45 Years Ago: Bob Seger Skewers Hollywood Ego on ‘Still the Same’
As he rolled from Night Moves' breakthrough success into the first single from his Stranger in Town album, Bob Seger seemed to have a bone to pick with... someone.
The lyrics to "Still the Same" are certainly pointed; using a gambler's motif, Seger sings in its two verses about someone who "always won, every time you placed a bet" and is adept at "turning on the charm / long enough to get you by." The song's sentiments clearly aren't intended as compliments, and there were, at least initially, all sorts of fan and critics theories about who Seger was actually addressing; an ex-girlfriend, a duplicitous friend/business partner and an actual card shark were the most-guessed subjects.
Seger, however, put the matter to rest in the liner notes of his 1994 Greatest Hits album; "People have asked me for years who it's about. It's an amalgamation of characters I met when I first went to Hollywood. All 'Type A' personalities; overachieving, driven." He elaborated during a 2008 appearance on In the Studio with Redbeard to commemorate Stranger in Town's 30th anniversary: "'Still the Same' is of course about someone who is probably a little egotistical, a little egocentric, a little aloof and a living-on-the-edge kind of person that is very charismatic. And we forgive that person because of the charisma. And I thought it was kind of a unique little story that we've all known people like that, people that we shouldn't really put up with their changes, but we do. And I thought that was a little more different lyrically."
Seger added in the latter interview that, "everybody said, 'Aw jeez, that'll never be a hit.'" But, boy, were they wrong.
Listen to 'Still the Same'
Dropped during April of 1978, just in front of Stranger in Town's May 5 release, "Still the Same" was Seger's second Top 5 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, equaling 1976's "Night Moves" at No. 4. It was also Seger's first single on the Adult Contemporary chart, reaching No. 27, and helped drive Stranger in Town to a then-high No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and a six-times-platinum certification.
"Still the Same" was one of four songs on the album that Seger recorded with members of his Silver Bullet Band -- longtime bassist Chris Campbell, keyboardist Robyn Robbins and drummer David Teegarden. (He recorded the other five with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section). It was one of Robbins' last recordings with the group before departing and being replaced by Craig Frost. Seger played piano and acoustic guitar on the track, and it was a staple in his set list during Seger's Roll Me Away: The Final Tour dates during 2018-19.
Rod Stewart, meanwhile, covered "Still the Same" for his 2006 covers album Still the Same... Great Rock Classics of Our Time. "It's just a great song to sing, wonderful set of lyrics, good melody, good groove," Stewart told this writer at the time. It's a song I've always loved; when it first came out I thought, 'Oh, I'd love to sing that song.' So I had to wait all that time but I'm glad I got to finally do it."