“East Side Story” (1966) isn’t Bob Seger’s debut record (that honor goes to the bizarre pro-war “Ballad Of The Yellow Beret” – an opinion he soon reversed via a record we’ll hear in a bit), but it is a fully realized recording that makes plain from the opening fuzz guitar and bongos it ain’t messing around. Framed by an incredible groove, the track is tied together by Bob’s extraordinary lyric, coupled with the incredibly powerful ‘no’s‘ of the chorus. And while it was picked up for national release by Cameo Records, perhaps the message was still too odious for the masses (although the record was a massive hit in Detroit).

Bob Seger & The Last Heard :: East Side Story

Bob went on to release a few more singles (including the cool Xmas novelty “Sock It To Me Santa”), but it was 1967’s “Heavy Music” that seemed poised to propel the group into stardom. With a soulful groove that swings HARD, exceptional vocals (by both Bob and angelic backing singers, Honey Ltd.) this record should have been massive. Once again, it was a local smash in Detroit.

Bob Seger & The Last Heard :: Heavy Music

By 1968, Cameo had given up on Bob, but he was soon picked up by a much larger label; Los Angeles powerhouse Capitol Records. Bob’s first release for Capitol could not have been less commercial, though. One of the most powerful anti-war tracks ever laid to tape,”2+2=?” completely reverses Seger’s views on the Vietnam war. The vocal intensity alone matches that of Roky Erickson. The record may not have been a hit, but god DAMN does it hit hard with a message is just as relevant today.

The Bob Seger System :: 2 + 2 = ?


Hot on the heels of that record was “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”, the track that proved to be Bob’s (well deserved) breakout hit. The record stakes its territory immediately with those DRUMS, which were pounded in a way that resembles the pistons of an engine or the sound of a Detroit automotive assembly line. Bob had already proven himself a great lyrical storyteller (going back to ‘East Side Story’), and he spins the yarn brilliantly here. Once again, the harmonies are provided by those Detroit angels Honey Ltd (yes, that’s Honey Ltd member Marsha ‘Temmer”s signature on my copy).

The Bob Seger System :: Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man

(Derek See is a Bay area based musician who plays guitar with The Bang Girl Group Revue, Joel Gion & Primary Colours, and occasionally makes records on his own with The Gentle Cycle.)

Related: East Side Story (Never Mind The Bullets 1966-1974)

9 Responses to “Wax Wonders :: The Bob Seger System & The Last Heard”

  1. Thanks for this. I think his best track is “Night Moves,” but it’s an exception: I vastly prefer his earlier garage rock over his salad years as a platinum-selling heartland rocker.

  2. Growing up across from Detroit River in Windsor, Ont. Seger was inescapable. I like all eras of his work, from the proto-punk of Bob Seger Sound System to the more mainstream stuff embodied by Night Moves/Stranger in Town/Against the Wind.

  3. 2 + 2 = ? really sticks with me, thank you for this!

  4. The MP3’s are not playing in Chrome for me, is there some extension I need?
    FYI they play just fine in FireFox.

  5. @RAG – just tested in Chrome and they played. This is the player, per specs,

  6. Thanks for posting this. “Very Few” is a gorgeous early song of his too. Doesn’t fit in with the sound of these, but worth mentioning none the less.

  7. I grew up listening to Bob Seger on AM radio in Detroit. Fine songs you have listed above, but you might look up the really obscure Vagrant Winter on YouTube or the sadly obscure Death Row to hear more songs that carry the intensity of 2+2=?. That said, I’d have to say the Seger reached his peak with the final album he made with the Bob Seger System, Mongrel, in 1970. He was at his peak here in every way and sadly, many have not heard this album. It had a cursory release on CD about 25 yrs ago and has not seen the light of day since.

  8. Check out Bob’s version of “If I were a Carpenter”, Dat organ!

    It’s on iTunes,

  9. Actually Bob Seger’s first single was a song called “The Lonely One” in 1961 with the A group called the Decibels. He then joined the Town Criers. Not sure if they released anything. Then joined Doug and the Omens and they Released. “The Yellow Beret” the biggest black spot on all of Seger’s career. Other than that I loved him with the last Heard and with the Bob Seger System as well of course with the Silver Bullet Band. He just an iconic musician who plays from the heart.

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