Take Five: Five Rarities from Bob Seger

Bob Seger is one of the most enduringly popular acts of the classic rock era. A prime exemplar of the adage, “it takes years to become an overnight success,” Seger truly burst onto the scene with 1976’s Night Moves, a critical and commercial smash that eventually earned 6X Platinum status (six million units sold in the U.S.). Subsequent releases built upon that success.

But Night Moves wasn’t Seger’s debut; far from it. In fact it was the ninth album from the Detroit rocker. Over the course of his career (which concluded with his 2019 retirement) Seger has sold in excess of 75 million records worldwide, placing him just outside a ranking of the top 100 artists worldwide in terms of sales.

Remarkably, five of his first seven albums have been out of print for 30 years or more. (One is the great Seven, released in 50 years ago in March 1974.) While those albums never achieved the sales figures of his later releases, they’re filled with great songs and rock-solid performances. Here, then, are five Bob Seger rarities from his early years. (All titles are credited to Bob Seger except where indicated.)

“Noah” from Noah by The Bob Seger System (1969)
This sturdy, singalong tune was one of only a few on the second album by The Bob Seger System that actually featured lead vocals and songwriting by Seger. Saxophone features prominently in the arrangement. As is the case with most of his pre-Silver Bullet Band era releases, Seger goes to significant effort to avoid any association with this record.

“Lucifer” from Mongrel (1970)
Though the album cover credit features only Seger, in 1970, he and his band were still billed in live performance as The Bob Seger System, as this grainy TV clip makes plain. With a gritty sound that recalls Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Lucifer” hints at the sound Seger would make famous a few years later.

“Maybe Today” from Brand New Morning (1971)
This tune might surprise longtime Seger fans; rather than a guitar-based, full-band recording, it’s a piano-and-voice ballad that displays the singer-songwriter side of Bob Seger’s artistry. That said, it’s an impassioned performance with a definite rock sensibility; nobody would ever mistake Seger for Billy Joel. An outlier in Seger’s body of work, Brand New Morning is filled with songs in a similar arrangement.

“Turn the Page” from Back in ‘72 (1973)
This Seger classic is easily the most well-known song among those mentioned here. But the version that most will know is a live reading of the song, featured on the blockbuster 1976 LP Live Bullet. The studio version on Back in ‘72 features the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm section. The song is part of the proud tradition of tunes about musicians and life on the road.

“School Teacher” from Seven (1974)
Though they’re not credited as such on the front cover, Seger’s Silver Bullet Band backed him on this set of recordings. The album’s single “Get out of Denver” would figure into Seger’s peak-era live set, and its studio version from this excellent yet out-of-print LP was included on the 2009 compilation Early Seger Vol. 1. Yet five of the album’s eight other songs remain unavailable. A highlight among those now-rare tracks is the sizzling rocker “School Teacher.”