“Old Time Rock and Roll” is a song written by George Jackson and recorded by Bob Seger on his 1978 album Stranger in Town. It was also released as a single in 1979. It is a sentimentalized look back at the music of the original rock ‘n’ roll era. The song gained a huge amount of popularity after being featured in the 1983 film Risky Business. It has since become a standard in popular music and was ranked number two on the Amusement & Music Operators Association’s survey of the Top 40 Jukebox Singles of All Time in 1996. It was also listed as one of the Songs of the Century in 2001 and ranked #100 in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs poll in 2004 of the top songs in American cinema. The song was recorded at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama and Sound Suite Studios in Detroit, Michigan.
The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, who often backed Seger in his studio recordings, sent Seger a demo of the song during the recording of Stranger in Town. He said in 2006 (and also on the “Stranger in Town” episode of the US radio show In the Studio with Redbeard a few years earlier):
All I kept from the original was: “Old time rock and roll, that kind of music just soothes the soul, I reminisce about the days of old with that old time rock and roll”. I rewrote the verses and I never took credit. That was the dumbest thing I ever did. And Tom Jones (Thomas E. Jones) and George Jackson know it, too. But I just wanted to finish the record [Stranger in Town]. I rewrote every verse you hear except for the choruses. I didn’t ask for credit. My manager said: “You should ask for a third of the credit.” And I said: “Nah. Nobody’s gonna like it.” I’m not credited on it so I couldn’t control the copyright either. Meanwhile it got into a Hardee’s commercial because I couldn’t control it. Oh my God, it was awful!”
However, George Stephenson of Malaco Records claimed:
“Old Time Rock and Roll” is truly [George] Jackson’s song, and he has the tapes to prove it, despite Seger’s claims that he altered it. Bob had pretty much finished his recording at Muscle Shoals and he asked them if they had any other songs he could listen to for the future..”
Originally, the Silver Bullet Band was displeased with its inclusion on Stranger in Town, claiming, according to Seger, that the song was not “Silver Bullety”. However, upon hearing audience reactions to it during their tour in Europe, the band grew to like the song.
In 1990, Seger joined Billy Joel on one occasion and Don Henley on another to play the song during their concerts in Auburn Hills, Michigan. He also performed the song at his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
In popular culture
The song was featured in the 1983 film Risky Business, starring Tom Cruise. Cruise’s character, Joel Goodson, famously lip-syncs and dances in his underwear as this song plays after his parents leave him home alone. The sequence was simulated in the teaser trailer for Garfield: The Movie, the 1984 Alvin and the Chipmunks episode “The Victrola Awards” as performed by Alvin and the Chipmunks, and commercials for Guitar Hero on Tour: Decades, Guitar Hero World Tour, Guitar Hero: Metallica, and more recently Guitar Hero 5 and Band Hero. Activision created a series of television advertisements directed by Brett Ratner based on the scene, each featuring a different set of celebrities lip-sync to the lyrics while using the new instrument controllers. The first ad included athletes Kobe Bryant, Tony Hawk, Alex Rodriguez, and Michael Phelps. Another ad spot featured model Heidi Klum; two versions of Klum’s ad exist, one a “director’s cut” where she is wearing less clothing. A subsequent commercial featuring model Marisa Miller was banned from airing as too racy. Two separate ads featured David Cook, the winner of the seventh season of American Idol, along with fellow finalist David Archuleta.
The song was featured in the TV series ALF, The Nanny, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Growing Pains, Scrubs and South Park. Most recently, the song was sung on the episode “Girls (And Boys) On Film” from American TV series Glee, in a mash-up with Kenny Loggins’ song “Danger Zone” from the 1986 film Top Gun, also starring Cruise and The Goldbergs, where Barry Goldberg tries to do the Risky Business dance move that Tom Cruise did in his button up shirt without pants.