by Stephanie Barber
Publishing Genius Press
We were sixteen, working at the Western Sizzler. Or in a (’74 Gremlin? ‘64 Vauxhall Victor FB Estate?) parked on the North Shore. Pam or Butch was there—back in the summertime, sweet summertime of Night Moves.
I should say now that Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” doesn’t move me, thanks to a Captain Beefheart kind of childhood, teenagehood too late, and many years of classic rock associated with Kroger’s brand ennui. However, Stephanie Barber’s epic found poem, Night Moves, unites discovery, nostalgia, and arguments between “dickheads” by working with Youtube comments from Seger’s “Night Moves,” and reading it makes me hope for Americana memories to crack open like a Miller Highlife in the back of a ’79 Plymouth.
The poem moves both forward, as commenters play off of one another (See looking for Nancy Johnson episode, pages 57-59), and backward, as the countdown of dislikes displays a rallying point (“ 88 people didn’t get any in high school…” to “How does this song get 75 dislikes???” ).
In the snapshot of comments, racism, liberal politics, patriotism, remembrance, the universal—
“i can’t believe he is white! him and tom jones”
“[…] there are worse things thn being a retard, like george bush, or gordon brown[…]”
“[…] it is just music it has little to do with the grand scheme of things in the human experience”
—come into play as people vie for confirmation.
Every once in a while talking to the void—
“Night moves in her Dads barn 1975 love you Pam! Hope you are doing well. I think of you every time I hear this song”
—becomes a conversation or an argument:
“got me knocked up in 84”
“by far the best comment I’ve ever seen in a song”
“…congrats, grandmom ;)”
In the poem, comments act as a kind of historical document of pop culture: if written now, it would be a different book. In this document, most of the younger audience voicing in were “brought here” by “How I Met Your Mother” or “Top Gear” or “OC” or “American Pop” or “That 70s Show” or “Night Cheese.” (Some take a minute to parse: “ya the mom thing for me too.”)
But today, Grand Theft Auto V’s (GTA V) new soundtrack features Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, and many of the commenters say that GTA V brought them here…and they’re young, and Bob Seger will, too, define their youth, but in a different tally of Night Moves: A, triangle, left.
Everyone in the comment stream wants to validate his or her right to partake in transient popular cultural memory. TV brought me here! Go to hell! I’m 17 and I’ve loved this song since I was 13! Excellent that young people are discovering Seger!
Swiftly, Barber reorients the focus. Isn’t Seger’s song a tale of youthful lust remembered? And didn’t half the commenters connect with the song as youths, in the dorms, the backseats, the trusty woods, and they are here again, now looking to remember? Their “autumns are closing in,” and they are now the speaker, not the memory of the speaker; but they made their memories to the speaker’s memory. And in this way, the book reveals a meta-nostalgia of Middle America.
You could not achieve this meta-nostalgia with the other top songs from 1976:
1. Silly Love Songs, Paul McCartney and Wings
2. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, Elton John and Kiki Dee
3. Disco Lady, Johnnie Taylor
4. December 1963 (Oh What a Night), The Four Seasons
5. Play That Funky Music, Wild Cherry
The poem is the type of collage that could continue forever, because online interaction never ceases, nor does our desire to remember, or to make our mark on the void.
But the book ends, with the laptop open, headphones in ears, on the train platform. Youtube open in the browser, typing Seger’s name in the search bar. A man just released from the hospital, bracelet still on, cane in hand, mullet braided, talking about being a Vet, falls on the tracks like a turtle. A kid on a skateboard, personal effects in a black Glad yard bag, helps him up. A fat white woman, headed to the Sandia stop to gamble, giggles. A girl with homemade tattoos—an unsteady crown forever on her chest—rolls her eyes. Two Mexican teenagers, making out, don’t notice anything. And Seger waits for the thunder.