December 13, 2006 at 1:00 am

Aug. 27, 1975

Seger's on verge of breakthrough

It looks like Bob Seger won't have to go to Katmandu after all.

After all these frustrating years -- 10 years to be exact -- Detroit rock 'n' roll's favorite son has hit his best shot yet at becoming a national pop star.

He's got an album making a fuss on the national charts, a single ascending even faster than the LP, and early next month he'll come home as a headliner at a major hall.

Seger has already sold out Cobo Arena on Sept. 5 and the demand has now spilled over into a second date, Sept. 4. His album, "Beautiful Loser," has been charted at No. 173 on the Cash Box chart this week with a bullet (which indicates rapid sales movement over the last week). Most of that is due to the success of his single, "Katmandu," which is listed as No. 75 (and bulleted as well.)

It couldn't be happening to a nicer, more persistent guy.

For years Bob Seger has been knocking around Detroit, an enigmatic figure with the artistic potential of being a national star who, for some mystifying reason, never was able to penetrate past the "Seger markets" -- Michigan, Ohio, and a few Southern states.

Veteran Detroit rockers remember his "Heavy Music" and "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," two incredibly powerful tunes that nonetheless never received much saturation past the Midwest and the South.

He has gone from Capitol to Warner Bros. and, now, back at Capitol. With each release, his longtime manager Punch Andrews has been predicting "this will do it," but they never did.

Seger has been forever on the brink of stardom without quite ever going over the top. There was the concert he did early in 1973 at Masonic Auditorium, which was taped for an "In Concert" segment. The set was good, ABC liked the results, but mysteriously, it never aired. In recent years, Seger's frustration has crept into his songwriting. There was "Rosalie," which described his futile attempts to get his songs on the radio. "Beautiful Loser" -- the album and the song -- is a succinct self-portrait of an artist who has been hailed by almost every critic yet never went commercial.

That album was release last spring with Capitol promising to do a no-holds-barred promotional campaign. But it has the misfortune of being issued simultaneously with a product from Capitol's biggest star -- Paul McCartney -- and "Beautiful Loser" was pushed to a back burner while the company concentrated on McCartney's Venus and Mars."

The album has hung around -- or more correctly stagnated -- on the charts all summer. "Beautiful Loser" was originally released as a single and, outside of Detroit, died. It looked like Seger was on his way to another failure.

"I think we made a mistake releasing 'Loser' (as a single)," says Andrews. "It was too laid-back and not typical Seger. Finally, the programmers at CKLW selected 'Katmandu' off the album and started playing it on their own."

The overwhelming response made Andrews and Capitol to rush-release the song -- which is Seger lamenting his commercial plight again to a kind of simplistic Chuck Berry beat ("Nobody likes me here If I ever get out of here I'm going to Katmandu"). It became one of CKLW's most-played tunes and the station's catalystic powers have caused the song to catch on in the other major markets.