In 1976, Bob Seger was already a local legend. The Detroit rocker had been plugging away on the regional rock circuit since the mid-1960s, performing with a variety of bands over the years. Big enough to land opening slots of major arena acts coming through Michigan and good enough to often blow those bands off the stage, Seger found his first taste of national success with the release of Live Bullet in April 1975. Capturing Seger and the Silver Bullet Band at the peak of their powers at the Motor City's legendary Cobo Hall, the album would produce a series of enduring rock radio hits, including a hard-rocking cover of Ike and Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limits."
"When we finally hit at Cobo Hall, we were snappin’ tight. We were ready to be heard as a live band. I had no idea if Live Bullet would be successful. I’d heard my stuff so much I had no objectivity," Seger told Rock Cellar earlier this year. "Of course, the Frampton Comes Alive! thing had come very close to that and had done huge numbers as had KISS Alive! So I was hoping it would be successful. Live Bullet went platinum in six months. Night Moves came out about six months after that and they both went platinum on the same day. And suddenly we were off and runnin'."
Night Moves was propelled out of the gate by its nostalgic title track, which would go on to peak at #4 on the Hot 100. The song was inspired by the movie American Graffiti, which Seger saw on the big screen in 1973: "I came out of the theater thinking, ‘Hey, I've got a story to tell, too! Nobody has ever told about how it was to grow up in my neck of the woods,'" the singer said to Mix magazine in 2007.
The album's second single, the melancholy "Mainstreet," would also climb into the Top 40, reaching #24. Third single "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" just missed the upper realms of the charts, topping out at #41.
"A song like 'Rock ‘N Roll Never Forgets”' is just slammin’. When we play that song live people go nuts," Seger said. "At that point in my life I was 31 years old, and as you know the first 10 or 11 years in my career I was makin’ six, eight grand a year (laughs) and just doin’ it because I loved the music. So I’m writing for Night Moves and I just felt grateful. Here I am and I’m starting to make it. You know, rock and roll never forgets. You build up goodwill over ten years and you set the stage. 'Rock ‘N Roll Never Forgets' is a grateful song."
The breakout success of Night Moves cleared the way for Seger to make music on his own terms moving forward, a luxury that was not overlooked by the rock icon.
“What it gave me was the ability to look at my record company and my manager and say, ‘Okay, we’ve reached this level. Now leave me alone for six months because I have to write good songs.’ Not songs that I wrote on a bus or in a station wagon," Seger revealed. 'I need to take my time and develop my craft.'”
After releasing two albums in 1976, Seger did indeed take his time working on his next full-length album, which wouldn't arrive until May 1978: Stranger in Town, packed with classic tracks including "Old Time Rock and Roll," "Hollywood Nights" and "Still the Same."