Defining Springsteen’s Influence on Bob Seger’s Night Moves

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When I first heard Bob Seger’s “Night Moves,” single in 1976, I could instantly hear the inspiration that Bob Seger had found in Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run album. It was very obvious. Everyone was inspired by Bruce Springsteen. From fans to rock stars, Bruce Springsteen turned the rock and roll world upside down with Born to Run.

Bob Seger’s music had a much more raw stripped down sound than Springsteens. Bob Seger had that Midwest dirty rock and roll sound as opposed to the polished production of Born To Run. However its was Springsteen’s lyrical content and his passionate vocals that clearly inspired Bob Seger. Even on paper, one can see the inspiration.

From Seger’s “Night Moves.”

Out past the cornfields where the woods got heavy
Out in the back seat of my ’60 Chevy
Workin’ on mysteries without any clues
Workin’ on our night moves[2]

From Springsteen’s “Backstreets.”

Slow dancing in the dark on the beach at Stockton’s Wing
Where desperate lovers park we sat with the last of the Duke Street Kings
Huddled in our cars waiting for the bells that ring
In the deep heart of the night we cut loose from everything
to go running on the backstreets, running on the backstreets[3]

While we see the comparisons between “Backstreets,” and “Night Moves,” we can’t ignore just how great the rest of the Night Moves album was. Bob Seger’s vocals tower above the material on the album. And that is not to take from the material, because the songs on Night Moves stand as some of the the best of Seger’s remarkable career. Two out of the four tracks on side one, “The Fire down Below,” and “Rock and Roll Never Forgets,” are straight ahead powerful blues infested rockers. “Night Moves,” stands as the only ballad on the album’s first side. “Sunburst,” is a screaming blues vocal that just sounded to angry and passionate to be classified as a ballad.

Side two opened with the fun spirited, road based escapist rocker, titled “Sunspot Baby.” The albums most beautiful ballad and second single “Mainstreet,” appeared as the second track on side two. Echoes of the Allman Brothers ring throughout the track’s beautiful and appealing guitar lick. Once again, the lyrics of “Mainstreet,” seem heavily influenced by the emergence of Bruce Springsteen on the rock music scene.

Bob Seger Night Moves

Photo: By radioactv915 (originally posted to Flickr as Bob Seger) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bob Seger’s Night Moves album was released on October 22, 1976. The album’s first single reached No.4 on the Billboard Music Charts in 1977.[1] Half the tracks on the album featured the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. The section consisted of a group of studio musicians from Alabama that were well known for their work on countless big time blues and soul records.

It could be argued that “Night Moves,” was Seger’s finest work. Two of the albums three singles broke the Billboard Top 40 charts. The album sold extremely well and captivated Seger into mainstream pop culture. The success of “Night Moves,” seemed to inspire a string of mainstream hits as Seger followed up the album with the four Top 40 singles including the much covered ballad “We Got Tonight,” from his Stranger in Town album. Regardless of Night Moves, commercial success, the album’s focus on heartfelt lyrics, and fiery well written blues rockers, helped Seger deliver perhaps the finest record of his career.

[1] Bob Seger: Charts & Awards – Billboard Albums”AllmusicUnited StatesRovi Corporation.

[2] Bob Seger, “Night Moves,” Night Moves, Columbia Records, 1976.

[3] Bruce Springsteen, “Backstreets,” Born To Run, Columbia Records, 1975.

Updated November 24, 2020

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