Seger wrote this song about his high school years in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The song explores the promise of youth, and what Seger calls his "awakening" after being a quiet, awkward kid for most of his youth.
The actual street Seger sings about in this song is Ann Street, which was off of Main Street in Ann Arbor. Seger recalled to the Chicago Sun-Times: "It was a club. I can’t remember the name of the club, but the band that played there all the time was called Washboard Willie. They were a Delta and Chicago blues band. Girls would dance in the window. They were a black band, and they were very good. That’s where I would go but I was too young to get in. It wasn’t in a great part of town but college students loved to go there."
The nostalgic tone of this song led many critics to compare Seger to Bruce Spingsteen, sometimes unfavorably. The NME wrote, "Leaning heavily on anyone so personally stylized as Springsteen has got to qualify as an error of judgment."
Seger acknowledges Springsteen as an influence at that time, but insists he wasn't going after Bruce's sound or image. There weren't many rock musicians writing introspective hit songs about life in working-class America at the time, and with Springsteen in a legal dispute with his manager that kept him from recording, Seger had 1977 to himself.
Seger recorded this song at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield, Alabama. The studio was owned by four of the guys who played on the track: David Hood (bass), Jimmy Johnson (rhythm guitar), Roger Hawkins (drums) and Barry Beckett (keyboards). The lead guitarist on the session was Pete Carr.
While most of Seger's work was done with his Silver Bullet Band, he did make a few trips to Alabama to record at MSSS, taking advantage of the talented musicians and lack of distractions. His hit "Old Time Rock And Roll" was also recorded there.
Michael from CalifTimeless song I never grow tired of. That bass line and haunting lead guitar with reverb are exquisite, especially the licks near the end of the song.
Colossus from Under Your Bed"Leaning heavily on anyone so personally stylized as Springsteen has got to qualify as an error of judgment." None of Seger's stuff sounds anything like Bruce Springsteen, and Mainstreet smokes any song Springsteen ever wrote.
Debra from Tri CitiesLove living around the Muscle Shoals Sound and Fame Studio. Wow at the History. If those studio walls could talk.
Eric Reed from Huntsville AlI live close to Muscle Shoals recording studio.
Jenny from NycThis song was playing everyday when I was in the 7th grade, and I mostly ignored it. But it got into my veins anyway, even though I am not the biggest Seger fan in general (even though I really respect his talent), it stuck to me in some way when I was 12. This past decade, maybe due to the absence of much new, good quality classic rock, I have revisited some of the songs I overlooked.
Now, I could listen to Mainstreet every day and never get tired of it. I don't relate to the lyrics, but it doesn't matter because the way he sings make you feel lost in the emotions. Mainstreet's sound is just intoxicating: the bluesy, wistful tone, soulful singing, bittersweet emotion and perfect guitar - one of the best of 70s radio rock.
I wish Carr, the guitarist who came up with this incredible guitar work, had created 20 more songs or guitar parts like this one.
ps - William in Reno: Seger is still touring and he released a new album last year.
William from Reno, NvThis is the one guy I wished I could see in concert. Sadly I never did. K/H D
Steve from Princeton, NjYo, Jeff Wharton, very clever reference to "Against The Wind" ("Seems like yesterday")! P. S. Does anyone know why Seger made "Mainstreet" one word?
Deethewriter from Saint Petersburg, Russia FederationBob Seger told 'RAW RAQK NUUZ RU' on 2011-10-20 that a song like "Mainstreet," which is featured on 'Ultimate Hits: Rock And Roll Never Forgets' digitally remastered double disc collection [November 21st, 2011 A.D.] and is an early highpoint during his nightly set, holds a memory for him of a specific time and place: "'Mainstreet' was written probably about my first girlfriend -- as was 'Night Moves' -- but she didn't dance in a bar (laughs) or anything like that. A lot of its, she probably had the influence on it, but I made up the scenario. Although I did to walk on Ann Street - which is just off Main Street in Ann Arbor, and there would be a kind of smoky atmosphere in there, and it actually was a black blues club. And there was a guy who used to play there called Washboard Willie -- and I loved his band. And I would try to stand outside and listen to the band as long as I could before they shooed me away (laughs)!"
Jeff from Wharton, NjThe guitar solo for Seger's "Mainstreet" was performed by Pete Carr, recognized as one of the most versatile studio guitarists of the past three decades. Always one of my favorite songs! Can't believe it's from 1976....Seems like yesterday!
Camille from Toronto, OhNot a big Bob Seger fan, but this one's probably my favorite tune of his. The lyrics allow the listener to paint this little picture in their mind of what they think Main Street looks like and what the long lovely dancer looked like too. The slow, meandering pace of the song makes it seem you're walking right along with Bob down on Main Street while he explains what he sees. And it's something of innocence, as it's talking about him 'trying to get his courage up', so he must be wanting to talk to the dancer, or ask her out, but only seems to be able to watch her from afar. Now that life is more complicated and he gets to feeling lonely and beat, he like to reminisce about his simpler days just soaking in all the atmosphere around him.
Jim from New York, NyAn old flame and I listened to this on Seger's live album, up late, lights low, spring nights outside LA, a long time ago. For years after I couldn't hear it through. That guitar lick is so evocative of things far away, missed, partly forgotten... They were times that couldn't last, but this tune makes me think about her, wonder where she is
Janetlee from Panama City, FlThis is one of my fave songs...sort of sad and nostalgic. This is one of those songs that I preferred the "Live" version of over the studio recording. I feel the same way about Seger's "Hollywood Nights". Not many performers sound as good or better "Live" than in a studio!
Phiilp from Beer Town, Wii also didn't like this song when it first came out. i guess i was too young. the tempo is perfect - it has a nashville sound to it. it reminds me of my girlfriend at the time - Theresa B. she had the face of an angel and the body of a stripper but i was too dumb. now, 30 years and forty women later i think about her, especially when i'm feelin lonely and beat. i can't find her on google, facebook, etc....
Rob from Mountain View, CaTo me, this song is timeless. I would LOVE to either see a video mad of this. I may have to attempt to make it. Whenever I close my eyes while listening to this song and thinking of the video, I see the dancer walking down a urban downtown street....astreet where you see papers blowing accross the street and bars in the window....a bad part of town. I have no idea why I see that, just in my vision
Phil from Tucson, AzWhen I was stationed in Biloxi, Miss. at Keesler AFB in the late 70's, My buddy had an apartment off base and lived next door to a dancer in a "little club downtown" We use to go watch her "do her stuff". She was one of the nicest women I have ever met. Very much unlike all the other "girls". She was working her way through medical school by dancing. We used to have alot of fun just hanging out by the pool of his apartment house. I think of her whenever I hear this song. Good times!
Jason from Denver, CoThis song will forever remind me of the first street I lived on when my family and I moved to Michigan. Main Street in Manistee across from the old Hardy Salt plant...Thanks Grandma!!
Tom from Razorville, MeI'm playing this on memory so I should be double checked but as far as I know the guitar solo was J.J. Cale who if you search was extremely influential especially on Clapton.
Brad from Phoenix, AzI have a similar memory of this song as Trace from Texas. I was in the Army when this song was big, stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC. The adjacent city (Fayetteville) has a "main" street known as Hay Street, with bars, pool halls and strip joints. Don't know if it's still the same, but back then, we were "Down on Hay Street". Great tune.
Brian from Phoenix, AzIncredibly moving, and maybe it is just me making this minor/side-note analysis, but doesn't that guitar riff have more than just a slight feel reminiscent of Slash?
Just curious if others feel the same way.
Vernon from Trinidad, Wi, OtherGotta back up Rich on his feelings on the intro. The guitar is one sweet piece of music. Reminiscent of Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" even though "Mainstreet" preceded it. I normally think of one when listening to the other.
Trace from Longview, Tx This is one of 3 songs that reminds me of San Diego Ca. in the mid 70s when I was an 18 year old Sailor. There was a club called Brandy's just a few blocks from the 32nd St. Naval Station and one of the dancers was very much like Segers dancer in the song. I too used to watch her at closing time as "she made her way down that empty street." I'm closing in on 50 now, retired from the U.S Navy and happily married but every now and then my mind wanders back to that place in time and the girl.....Down on Mainstreet
Suzanne from White Rock, CanadaI love this song, even though it's meaning is bob's past experiences, it also makes me feel like my past experiences. Bob's got alot of soul!!
Brian from Gregory, MiWhen I grew up, I would never want to listen to this song. The guitar part made me uncomfortably sad for some reason. When I got older, I listened to it, understood that it was sad and actually played it with a cover band. So you know, the bar WAS on Ann and not on Main in Ann Arbor. It lists that info in the greatest hits album sleeve. I grew up next to A2, so I asked my father about the bar. He said he remembered the place. He said he used to fix the boiler there, and there were always people gambling downstairs. He also mentioned they ALWAYS paid him in cash.
Aj from Cleveland, GaHas that New Orleans feel to it
Rich from Elkins, WvI like the guitar riff/intro on this. Good lyrics, I can see all the images... -Hey Bob... you wrote and had so many good songs, Don't leave us hangin'...How about some new tunes.
AnonymousNot sure how accurate this is but I heard many years ago that this song was about a stripper from where Seger was from whom he had an infatuation with and later married.
Tammy, New Zealand.
Joe from Mcalester, OkI read that he wrote this song about a place in his hometown of Ann Arbor, MI. The joint was on Ann St., not main st. So, Mr. Seger wrote about "Mainstreet".
Victor from Boston, MaThis song is more about a stripper than a girlfriend of Segars. He used to love to watch her do her stuff...a little "dancer".