It’s late for me to be posting, and I’ve got nothing new to add to this post from a long time ago. But it’s the right kind of song for this kind of year.
Like Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Seger was also recently inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. I have to admit, Seger is not the first guy I think of when I think of excellent songwriters. He isn’t even the fiftieth guy I think of. But he has written some classic rock songs, the best of which is arguably “Night Moves.”
My first exposure to this song actually came on Saturday Night Live. I was watching it in reruns (late night on KTLA, only the awesome 70s episodes). They had an irregular segment in which they showed a short film by a young filmmaker (Albert Brooks did a lot of these bits, and they were very awkwardly funny). Gary Weis directed the film using “Night Moves,” and it was really a proto-music video. It was also excellent, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere. I can find lots of references to it, the date it aired (January 22, 1977), and that Garrett Morris appeared in it. But no video. I find this very frustrating, because the official music video that Seger himself released in the mid-90s was awful, so bad a good song could not overcome it.
“Night Moves” is a fantastic song, beautifully capturing the angst and restlessness of adolescence: “We were just young and restless and bored, living by the sword.” The song is from the perspective of a man remembering a teenage love affair, even though “We weren’t in love, oh no, far from it.” It’s probably the first sexual experience he ever had, and he’s nostalgic for the kind of passion he felt. It’s also callous, in the way only teenagers are callous, “I used her, she used me, but neither one cared. We were gettin’ our share.” There were no consequences then, at least that’s how it felt. Freedom, rebellion, innocence even.
It’s a pretty ordinary song, dominated by a nice acoustic guitar, until the final verse. The band tapers off and the guitar slows down. And Seger’s gruff voice comes out of the silence. “I woke last night to the sound of thunder. How far off I sat and wondered. Started humming a song from 1962. Ain’t it funny how the night moves, when you just don’t seem to have as much to lose? Strange how the night moves, with autumn closing in.” In that moment, in those lines, as Seger’s voice falls to almost a whisper, you hear all the regret and loss leftover from that summer love affair. That maybe they were in love, after all. That maybe it was better when the stakes weren’t so high. Or that maybe the stakes were a lot higher than he likes to admit.
“Lord, I remember. Lord, I remember.”