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Music: The Cars
Left to right: Ben, Ric, Greg, David, Elliot

One of the most successful American New Wave/Power Pop bands, and a pioneer in distilling the various strains of New Wave into something that was both progressive and accessible.

The Cars' lineup:

  • Ric Ocasek: Lead vocals, rhythm guitar, wrote or co-wrote every song
  • Benjamin Orr: Lead vocals, bass (1976-88)
  • Elliot Easton: Lead guitar, backing vocals
  • Greg Hawkes: Keyboards, saxophone, various odd noises, backing vocals
  • David Robinson: Drums, backing vocals

Ric and Ben met in Cleveland, and moved to Boston in the early 1970s, attracted to its music scene. They formed and disbanded four bands, and met various other local musicians. Finally, they started The Cars on New Year's Eve, 1977. Elliot and Greg had been in their earlier bands, and David was from their favorite Boston punk band, The Modern Lovers.

They recorded some demo tapes, which caught the ear of WBCN DJ Maxanne Sartori, giving them national exposure and leading to a deal with Elektra Records. They went to London in early 1978 to record their first album with producer Roy Thomas Baker, who had previously worked with Queen. He gave The Cars' songs the same lush multi-tracked vocal arrangements heard on "Bohemian Rhapsody", and this became a signature of their work.

They released an album a year from 1978 to '81: The Cars, Candy-O, Panorama, and Shake It Up. The first two are their most Power Pop work, loaded with pop hooks, strange lyrics from Ric, high-tech (for the time) synths and electronic percussion, Shout Outs to bands that influenced them, surprisingly tuneful guitar solos from Elliot, and the aforementioned huge backing vocals, especially in the choruses. Panorama and Shake It Up are more experimental; Panorama is Darker and Edgier, and Shake It Up is Lighter and Softer.

Ric and Ben share lead vocals, and it can be hard to tell them apart. Ric is the neurotic one, Ben is the sexy one.

They took a break in '82; Ric and Greg released solo albums. They reunited in '83, and after eight months of studio tweaking with producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange, released their Magnum Opus, Heartbeat City, in early '84. With this album, they nearly completely ditched their Power Pop tendencies and instead went for high-energy, synth-laden high-tech but still rocking New Wave. Five songs were Top 40 hits, the ballad "Drive" was their highest-charting hit at #3 (Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" kept them from #1), and MTV put the videos for "You Might Think", "Magic", and "Drive" into heavy rotation. They performed at Live Aid, and were superstars... for about two years.

They released a best-of in '85, with one new song, "Tonight She Comes". They took another break in '86; Ric, Ben, and Elliot released solo albums. They reunited in '87. Door to Door, produced by Ocasek, brought them back to their roots as an early New Wave band with a lot of Punk influences. They tried to get away from the mechanical sounds of their previous albums, but they didn't make it. Critics panned it, and sales were modest, nothing compared to Heartbeat City. The tour was difficult, with the band drifting apart and a lot of empty seats at each venue. It was enough to give Ric a nervous breakdown, and so The Cars broke up for what appeared to be the last time in February 1988. 1995's best-of and rarities collection Just What I Needed was intended to be the final nail in the coffin. But the band members remained friends, ready to reunite any time Ric was ready.

Ben died of cancer in 2000. Ric continued his solo career, and in 2010, he put together a set of songs that he really liked. A call with Elliot led to a reunion, and Move Like This was released in May 2011. Greg and producer Jacknife Lee filled in on bass. Move Like This is a return to the sound of the first two albums.

Official site


Discography:
  • The Cars (1978)
  • Candy-O (1979)
  • Panorama (1980)
  • Shake It Up (1981)
  • Heartbeat City (1984)
  • Greatest Hits (1985)
  • Door to Door (1987)
  • Move Like This (2011)

The Cars provide examples of:

  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: Ric pronouncing "introverts" as "in-TRO-verts" on "Gimme Some Slack." Also, the way he pronounces "cement" in "Touch And Go" makes it sound like...something else.
  • Adorkable: Ric, in both voice and looks. Especially on his less-cynical songs like "Victim Of Love" and "Magic."
  • Album Title Drop: Move Like This, "Too Late"
  • all lowercase letters: the lyrics printed in each album
  • Arena Rock
  • Bi the Way: Ric.
  • Black Sheep Hit: "Drive" was their highest-charting single by far (#3 in 1984) but was one of only a handful of slow ballads the band recorded.
  • Breakup Song: A few here and there. "Since You're Gone" is one of them, and notably finds Ric doing a Bob Dylan impression.
  • The Cameo: Candy-O's album cover was by Alberto Vargas, and Andy Warhol directed and appeared in the video for "Hello Again".
  • Dance Sensation: The song "Shake It Up".
  • The Eighties: No collection of '80s pop is complete without Heartbeat City.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Moving in Stereo" to "All Mixed Up", "Think It Over" to "Maybe Baby", "Coming Up You" to "Wound Up On You".
    • "Double Life" to "Shoo Be Doo" to "Candy-O."
  • Fanservice: Babe-laden videos, especially "Shake It Up" and "Hello Again".
    • Babe-laden album covers, especially The Cars, Candy-O, Shake It Up and Heartbeat City.
  • Gratuitous Panning: "Don't Cha Stop", "Moving in Stereo", and the transition from "Think It Over" to "Maybe Baby".
  • Greatest Hits Album: Greatest Hits, and several after they broke up.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Ric and Ben. Not entirely heterosexual for at least one half of the partnership (see Bi the Way above) but they knew each other since high school and were very, very close. Silver from Nexterday, Ric's first solo album released after Ben's death, is about Ben, and the Move Like This album is dedicated to him.
  • Hood Ornament Hottie: Candy-O's cover is a classic example.
  • Intercourse with You: You betcha! "Don't Cha Stop," "Touch and Go" and "Tonight She Comes" in particular.
  • Large Ham: Happens surprisingly often for a band often stereotyped as cold and detached. Ben hams it up on "Bye Bye Love" and "Don't Tell Me No," Ric on "You're All I've Got Tonight" and "Getting Through" (Both of those pairs of songs also happen to be consecutive on their respective albums.) The entire band turns into pure pork on "Door To Door."
  • Lead Bassist: Benjamin Orr.
  • Lyrical Shoehorn: "My Best Friend's Girl", "Bye Bye Love", "Moving in Stereo", "Double Life", "Candy-O", "Dangerous Type", "Don't Tell Me No", "Cruiser".
  • Lyrical Tic: Ric, uh-oh.
  • Mushroom Samba: A rather literal example in "I'm In Touch With Your World" with the line "I'm a psilocybin pony."
  • New Sound Album: Two in the span of two years Panorama found them shifting from power pop-inflected new wave to frantic, Talking Heads-esque post-punk, while Shake It Up is bouncy, shiny synth-pop.
  • New Wave: One of the genre's essential bands.
  • Name's the Same: Lampshaded in this film series, where the second film features a cover version of "You Might Think".
  • Record Producer: Ric produced Door to Door and many albums by other bands, during and after his time with The Cars. Credits include Bad Religion's The Gray Race, Weezer's Blue and Green self-titled albums, and The Pink Spiders' Teenage Graffiti.
  • Self-Titled Album: The first one. Jokey nicknames about its cover ("Edible Steering Wheel" and the like) aren't uncommon.
  • Silly Love Songs: Most of their work.
  • Shout-Out: From "They Won't See You":
    Let's turn on the TV and relate to Spock
    • A musical one is found in "Just What I Needed" in that it begins with the same guitar riff as "Yummy Yummy Yummy" by Ohio Express.
  • The Smart Guy: Both Elliot and Greg are Berklee College of Music grads.
  • Stage Names: Ben shortened his last name from Orzechowski.
    • Ric Ocasek shortened his from Otcasek.
    • Elliot Easton changed his last name from Elliot Shapiro.
  • Subdued Section: "You Might Think"
  • Synth Pop: A few on Shake It Up and Heartbeat City with little or no guitar.
  • Tall, Dark and Handsome: Ric.
  • Textless Album Cover: The vinyl LP of Candy-O.
  • Vocal Tag Team
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "I'm in Touch with Your World", "Gimme Some Slack", "A Dream Away," "Cruiser".

Vyacheslav ButusovRockCoeur Machant
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