This song is about a young couple losing their virginity in the back seat of a Chevy. Seger says the song is autobiographical, but he took some liberties, as their tryst was after high school. The girl he was with had a boyfriend away in the military, and when he came back, she married him, breaking Seger's heart. Seger says the song represents the freedom and possibility of the high school years.
The phrase "night moves" has a number of meanings, which made it an intriguing song title. It could mean "putting the moves on" a girl in the back seat of a car, but Seger says it also relates to the impromptu parties he and has buddies threw in the fields of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where they would turn on the headlights and dance their "night moves." They called these gatherings "grassers."
Seger was inspired by the movie American Graffiti
, which was released in 1973 but set in 1962. He said, "I came out of the theater thinking, Hey, I've a story to tell too. Nobody has ever told about how it was to grow up in my neck of the woods."
Christine - Chicago, IL
Four songs on the Night Moves album were recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and another four at Pampa Studios in Detroit with Seger's Silver Bullet Band. They needed one more for the album, so Seger's manager booked three days at Nimbus Nine Studios in Toronto with producer Jack Richardson. They quickly recorded three songs that weren't that memorable. Seger's guitarist and sax player returned to Detroit, but the rest of the crew kept working on a very stubborn song Seger had been toiling over: "Night Moves." When it started to come together, Richardson brought in the local guitarist Joe Miquelon and organist Doug Riley to play on the track along with Seger and two members of his band: bass player Chris Campbell and drummer Charlie Allen Martin.
It's also the only track on Night Moves with female backing vocals, which were provided by Laurel Ward, Rhonda Silver and Sharon Dee Williams, a trio from Montreal that happened to be in town.
The famous bridge in this song, where Seger strips it down and sings "I woke last night to the sound of thunder," is something he and producer Jack Richardson came up with on the fly in the studio.
Seger wrote this song over a period of about six months. Along with "Turn The Page
," this was one of just two songs Seger ever wrote on the road.
"Night Moves" was a breakthrough hit for Seger, introducing the heartland rocker to a much wider audience. He had been Michigan famous ever since his first album in 1969, which had the solid hit "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man." That song went to #17 on the Hot 100, but over the next few years, he struggled to make a national impact. A big break came in April 1976 when his label, Capitol, seeing the success of Peter Frampton's Frampton Comes Alive, issued a Seger live album, Live Bullet, recorded at two of his Detroit concerts in 1975. It quickly found a following and outsold every other Seger album.
Night Moves was released in October 1976, with the title track issued as the lead single. When the Night Moves album entered the chart at #84 on November 13, Live Bullet was hanging around at #159. For the rest of the year and most of 1977, both albums were on the chart. Each ended up selling 5 million copies.
As for the "Night Moves" single, it rose to #4 in March 1977, making the heartland rocker a national name.
On the album, this runs 5:25. The single version was cut down to 3:23, taking out the bridge section where Seger wonders about the thunder and hums a song from 1962.
This reflective track was a change of pace for Seger, whose songs tended to be rockers with lot of live energy. It wasn't his first slower song though: "Turn The Page" was released in 1972 but got little attention. After "Night Moves" and the next single, "Mainstreet
," took off, many radio stations added "Turn The Page
" to their playlists.
According to Seger, he knew he had a hit after he recorded the song. Folks at his record company were also sure of it; Seger recalls the esteemed promotions man at Capitol, Bruce Wendell, telling him, "You're going to be singing this song for your entire career."
Like many of Seger's songs, there is a touch of nostalgia in the lyrics. When he sings, "And it was summertime, sweet summertime, summertime," he's not only referring to the time of the year, but to that season of his life as well. In the last verse of the song, when he is reminiscing, he says, "With autumn closing in" and is referring to the autumn of his life, getting older.
Kara - Raleigh, NC
Rolling Stone magazine named this Single of the Year for 1977.
The tempo changes were inspired by Bruce Springsteen's "Jungleland
." Seger wrote the song in pieces; he had the first two verses written but was having trouble finishing the song. After hearing "Jungleland," he realized he could connect the song with two distinct bridges.
When Seger sings the line about how he dressed in high school, "Tight pants, points, hardly renowned," "Points" refers to small metal objects some teenagers wore on their shoes in the '60s.
"Night Moves" didn't get a video when it was first released (it was five years before MTV), but when Seger's Greatest Hits album was released in 1994, a video was made to promote it. The video borrows heavily from American Graffiti, showing young people at a '60s drive-in, intercut with shots of Seger singing the song in the projection room. It was directed by Wayne Isham and stared some soon-to-be famous actors, notably Matt LeBlanc, who would later appear on the TV series Friends. His love interest is played by Daphne Zuniga, who was already starring in Melrose Place. Johnny Galecki, who later found fame on Roseanne and The Big Bang Theory, also appears. The video version of the song runs 4:30, splitting the difference between the album version and the single edit.
In the UK, the song charted for the first time (at #45) when it was released as a single along with Seger's Greatest Hits package.
According to Seger, he and the girl really made it in the backseat of a '62 Chevy, but it didn't fit lyrically, so he changed the line to "my '60 Chevy."
Darrin - Hilo, HI
"Night Moves" is also the name of a 1975 movie starring Gene Hackman that is unrelated to the song. Another movie called Night Moves, this one starring Jesse Eisenberg and also unrelated to the song, hit theaters in 2013.
Since this is such a personal song, it has garnered few covers, although Garth Brooks and The Killers have performed it live.
Seger revealed in a radio interview that in the line, "Started humming a song from 1962," the song he had in mind was "Be My Baby
" by the Ronettes (which was actually released in 1963).
Seger credits the Kris Kristofferson-written song "Me And Bobby McGee
" for inspiring the narrative songwriting style he employed on this track.
This was used in a big scene in the 1981 animated movie American Pop, where a young rocker named Pete plays it for record executives. It also plays in the films All Nighter (2017) and FM (1978). "Night Moves" has appeared in a number of TV shows as well, including:
Supernatural ("Baby" - 2015)
Ray Donovan ("Uber Ray" - 2014)
Family Guy ("Meg Stinks!" - 2014)
How I Met Your Mother ("Home Wreckers" - 2010)
The O.C. ("The Proposal," "The Heartbreak" - 2004)
That '70s Show ("Punk Chick" - 1999)
Knight Rider ("Short Notice" - 1983)