World’s Worst Songs: Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight”

We cropped this picture to give you the full, impressive effect of Bob Seger’s full, impressive, 1978 hair. Lots of dudes looked like this back then. It was the hairiest time ever.

OK, this one hurts. But in the grand scheme of things, it was not entirely unpredictable.

No artist with a major reputation needs the comprehensive box-set treatment more than Bob Seger, although he and his label are content to keep recycling the same post-1977 hit singles and familiar album tracks. His early albums are out of print and are likely to remain so. The mature artist, rather than the rock ‘n’ roll kid capable of burning down the whole neighborhood on albums like Mongrel or Back in ’72, is apparently the Bob Seger Bob Seger wants history to remember.

The 1977 album Night Moves is Seger’s monument. About a year-and-a-half later came Stranger in Town. It’s taken me a long time to figure out how to describe the difference between the two, but I think this is it: Night Moves is the natural extension of what came before it, the distilled essence of everything Seger learned and did on those records that so few people bought, while Stranger in Town is audibly striving to be Night Moves II. That was good business, because Stranger in Town is quite good and became a smash. But it also contains one of the World’s Worst Songs.

It was similarly good business for Seger, now that he was a mature artist, to try a ballad after a string of rockin’ good singles. But sweet mama, “We’ve Got Tonight” is dull. It starts dragging from the first second, and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, which backs Seger on the song and not the Silver Bullet Band, is wasted. (Poor Barry Beckett’s piano work consists mostly of the same two chords repeated over and over again.) It runs a positively interminable 4:38 on the album, and it still seems wicked long on the single, even though it cuts out a full minute.

As a longtime radio jock, I can tell you that “We’ve Got Tonight” is an extraordinary momentum killer. Play it after an uptempo record and your show comes to a screeching halt; play it after another ballad and you create an energy-sucking black hole that’s liable to shut your transmitter down out of sheer boredom. However: it does run 4:38, so if you need to go to the restroom, you’ll have plenty of time to get there and back while it’s playing.

Here’s a live version from 1980 with Seger at the piano. It’s marginally more interesting than the studio version, but I bet it killed the momentum at his concert, too.

  • HidrosisPule19
  • Guy Smiley

    This might not be my favorite Seger song, but it’s hardly one of the world’s WORST. It’s pleasant enough, well-crafted, Seger puts some heart into it, and… well, there’s really nothing wrong with it. It’s just there. Not brilliant, but not bad.

    Nothing in this write-up really makes the case for exactly why it’s (supposedly) one of the worst songs ever. That’s because it really isn’t, and there’s not much to say about it. If you want to slam because of Kenny Rogers covering it and having a hit with it, that’s one thing. If you found the original a bit bland, Kenny Rogers will top with vanilla ice milk for you.

    Anyhow, just like the time you actually called a Beatles song one of the world’s worst songs, aren’t there some truly bad records from this time to rag on? Maybe some disco? Anything that Styx put out?

  • Pete

    I’m a sucker for the classic rock ballad, and this is one of my favorites of the era. All in the ears of the beholder I guess.

  • jabartlett

    You’ll hate this, Guy: the Kenny Rogers/Sheena Easton version of “We’ve Got Tonight” strikes me as a better record than Seger’s original, because it’s exactly the kind of thing you’d expect from them. Seger’s a better singer, a superior songwriter, and a better showman than either of them, and I expect more from him than this limp love song.

  • BellBino

    It’s a great song to sing at the top of your lungs when you’re drunk at 2 o’clock in the morning. That’s good enough for me. It doesn’t need to be any more important than that.

  • David_E

    You. (Slaps your face with a STYX-logo’d gauntlet.)

  • Right Mover

    I’m far from a Seger-hater, and “We’ve Got Tonight” is no prize, but “Old Time Rock & Roll” is worse. In fact, it’s execrable.

  • abyssgazer

    A lot of Bob Seger’s later stuff–Beautiful Loser on up–has a squick quality that I can’t quite put my finger on and this song has that in aces. It’s just too….something–I’m all STFU, Bobby. Still, it’s not as horrible as “Hollywood Nights”.

  • Karl Bullock

    Aint no such thing as a good Seger song. They all suck.