk rock mold. I mean, just look at him, there on the cover of Stranger In Town. All that hair! Just like a hippie! And is there anything more detestable to punks than a hippie? Facial hair, too!
To boot, much of his music fit the anti-punk boogie or ballad mode, and his lyrics were more about longing for a teenage past.
Nevertheless, for one shining moment in 1978, Seger wrote a song that captured a punk ethos fitting the Clash.
I take my card and I stand in line To make a buck I work overtime Dear Sir letters keep coming in the mail I work my back till it's racked with pain The boss cant even recall my name I show up late and Im docked It never fails I feel like just another Spoke in a great big wheel Like a tiny blade of grass In a great big field To workers Im just another drone To Ma Bell Im just another phone I'm just another statistic on a sheet To teachers Im just another child To IRS I'm just another file I'm just another consensus on the street Gonna cruise out of this city Head down to the sea Gonna shout out at the ocean Hey it's me And I feel like a number Feel like a number Feel like a stranger A stranger in this land I feel like a number I'm not a number I'm not a number Dammit I'm a man I said I'm a man
Lashing out against a system that crushes the soul and reduces people to statistics. If that ain't punk, what is?