Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Fire Lake (1980)


My mom got remarried between my 3rd and 4th grades of school – and that included a move from Albuquerque to Circleville, New York. To say that Al wasn’t my favorite would be an understatement – quite honestly, I was always scared of him, but while this may have been the case, being closer to Greensburg was definitely a positive in my book.

1980 was an interesting year for me, to say the least. We lived in a small spot that seemed as though it was in the middle of nowhere. And that was new for me. Neighbors weren’t nearly as close as what I was used to and things were just so…different.

While I had always loved listening to music, it become a lifeline to me in 4th grade. It became an escape and I found myself really listening to the lyrics and just wanting to be able to leave. I don’t remember us having a record player – I don’t remember what happened to my Supertramp album – but I do remember what I got for Christmas that year, which was an 8-track player as well as copies of “Breakfast in America,” The Beatles’ Red and Blue Albums, The “Grease” Soundtrack, and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s “Against the Wind.”

While I reminisce fondly of listening to albums, I can’t say as I have these same memories of listening to an 8-track. Trying to fast forward to a song – or hearing that click as it switched over to the next program or channel or whatever it was (?) was a pain. For whatever reason, Seger’s “Against the Wind” became what I needed to get to sleep at night. I certainly didn’t have a sleep timer on that thing, and I’m not sure how many times I had fallen asleep, only to be woken up by that loud click, but I think I had to come close to wearing “Against the Wind” out.

I’m sure it sounds crazy, but I found myself running away with those horses. As bad as things got at times in Albuquerque, I can’t say as I ever thought about running away, but there’s not a doubt in my mind that I thought about running away from Circleville – and Al – every single day I was there.

I had no clue what the “Horizontal Bop” was at that time, but I knew every damn word of that lead off song, I can tell you that. Things slowed down after that with “You’ll Accomp’ny Me,” but then revved right back up with “Her Strut.”

Just an aside – between “The Horizontal Bop” and “Her Strut,” Seger was getting after it. Coming on the heels of the Disco era (you won’t hear anything negative about that from this guy), these songs had to have just flat out been a shot to the system, bringing back some pure, unadulterated rock and roll.

And that’s where things seemed to get real to me.

Between the ever restless crowd
And the silence of your room
Spend an hour in no man’s land
You’ll be leavin’ soon

I’m telling you, I can smell “No Man’s Land.” Images of running away were only stoked by Seger’s words.

And while I loved it and “Against the Wind” as well, I truly looked forward to “Betty Lou’s Getting Out Tonight,” not because it was my favorite – not even close – but because I knew that “Fire Lake” was up next.

I have no idea what it is about “Fire Lake” that I’ve loved so much – it’s just always appealed to me.

Who wants to take that long shot gamble

And head out to Fire Lake?

There are so many stories from that year…

Take the Long Way Home – Supertramp (1979)

So this will take some time to get to what I’m driving at, but so be it.

Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America” is the first album I ever owned. And I had two copies of it – one in Greensburg and one in Albuquerque. I have no clue what it was about Supertramp that appealed to me – the iconic cover art maybe? – but this was an album that I couldn’t get enough of and listened to front to back any chance I had.

Originally, the copy that I had was in Greensburg, and I vividly remember returning to Albuquerque after being with my Dad for the summer and DEMANDING that my Mom stop on the way home from the airport in order to get a copy. To my surprise, I didn’t even have to really put up a big fight – even though I was prepared to – in order to get her to stop and get one. I found out in time that she loved them, too, and we spent a lot of time singing “The Logical Song,” and “Goodbye Stranger,” and “Child of Vision,” which I really didn’t like at the time and looked at as a four minute break between “Breakfast in America” and “Take the Long Way Home.”

That day of return actually was always a rough one for me. Leaving my Dad and all of my friends in Greensburg always, always sucked. Knowing that it would be another nine months before I returned was incredibly difficult. I couldn’t get it through my head why my brother, Jantson, was always so happy to get back to Mom. Looking back on it now, I get it. But perspective wasn’t something I had a lot of when I was eight. (Incidentally, I think there are stories and stories and stories locked in there about why – exactly – one child sees things one way with one parent while another sees things completely differently with that same parent – and I don’t say that as a criticism of anybody involved in that equation).

But from my point of view – looking back on things with almost 40 years’ worth of perspective at this point – I know that that day of return was also a good day for me. What always started as a miserable morning typically turned in to some fun. Looking back, I know that this is because my Mom was always in such a great mood to have us back. As a result, she was on her best behavior for a week or two as well.

Our August return almost always included in a new trailer or apartment when we got back. Whether in Rio Rancho or somewhere off Juan Tabo, it was almost never the same place as when we had left for Greensburg in June. And that meant a new school, once again a new beginning. While some people may enjoy that, for me it was starting all over and I hated it. I still have so many friends from my summers in Greensburg – I have none from my school years in Albuquerque.

But that specific night, after landing and stopping at Coronado Mall to pick up a copy of “Breakfast in America” – remember me saying that she was at her best, too??? – we stopped to eat at Pizza Hut, finding that they had almost the ENTIRE album on the jukebox. My Mom gave me enough quarters to play everything they had – I have no idea how much that meant in 1979 – $1?, $2? but I can assure you that I loved it. And I loved – and was surprised that my Mom knew all of the songs when we sat at the table and scarfed down our pizza.

Which brings me to a tangent about Pizza Hut itself. Pizza wasn’t a huge thing in Albuquerque. In fact, I remember eating at Pizza Hut or getting a slice at Godfather’s. And that’s it. It just wasn’t part of the typical things we ate there.

For all I know there were plenty of other shops – but I don’t remember any of them. For the life of me, I certainly don’t remember us ever getting one delivered. And that’s so foreign to me compared to what it’s like in Greensburg, where we have a serious abundance of great spots to choose from (with the notable exception of a true Neopolitan pie – can somebody PLEASE get on that so I don’t have to drive to Pittsburgh for it???).


My mouth is seriously watering even looking at that (it’s from Il Pizzaiolo, btw).

Any time that we had the opportunity to go out to eat, I almost always begged to go to Pizza Hut – but it had to be THAT Pizza Hut, because the other one in Albuquerque didn’t have those songs on the jukebox (the gall!). And that caused problems at times depending on where we lived and what kind of mood my Mom was in. Things weren’t always as great as they were that first week after we returned…

What brought this on, you might ask? Did I randomly hear a Supertramp song? Did I eat at a Pizza Hut last night? No and no. But I did drive past one that had been converted to a pawn shop and that got me to thinking about all of this.

And it also got me to thinking about this: is there a more iconic building design than Pizza Hut? I mean, every single one of them looks the same (I know that’s not that crazy), but when they’ve gone out of business and converted to whatever else, you STILL know what it was – and I’m not sure that we can say this about every other place? I mean, McDonald’s has the golden arches, but not every McDonald’s looks exactly the same. And I can’t remember ever seeing a McDonalds that went out of business and became something else.

Is there something to be said about this, or am I just making too much of it? Yeah, probably the latter, I know. (I actually just googled “converted Pizza Huts,” and found this right off the bat, so I guess I’m not totally alone in this).


I know, all of that from driving past a converted Pizza Hut. Welcome to my head.



The Power of Music…

I’ve always been amazed at how strong a tie I have to music. From the very early days of The Beatles and The Bee Gees, to my XX years (and if you’re from the Pittsburgh area and even remotely close to my age, then you know exactly what I’m talking about), I have always been shocked as to how songs can trigger memories from the playing of their first note. Now, let’s get real, I’m not going to even attempt to say that all 3,818 songs in my collection have me reminiscing, but a vast majority do just this.

Music has acted as many different things to me – a release, certainly, but at times it has also been therapeutic. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it’s helped to contribute to some tough times as well. It never fails that when I’m going through something, there’s a lyric out there that seems to get it just right.

The way that we each listen to music is absolutely amazing to me – you and I can listen to the exact same song and hear so many different things. You might be a bass person or a guitar person, while I’m firmly in the voice and lyrics “camp.” On top of this, many times I’m not even hearing the actual song, but focused on the memories I have attached to the song itself. For many of the formative years of my life, these lyrics were coming in the form of songs from The Smiths, U2, The Cure, REM, Echo and the Bunnymen, INXS, a-ha and New Order. Add in a more than healthy dose (okay, obsession) with John Hughes’ movies, and you’ll understand why it is that I don’t think about the tribute to Ian Curtis that New Order’s Elegia is, but rather the strain that Jon Cryer’s Duckie is feeling as he pines away for Molly Ringwald’s Andie in Pretty in Pink.

Growing up, I was influenced greatly by the music that my mom and dad were listening to.  Being in Albuquerque with my mom meant Eddie Rabbit and Gerry Rafferty and Leo Sayer and Air Supply (oh, what a cheesy, cheesy video) and Exile (and I can assure you that I had no idea what they were singing about, but I definitely knew it was just… dirty…), whereas when visiting my dad in the summers the music steered more toward The Beatles and Seals and Crofts and Barry Manilow and Jim Croce. (Go ahead and chuckle, it really doesn’t matter to me…) Either way, there always seemed to be music playing. But it also seemed to be their music, if that makes any sense. It was music that they had chosen to listen to, not me.


Picture me belting out I Write the Songs with a set of these bad boys on. Now picture it being 7 am and my dad just getting to sleep after working the dead shift. Yeah, that didn’t always go over well…

Until I heard Supertramp’s The Logical Song, that is.

There was something about this album that just flat out clicked with me. I remember begging and pleading with my mom to buy me the album – and then begging some more. I finally got a copy after a good report card and still remember that day like it was yesterday. There were two Pizza Huts in the Albuquerque area and one was a lot further away from where we were living – but this was the one that had songs from this album on its jukebox. I bet you can guess which one we ended up going to.  Getting the LP wasn’t enough, though – we couldn’t listen to it in the car, so we had to get a copy on 8 track. (I know that I just lost some of you, but there’s a pic below on the far right of an 8 track tape).

When I returned to Greensburg that summer, my dad had a copy of the album already ready to go for me. I swear I wore grooves in to it. It was mine.

Fourth grade found my mom remarried and a cross country trip to upstate New York in the passenger seat of a U-Haul truck. It was also one of the toughest years of my life. I was certainly old enough to know that this wasn’t a good situation for anybody – and I retreated in to Bob Seger’s Against the Wind as well as an even unhealthier dose of Breakfast in America.  I listened to both over and over and over again, falling asleep to them every night only to wake up several times as the tape clicked over to the next “program” – until I would finally reach over and turn the thing off.

It was at this time that a particular song started to stick with me. At first, I must admit that Lord is it Mine was by no means my favorite on the album, but fast forwarding on an 8 track wasn’t the easiest thing to do, so I tended to listen to everything front to back anyways.  It was during this time period, however, that I truly became obsessed with this song. And it was during this time period that I truly started to doubt. I was eight.

I woke up this morning and did what I typically did – I turned on my computer and started to listen to music on shuffle while I got myself going. I can’t tell you the last time I have heard anything from Breakfast in America, let alone Lord is it Miine, but it came on this morning. I haven’t been able to get the song – or that year out of my head.

The power of music is a mighty strong thing…