David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 347: Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band (Still The Same)

May 5, 2024

Over the course of my college administrative career, I have sought to couch my presentations in some kind of creativity, so as to hopefully lighten the authoritarian framework by which so many must be structured. I have created a fake Buzzfeed site, impersonated Donald Trump (pre-presidential years), Gordon Ramsey, and Bob Costas in videos, had HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey take over my computer, and even hidden an Easter Egg in an otherwise legitimate, straightforward presentation. A few times, I have incorporated musical themes, such as when I pretended to be a Beatles' expert talking about the never-before-known Fab Four's visit to Dowagiac, Michigan. My greatest attempt to use music directly was a failed attempt with various versions of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," before attempting to segue to Bob Seger's "Still The Same." Let's just say I failed in firing my silver bullet that day.

First, a little context: Back in 2016, I was preparing my Instructional Update, a presentation I provide during faculty welcome back week at SMC, the days before the Fall Semester classes actually begin. My working title was "A Grapevine's Only Good Use Is To Make Wine ." I had fallen in love with Prezi as a presentation tool, so I had built the talk around all the scuttlebutt, news, changes, conspiracy theories that might have made the rounds during the summer, while at certain points I would break up the talk with versions of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," first, Marvin Gaye's, then Gladys Knight's, then some obscure version that I can no longer remember (depressing me so), and finally Creedence Clearwater Revival's. My goal was to end the talk with a compilation of great things SMC faculty were doing (and in some cases had been doing for awhile) that might go unnoticed among announcements of new committees, new faculty, course and curriculum changes, accreditation updates, and college goals.

That's where I had the idea to link to Seger's "Still The Same," announcing various great things done by faculty at every moment Seger sings "Still The Same" after his line, "I had nothing left to say." (For those who don't remember, the final half of the song, after that line, is Seger and the background singers belting out "still the same/baby, you're still the same" for a good minute and a half.) So, to use a fictional example (even though, I was, and still am, willing to praise good work from friends and colleagues, I hesitate to do so in a public forum), I might have sung, "Bob Johnson, you're still the same, providing service learning with the local farm co-op. You're still the same." (Obviously, I had to work on my cadence to make sure I didn't get off rhythm with Seger, Fields, King and Matthews' collective vocals.)

The problem is I forgot that the wireless in our theater (yes, the same one mentioned in Day 346; clearly improvements have been needed for a decade) is chaotic at best, so when it came time to click on the YouTube links, all I got was silence and the never-ending spin on the screen. We all know what that's like, standing in front of an audience, waiting for the technology to get to work. I am pretty sure someone yelled, "now you know how we feel," a barb that always wounds a former-faculty-turned-administrator. Eventually, I bailed on playing the videos, made my main points and then, at the end, half spoke/half sang that section of the song, no background music. I will give people credit for appreciating the intent beneath the painful delivery. All I remember thinking is, "let me get through this without additional humiliation." 

I suppose I did. People generally seemed appreciative. Let's face it, Seger is always cool anywhere in Michigan, and "Still the Same" is so much better than "Old Time Rock And Roll" or "Shame On The Moon."  (As an aside, I loved Stranger In Town more than Night Moves, even though the hits are stronger off of Night Moves, which seems full of filler by side two). "Still The Same" also actually featured the Silver Bullet Band, even if half of the songs on any Seger album featured the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section instead of the Bullets. I had all the trappings for success, even if my technology failed me.

It may be for the best that this didn't work out as I planned. Serious listeners to the song might have questioned why I lumped faculty in with charismatic charlatans, given that the first half of the song recounts someone who "always won every time you placed a bet," who could never get caught "because you were quicker than they thought," "turning on the charm long enough to get you by." I love faculty but as a general rule, we are pretty conservative, not politically, just professionally, so that we would rarely be "quicker" than anyone thought. And those of us with charm, well, we often end up with many wives, too often former students. I certainly wouldn't want to imply that such relationship-forming remain still the same.

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. "Still The Same." Stranger In Town. Capitol, 1978. Link here.

Day 346: Portishead "Glory Box"

Day 348: Sammy Hagar "I Can't Drive 55"

See complete list here.