There was no such thing as Classic Rock in 1976 — the phrase, and the radio format it inspired, wouldn’t come into common usage until the mid-1980s. But there was already some notion of a rock and roll canon, a list of key albums that FM listeners needed to have in their collection. At the start of 1976, Bob Seger had zero albums on that list. Twelve months later, he had two: Live Bullet, the double LP documenting some blistering hometown sets at Detroit’s Cobo Hall, and Night Moves, his first platinum album, whose title single would peak at No. 4 as 1977 began.
His next record, 1978’s Stranger in Town, would go platinum within a month. I bought all three at once that year, because they were the ones Columbia House offered. But I knew there were others. As a budding, 13-year-old music obsessive, every record in the canon triggered a cascading need for several more. Some might be content with Elton John’s Greatest Hits, but I wanted the entirety of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and then some way to prioritize the rest of his back catalog. Destroyer was not enough KISS; At Budokan was not the sum total of Cheap Trick.
Fast forward to this decade. I hear someone singing “If I Were a Carpenter,” which reminds me Seger did a surprisingly heavy version of that song on Smokin’ O.P.’s, which I haven’t heard for a while. I reach for my copy, only to find that it’s gone. This is bothersome, but correctable, I imagine. I am a gainfully employed adult, living in a city with multiple wonderful used record stores, plus there’s an entire Internet at my fingertips. I decide to go on a spree, replacing not just the missing album, but finally adding the several I never purchased to my collection.
But I discover something odd: Bob Seger’s old albums are not only missing from my shelves. They seem to be missing from the world.
Seger is one of the few remaining digital holdouts — there’s nothing beyond the odd Christmas tune available on subscription services, and even on iTunes his only studio album for sale is 2014’s Ride Out, which sits beside two anthologies and two live albums.