Featured

This is what it’s all about:

The mission of this blog is to honor, non-commercially promote, and educate the world about Benjamin Orr, former bass player and one of the lead vocalists for the new wave rock band, The Cars. Articles here cover a whole range of topics surrounding his life, his career, and his continuing legacy. Enjoy!

Please feel free to also check out my “All Things Elliot Easton” blog!

We caught another Rat!

We caught another Rat!

Every time something new pops up in the Cars world I am ecstatic on two fronts: first, because another elusive piece of the band’s history has fallen into place, and second, because it bolsters my hope that there is even more yet to be revealed. And that’s on top of the thrill I always feel at just seeing or hearing my forever-favorite band. Anyway, you can imagine my elation when I returned from a recent trip to discover that a VERY cool friend had sent me some VERY cool files: new recordings of The Cars at The Rat!

Now you might remember that The Cars played The Rat for a four-night engagement spanning Thursday, April 28, through Sunday, May 1, 1977. A few months ago I uploaded an audio file from that weekend, though I wasn’t sure which of the dates it was recorded on. Well, with these two totally new shows, I’ve been told that they are specifically from April 30th, so they would be the Saturday night performances. As you’ll see below, each set offers us a previously unpublished gem, which makes these audios even more delightful.

In case you haven’t seen it before, on the right is an advertising flyer from that weekend. The Cars shared the bill with The Good Rats. I’m not sure who was the headliner; the way the ad is designed makes it look like The Cars were the big draw, but they were a fairly new band at the time (though the members themselves were not unknown). I think The Good Rats were still enjoying the regional success that followed their 1974 and 1976 albums, and they were coming up from New York, so they might have been a bigger deal? Oh, and each of The Cars’ sets was only about 1/2 an hour long, which seems more like a warm-up than a main event.

Okay, I got off track there, because I’m sure it doesn’t matter who was the headliner, but I was trying to imagine the order of the night. I’m going with The Cars, then The Good Rats, then repeat. There, I feel better now that I have that settled. Haha!

No more goofing off — let’s dive right in. Here’s the first set list, with the audio below:

  • 00:00 Leave Or Stay
  • 03:04 Cool Fool
  • 05:48 You Can’t Hold On Too Long
  • 08:54 Don’t Cha Stop
  • 12:25 My Best Friend’s Girl
  • 16:23 Gimme Little Sign (Brenton Woods cover)*
  • 19:40 I Don’t Want To (Elliot Easton on vocals)
  • 22:18 Strawberry Moonlight
  • 25:16 You’re All I’ve Got Tonight
  • 29:54 Just What I Needed

Some of my reactions to this set:

  • A lot of times when you go to shows, the crowd doesn’t seem to pay too much attention to the opener. The band might start, but people are still milling about, greeting friends, ordering drinks, and so on. I’m sure that was the case here, too, but the recording also picks up the sounds of cheers and whistling from the crowd at the beginning. I love it!
  • You have to know that I am thrilled that these recordings have come out of hiding — thrilled. But… there is one eensy weensy thing I wish I could change: I noticed that most of the transitions between songs have been edited out. That’s a little bit of a bummer because I feel like we can often glean several tasty bites of mood and personality from those breaks. Oh well! Not everyone’s as obsessed as we are. Better to have it with some edits than to not have it at all!
  • Let’s discuss the duo vocals on “You Can’t Hold On Too Long.” I have to admit it makes me wrinkle my nose a bit. Is it because I’m too in love with the album version? Or is it more that Ric’s voice clashes too much with Ben’s in this case? I mean, obviously there are many recordings where the two share the vocal duties successfully, but the disparity in their styles just doesn’t seem to blend well here.
  • I wish I could hear the what’s going on in the background after “You Can’t Hold On…” because I want to know what Ben is responding to when he says, “It’s not called that at all.” Sounds like he’s feeling squirrely!
  • I love Greg’s keyboard riff behind the chorus of “My Best Friend’s Girl” — it’s catchy! On the other hand, the absence of Elliot’s guitar solo is tragic. I’m glad that was eventually remedied; it totally changed the whole vibe of the song.
  • The big surprise in this set is the band’s cover of “Gimme Little Sign” by Brenton Wood (which I also carved out and posted separately). It’s been known in the Fanorama for a long time that they played this in their early days, but this was the first time I heard it. It’s great! Ric takes the lead vocals, but Ben’s voice is prominent in the chorus. Not sure who is doing the falsetto backing vocals, but there’s strong speculation that it’s Elliot. Hopefully someday we’ll have a definitive answer!
  • Here’s another recording of “I Don’t Want To” with Elliot on lead vocals. I think there is only one other published performance of this one, captured during the March 21, 1977, show when they opened for Bob Seger. Man, I love this song! I still need to get a lyrics post done for this — SO funny! Hey wait… there’s that high voice in the back again, but it sounds like Ben? Hmmm, the falsetto mystery continues…
  • By the end of the set the crowd is fully involved; you can hear them screaming and cheering as the band launches into “Just What I Needed” as their last song of the set. Hard to tell if it’s an encore but I would guess it is. Ben still hasn’t got those lyrics down all the way (LOL) but his adlibs are undeniably yummy. Elliot’s guitar melody during the chorus, which is rather hidden in the studio version, is front and center in this recording, and it freaking ROCKS.
  • “Thank you very much, we’ll see you in the neighborhood. Bye bye!” — Ben ❤

Whew! What an electrifying ride!

I wonder what they did while The Good Rats were playing? Probably changed their clothes, had some drinks and a few smokes, maybe put on a hat? Maybe they held court in dark corners and chatted up the girls.

This is a little bit of a detour, but if you’re a visual person like me you might get a kick out of it. I recently isolated a portion from an old Boston television program that showed footage of the inside of The Rat. If you have a few extra minutes, click on this video for a peek at what the venue probably looked like when The Cars were playing there.

Okay, let’s move on to their second performance that night:

  • 00:00 Bye Bye Love (Ric Ocasek on vocals)
  • 04:20 You Can Have ‘Em (aka Sleepy Wasted Afternoon or Blue Moon Saloon)
  • 07:21 Ta Ta Wayo Wayo
  • 10:08 Jezebel*
  • 15:48 Take What You Want
  • 21:41 My Best Friend’s Girl
  • 26:06 Something Else (Elliot Easton on vocals; Eddie Cochran cover)
  • 28:50 Just What I Needed
  • 32:35 Cool Fool (encore)

Let’s jump right into it:

  • The guys start off with a sizzler! (Mmm, Ben on the harmonies during “Bye Bye Love.”) Ric seems to loosen up a bit vocally on this performance so it’s not too unpleasant to have him taking the lead. Greg is killing it on keys, too.
  • I know I don’t comment about him much, but man, David’s playing really catches me in “You Can Have ‘Em.” He’s always so steady and solid back there, and I certainly can’t escape his perfect fills and flourishes here. Dude is on fire!
  • This set offers another tasty — and previously unpublished — surprise: “Jezebel!” I’ve loved this tune since I first heard Cap’n Swing’s demo of it, but I did not know that Ric had held onto it to include in The Cars’ repertoire. I definitely like the CS version better, although Ben’s vocals are luscious, no doubt about it. This song is great, too, because it is one of the few Cars songs that gives Elliot room to really stretch out and shine.
  • Elliot puts in another blistering performance on the mic with “Something Else.” That cover is so perfectly suited for him, and Greg’s scrumptious saxophone adds even more heat to it.
  • They attempt to close out the show with “Just What I Needed,” but the audience is wild for an encore. I particularly relate to the shrieking girls, who you know just want to see more of Ben. Haha! They return and launch into “Cool Fool” with swagger and energy. The crowd loves it.

And then it’s over. Another half an hour of raw talent from a band on the verge of changing the face of music. How fortunate we are to get to listen to the past!

I’ve given you a lot to unpack so I’ll leave you to it. Let me know what other bits and pieces stand out to you from these two terrific performances. Have fun!

*previously unpublished

Cover image photo credit: Larry Bouchie


Please remember that these live audios are not to be bought or sold!

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel and tap on the little bell to get a notification when I upload something new. Also, I’ve started keeping a playlist of the live shows in chronological order. You can check it out here:

Let’s Make A Record: The Results!

Let’s Make A Record: The Results!

Back in April I launched a fun little challenge for fans to create their own ‘new’ Cars album using only songs that the band performed but did not release on one of their six studio albums. We had a total of fifteen official contributions (those that came in before the voting started). From there, I organized the entries and set up a poll so readers could vote for their favorite submissions in four categories:

  • Best Album Title
  • Best Track List
  • Best Cover Art
  • Most Likely to Become a Bootleg (overall favorite)

Before I announce the winners, I’d like to share a couple of last-minute entries that came in. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive them in time to include them in the voting, but we can still enjoy them. Check out these cool compilations below:

LATE ENTRY Ellen Flint

LATE ENTRY Rick

I do have a little treat for everyone who sent in a submission: this badass 3″ Cars album sticker designed, printed, and donated by our very own Kurt Gaber! How cool is that???

prize for entries

If I haven’t already contacted you about getting your sticker to you, please send me a note, either through the blog or on Messenger. I’ll get them out ASAP!

And now to announce the results and winners in each category:

1

Best Album Title WINNER: Entry #01: Abandoned Cars by Steven Manson

2

Best Track List WINNER: Entry #04: Detour by Katherine Fendley

3

Best Cover Art WINNER: Entry #01: Abandoned Cars by Steven Manson

4

Likely Bootleg/Overall Favorite WINNER: Entry #04: Detour by Katherine Fendley

Congratulations to our winners! Wow, Steven and Katherine’s albums really battled it out. An Honorable Mention goes to Entry #08: Impound Lot by Becky Broderick for sticking close to the lead in all categories. And guess what? I have special prizes for them, too! These cool Cars logo decals were also printed and donated by Kurt Gaber, and will be sent out to Steven, Katherine, and Becky with their participation stickers. Woot woot!

prize for poll winners


A few random follow-ups:

I had originally presented the submissions without using names in order to help keep the voting objective, but for those who are curious, here’s the list of all of the participants by entry number:

  1. Abandoned Cars: Steven Manson
  2. Breakaway: Harold Strassler
  3. Cool Fool: Craig McGuire
  4. Detour: Katherine Fendley
  5. The Edge: Brandon Billings
  6. Hybrids: Chuck Walker
  7. Ignition: Silver Sunday
  8. Impound Lot: Becky Broderick
  9. In Deep: Michelle Turner
  10. The Novelty Knock: me!
  11. Sharp Subtle Flavor: David Curry
  12. Sleep Wasted Afternoon: Mary Theresa
  13. Untitled: Paul Sampson Fish
  14. You Can Have ‘Em: Beki Hampton Garland
  15. You Got It: Tina Megahey

After I had published the original article, I discovered that a couple of qualifying songs had slipped past me. Aargh! Two of them, “I Don’t Want To” and “Something Else,” were just total brain blunders. How could I have overlooked these fan favorites, and with Elliot on vocals? Jeez Louise. (Note: I will say that I did purposefully stay away from cover songs that the band just appeared to use to round out their sets, like “Gimme Little Sign” by Brenton Woods, etc.)

The third, “Jezebel,” was a new discovery for me. Of course, I knew that the song had been around with Cap’n Swing (and possibly before that), but I was in the dark that The Cars had performed it, too, until Jon M. gave me a heads up about it. Coincidentally, I received an audio from another source a few weeks later that included The Cars singing “Jezebel” during a weekend gig at The Rat. New to me!

I’m going to edit the original “Let’s Make A Record” article and update my graphic to keep things accurate. Sorry about the goof up!

This was a lot of fun for me — thank you to everyone who read the articles, submitted their ideas, or voted. And another big thank you to Kurt Gaber for providing the prize giveaways! What other fun things can we do, Fanorama? Let me know if you have any suggestions!

Getting through: real life ramblings.

I’m generally not the kind of person who posts on social media when the going gets tough. In fact, I usually go in the opposite direction; I tend to retreat and fall off the grid without explanation. I know this makes it difficult to be my friend and I apologize for that. 

Surely I am not unveiling some startling revelation when I say that 2020 was a tough year. It was for many, many people. And while the things I went through maybe weren’t as devastating as what others experienced, the last year and a half did give me a series of roundhouse kicks that have kept the birds twittering around my head for quite some time. I’ve felt stunned and off-kilter for months, letting go of so many things that are important to me as I’ve tried to process each blow in its turn.

And I guess that’s why I’m writing this post… well, for two reasons, actually. Mainly, I feel bad that I’ve neglected my blog and social media accounts, so this is my way of explaining why I’ve faded in and out. Also, I think writing this out will be the cathartic hand-hold I need to fully pull myself out of the pit I’ve been stuck in. 

 So, yeah, there won’t be anything about Ben in this post. Sorry.

I’ll just lay it out, I guess.

  • On March 19, 2020, I turned 50. Ugh.
  • On March 20, 2020, my mom died. She was in a nursing home, cut off from me and my siblings, totally alone when she passed away. Alone. Quarantined. She was old and needed care, but still, it was unexpected and sudden. No final words, no hand holding, no last hugs. No funeral or memorial services allowed. My relationship with my mom was a complicated one, and it’s been difficult to accept that it’s over. She’s gone.
  • During April, my sweet 17-year-old daughter, E, experienced her first real broken heart, and it was a doozy. Staying up nights with her as she cried and trying to help fill her days with activity became a priority through the summer.
  • In June I drove to Seattle to help my sister sort my mom’s things. It was really hard, but it was healing to spend time with her and her family.
  • The day after I got home from that trip, I got a call that my brother-in-law, my other sister’s husband, had a heart attack. He died a couple days later, on June 25. Twenty years older than me, he was a loving force in my messy childhood, and his death cut deep. I returned to Seattle for the social-distanced memorial service, grateful for a chance to say goodbye. 
  • In July we had some euphoric news: my son and his wife (N&L) announced they were expecting their first child, due in February. I was over the moon at being a grandma! But the world spun crazily again when my daughter-in-law miscarried at eleven weeks, another sucker punch.

Those are the biggest of the biggest blows of the year. So much grief and loss. It sucked. Woven through those struggles were my decision to leave my job with Let’s Go!, a round of shingles for myself and chicken pox for two of the kids, the mountains of stress my husband was dealing with as the manager of our local grocery store during COVID, the 20th anniversary of Ben’s death, and my older daughter, S, making the tough decision to call off her engagement (an emotional verdict, but truly a relief). 

I attempted to juggle it all, trying to check in and stay in touch. But really, I alternated between ‘soldiering on’ and burying myself under my blankets, doing the minimum to stay afloat.

All of the goals I was grasping slipped out of my fist. Diving deep into homeschooling my son’s first year of high school, building my freelance business, and returning to a consistent running schedule all kind of wriggled to the floor, squirming in my half-hearted efforts. My to-do lists are literal PILES; seriously, I’m embarrassed as I look around my office and the classroom. I gained 30 pounds of saggy, sluggish bulk, and my energy level hovered around zero most of the time. And the blog? It’s awful. Commitments unfulfilled. Interviews not transcribed. Article drafts unfinished. Audios, videos, photos languishing. Pathetic.

…BUT…

I think I’m coming out of it. I mean, the last six months have been this self-talk marathon of “Donna, you’ve gotta get your shit together.” I feel like I’m shuffling out of the cave into the light, and even though I still have to squint and adjust my vision, good things are happening. I’ve actually (recently) channeled energy into shoving off the covers and taking extreme action. The motivation came through my 15-year-old son (nicknamed Bones).

We have some friends who used to live here in town but they moved to Wisconsin about seven years ago. Bones, who was about 8, was close with their 7-year-old son, and the two became pen pals and have stayed in touch all this time. Now teenagers, they concocted the idea of Bones and I heading that direction for a visit, and Bones was so determined to do it that he saved all of his summer job earnings last year and committed to paying for the gas and hotels. We began making plans for a road trip, just the two of us. 

Underneath my excitement, I couldn’t bear the thought of having my friends see me in such disgusting physical shape. I mean, she was my running partner for years! What would she think? I was embarrassed by how I’d let myself go. And then a secondary incentive joined the mix when I realized that I would only be about a half-hour away from my favorite Cars couple, Kurt and Natalie Gaber. I had to see them! But I didn’t really want them to see me. Ugh. 

Anyway, that was the impetus. I started poking my nose into fitness programs here and there, but of course, any real change takes time, and I didn’t have a lot of that. I ended up doing a 10-Day Green Smoothie Detox (with my doctor’s permission), which ended the night before we left on our trip. It was brutal but I lost 10 pounds (!). Even though I still had a ways to go, I felt a little better about myself and, more importantly, I felt it was the kick in the patootie I needed to rev up my return to the ‘real’ me. 

Our little vacation was fantastic! Bones and I had a blast, traveling 3,500 miles in 10 days. We hit eight different states there and back, spent four adventure-filled days with our friends, and made time for The Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and Yellowstone on the return trip, while my sweet hubby and the girls held down the fort at home.

181139931_1845369422302089_3861546329967811625_n.jpg
Donna Neale and Kurt Gaber, 2021. Photo by Natalie Gaber.

Oh, AND I got to visit with Kurt and Natalie! Kurt had been working on transforming part of his downstairs family room into a tribute to The Cars and, having promised to have it completed by the time I arrived, he had put on the finishing touches just hours before. 

It. Was. STUNNING.

I’ll write more about the room and my time with Kurt and Nat in a separate post, but this photo gives you an idea of what I walked into. 

Confiding in my girlfriend about my struggles was cathartic and inspiring. She, too, was needing a reboot, so we decided to join forces to spur each other on. I returned home having gained back six of those ten smoothie pounds (hey, it’s hard to eat right on the road!), but my attitude was totally different, and I was armed with a plan. On Monday, May 10, we started a mental toughness challenge called #75HARD. Seventy-five days, five daily challenges, and yeah, it’s hard! No failure allowed – not a sliver – or you have to start back at day 1. Physical fitness is one of the benefits, and I’ve already taken off those six pounds plus some more, and I’m only three weeks in. It’s kind of extreme, but it’s just what I needed. (Oops! Groan… unintended Cars reference, but seriously, it is!)

I’m also putting together a daily schedule to help me redeem the time I’ve lost. I’m purposefully planning portions of the day to work on the things that are important to me, while still focusing on my family. I want to make sure I don’t take the days for granted. 

baby announcementSo that brings me to tonight. I still get hit with grief, but I’m dealing with it better, and I’m focusing on looking ahead; there are lots of positive things on the horizon. E is graduating from high school in a matter of days, and S is dating a guy who is actually NOT a douche. My girls are stronger and smarter after their heartbreak. Bones is balancing more responsibility for his education, and he’ll be starting driver’s ed this summer (gulp!). Aaaaand… N&L are 21 weeks into a happy, healthy pregnancy with our granddaughter, coming in October! I can barely contain my joy! Oh, and I’ve acquired a couple of exciting freelance jobs that have pushed me into learning some new skills, which is always invigorating.

Just writing this — the act of writing — has given me such a boost. I’m looking forward to a productive summer. Onward and upward, my friends!


living outside in the misdemeanor

well some get lost, some are screamers

and it’s easy to tell the great pretenders

they got the broken wings and the flip-top fenders

Let’s Make A Record: The Vinyl Voting!

A couple of weeks ago I put out a call for fans to create their own ‘new’ Cars album using only the songs the band recorded but that didn’t make it on one of the original six studio albums. I’m so happy that people responded! It’s been really fun to go through everyone’s playlists, to see the cool artwork, and to hear of the creative titles you’ve all come up with.

I do apologize for taking so long to get my butt in gear and post the submissions. Things have been a bit rough around here. Plus, I wanted to find a way to ‘display’ all of the albums in a consistent format, and I needed to figure out how to set up a friendly way to vote. I think I’ve got it. 

So here’s what I’ve decided to do. I created a graphic for each of the entries, keeping them anonymous by leaving the contributor’s name off. I included artwork (if it was submitted), along with the album title, track list, and any other extra notes that came with it. If the person created a playlist for his or her album, I’ve added it underneath that entry.

Let’s check out the submissions:

#01 Abandoned Cars

Playlist for Entry#01: Click here.

#02 Breakaway

#03 Cool Fool

#04 Detour

Playlist for Entry #04: Click here.

#05 The Edge

#06 Hybrids

#07 Ignition

#08 Impound Lot

#09 In Deep

Playlist for Entry #09: Click here.

#10 The Novelty Knock

#11 Sharp Subtle Flavor

#12 Sleepy Wasted Afternoon

Playlist for Entry #12: Click here.

#13 Untitled

#14 You Can Have 'Em

#15 You Got It

Playlist for Entry #15: Click here.

Now let’s get to the voting!

I chose four categories:

  • Best Album Title
  • Best Track List
  • Best Cover Art
  • Most Likely to Become a Bootleg

I wasn’t sure exactly where to go to do a quick free survey, but I think this one does the trick. Click on the link below and another window should pop open with the poll. This will enable you to toggle back and forth between the two screens if you need to. Unfortunately, it does not let you go backwards, so be careful to answer each question as it comes up. (That’s on me — I didn’t want to spend the $15 for that option. Haha!) In light of that flaw, my encouragement would be to spend some time exploring each album and take notes on your winning choices. This should hopefully eliminate any frustrations.

CAST YOUR VOTE HERE!

Just for kicks, I did a quick tally of how often each song was chosen. And, of course, I had to make a graph of it.

Most Chosen Songs graph

It’s no surprise to me that “Take What You Want” led the selection. It’s such an iconic jam! I was surprised that “Midnight Dancer” placed so high because it seems like no one ever posts that song in the Facebook groups. I didn’t expect it to have that much traction, I guess. 

I wish I had time to do more analysis from different angles, like what song was the most common album opener? The most popular closer? What percentage shunned the ballads? How many choices were Ben vocals and how many for Ric? Not hard stuff to noodle out, but I just can’t do it right now. If anyone else wants to take a crack at it, I’d love to hear more stats! 

Okay, so go ahead and scout out the albums, cast your votes, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments here or on Facebook. I’ll leave the poll open until Friday, May 7, and I’ll shoot to have the results published sometime during the next week. Oh, and I’ll try to figure out some cool Cars prizes to mail out to the participants and the winners. Can’t wait to see how it all shakes out!  

Lyrics: “Stranger Eyes”

“Stranger Eyes” by The Cars

When you took the fall and then you floated down

And then you took the jump and you fell through clouds

Yeah, then you watched the world beat the crowd

 

C’mon, ride me high (stranger eyes)

Well, ride me high (stranger eyes)

 

Yeah, you took the fall and then you landed soft

You thought to yourself, ‘well, I’m not alone’

You with your dark red soul and your chaperone

 

C’mon, ride me high (stranger eyes)

Won’t you ride me high (stranger eyes)

C’mon, ride me high (stranger eyes)

Ride me high (stranger, stranger eyes)

Stranger eyes

 

Well, I need your touch

It means so much

Oh, I need your touch

Because it means so much

 

Ride me high

 

C’mon and ride me high (stranger eyes)

Yeah, ride me high (stranger eyes)

Ride me high (stranger eyes)

Oh, come on and ride me high (stranger, stranger eyes)

Stranger eyes

It reminds me of him.

“I don’t know what it is you’ve got but it’s plain enough to see

Whatever it is it sure means a lot to me, oh yeah

I try to turn and walk away but it does no good, I’ve got to stay

This feeling that you give won’t let me be, oh no

You’ve really got a hold on me, yeah, yeah

I can’t live without your love…

I don’t know what it is you give but I can’t live without your love”

–Michael Bolotin (aka Michael Bolton), “Without Your Love” performed by Blackjack

In other words:

from liberty shediac show
Derek St. Holmes, Liberty DeVitto, and Benjamin Orr. July, 1999, at Rockfest 99 in New Brunswick, Canada. Photo courtesy of Liberty DeVitto; shared with permission.

“I can remember one time, Ben, Derek, and I going into a dive blues club in Atlanta and the band asked us if we wanted to sit in. When we asked Ben if he wanted to do it he just said, ‘I’m a bass player, not just that guy in The Cars!’ So, we went up there and played and Ben was fantastic!” — Liberty DeVitto, drummer with Big People, Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars by Joe Milliken

 

Side note:

When I asked Liberty if there was a special story as to why Ben was getting ready to lick him, Liberty replied, “He loved me!!” LOL

More on The C.A.R.E. Session

I gave a brief summary of this project in the article I recently wrote about Michael Stanley, but let’s look a little more closely at Ben’s involvement in the C.A.R.E. Session, shall we?

First we’ll add a few more deets about the undertaking and its background.

The single “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” released at the end of 1984 by the one-off UK ‘supergroup’ Band Aid, was a big hit: a heartfelt, no holds-barred ballad to bring awareness of the famine going on at that time in Ethiopia. Bob Geldof (the leader of The Boomtown Rats and a political activist) was deeply moved by the plight, and led the charge to raise money to provide relief for Africa. He wrote the song and solicited the voices of his friends, who happened to be the poppiest of the pop artists of the day, and who all donated their time to the cause. I’m sure many of you will remember this groundbreaking song and its ‘who’s who of 80s music’ video.

The project sort of became “the charity single heard ’round the world,” as the reverberations bounced from continent to continent. Sales of the record far exceeded Geldof’s expectations, and it spurred a chain reaction of artists wanting to do their part to assuage the hunger crises around the world. In fact, it inspired a whole movement by groups of artists taking to vinyl to raise money; it was a bit of an 80s phenomenon.

In Cleveland, Ohio, it was radio executive John Gorman and media personality Denny Sanders, two beloved local icons, who caught the vision and decided to rally their town for the cause. Gorman does a great job of telling the story of the project’s inception in his own words on his blog, so I’ll let you read that, and I’ll just record the statistical particulars here:

  • C.A.R.E. stands for Cleveland Artists Recording for Ethiopia.
  • The Session — the actual recording of the song and video — took place through the week of April 15 to April 26, 1985, at Beachwood Studios in Beachwood, Ohio. The studio time and tape was all donated, thanks to Keith Voigt and EDR Entertainment.
  • The song was called “The Eyes Of The Children,” and was written by Michael Stanley with Mark Avsec, Kevin Raleigh, Bob Pelander, and Danny Powers.
  • 50% of the proceeds went to USA for Africa to combat the famine there, and 50% was given to The Hunger Task Force of the Interchurch Council and The Catholic Hunger Network for the benefit of the hungry in northeast Ohio.
  • Musicians on the project were: Tommy Dobeck (drums and percussion), Michael Gismondi (bass), Bob Pelander (piano and synthesizer), Kevin Raleigh (synthesizers), and Danny Powers (guitars).
  • Featured vocalists, as listed on the insert, were: Skip Martin (Dazz Band), Ben Orr (The Cars), Joe Vitale, Jennifer Lee, Rickie Medlocke (Blackfoot), Kenny Pettus (Dazz Band), Kevin Raleigh (MSB), Michael Stanley (MSB), Visions (Dianne Woods, Cherrelle Brown, Alecia Burton), Alex Bevan, Paul Fayrewether, Mimi Hart (The Bop-Kats), Bob Pelander & Danny Powers (MSB), and Donnie Iris.
  • Vocalists on the chorus, as listed on the insert, were: all of the above, plus Audrey Goodwin, Shari Brown, Mark Addison (Nation of One), Bill Pettijohn & Billy Sullivan (Moonlight Drive); Jim Bonfanti, Dave Smalley, Wally Bryson (former members of The Raspberries), Tom & Frank Amato (Beau Coup), Mary Martin, Mark Avsec (Donnie Iris & The Cruisers), Billy Buckholtz & Steve Jochum (Wild Horses), You-Turn (Archie, Norris, Kenneth, Kevin, and David Bell), Dave Smeltz (I-Tal), Dennis Chandler, and Ellie Nore.
  • The song premiered on the airwaves on June 26, 1985, but the vinyl wasn’t released for purchase until late November. Delays with USA for Africa caused the pressings to collect dust in a warehouse for several months. Gorman joked that the record would make history as a disc that became an oldie before its release.
  • I’m not sure how financially successful the endeavor ended up being overall, in terms of the amount donated to charity. Having the records held up would’ve really hurt sales, I’m sure.

There are so many factors that made this project a good fit for Benjamin. Of course, he grew up in Cleveland, and had friends and family there that he loved. And in his teen years, he enjoyed some local celebrity as the leader of The Grasshoppers, a popular band who had a couple of hit records and appeared frequently on The Upbeat Show in 1965. He made a lot of connections with the up-and-coming musicians of those days, as well as with the local industry professionals. After he moved to Boston and made it big, he was never stingy with his celebrity status or his musical talent, He seemed immensely proud of his hometown, and it sounds like there wasn’t a bit of hesitation when he said ‘yes.’

31398165_574525549594975_5098643110346411232_n
My stash from Matthew Fuller.

Here’s how I got my copy of the record: I went to Cleveland in April of 2018 to see The Cars get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. During that weekend one of the thrills was getting to go see Moving In Stereo, a Cars cover band, play live (who freaking ROCKED, by the way). I had interviewed the band members and wrote an article about them the year before, and now I was about to meet them in person! Oh man, they were so good to me. They gave me two tickets to see the show — Joe Milliken was my concert buddy — and afterwards, they invited us to hang out in the bar for a drink. While we were chatting, Matthew Fuller, the bass player and ‘Ben of the band,’ gave me a surprise: a box of Cars’-related goodies he had collected for me. I was jacked! And in that stash was the C.A.R.E. Session album in great condition — I still can’t get over it. What a treasure!

After listening to both sides of the album, I’ve discovered that there are three different edits of the song. Here’s the first: the official video. You can hear Ben sing two lines: “you’ve heard it all before” at 0:23 (big thanks to Laurie H. for pointing that out!), and “across the ocean, across the highway” at 0:58. He looks so handsome! I wonder what he’s holding in his hand? It almost looks like car keys, and it seems like he’s signaling someone to turn the levels of something up? After the song, don’t miss that adorable little snippet of the ‘making of’ interview with Ben.

possibly ben screenshot from video_LI
Maybe Ben?

Interesting… Ben makes it sound like he was already in Cleveland working on his album when Kid Leo (a DJ at Cleveland’s WMMS station) called him? Oh, and I think there’s a Ben sighting in the big group sing-along, too. If you look closely at the video between 2:34 and 2:36. there’s a guy in the back row on the right that has a profile similar to Ben’s. And if you look around 2:25ish, you can see the same man behind a singer that is wearing a red shirt with white on the sleeves, and it certainly looks like Ben from that angle, too.

Anyhoo… the second version of the song is found on Side One of the record. I went ahead and digitized it (the sound quality is a bit stinky, though; sorry!). This track is about a minute longer than the video, and includes a second verse and a repeat of the bridge that were omitted in the video edit. Happily, this gives us two more Ben lines! I made my own video for this, and I used scans of the cover art from the album and the sleeve for the slideshow. I’ll add those images here so we can fixate on them… er… see them better. Probably a little overkill, but oh well.

front cover 01 crop
Front cover

ben crop 1
Ben cropped from the front cover

ben crop 2
Ben, cropped and rotated

IC417Petroglyph2313-page-001
The insert

ben crop 3
Ben cropped from the insert

IC417Petroglyph2314-page-001
Other side of the insert

back cover 01 crop
Back cover

Here’s the video I made:

You can hear Benjamin at 0:24 (“you’ve heard it all before”), at 0:59 (“across the ocean, across the highway”), at 2:00 (“that this will all go away”), and at 2:35 (“across the ocean, across the highway”). He’s sounds ah-mazing, as always!

The third and final version of the song is Side Two of the record, and it is noted as the ‘long version.’ The name fits. It has an additional two-plus minutes of music and chorus repetition, and goes out with a wacky sputter.  I found an upload of it on YouTube, if you want to check it out.

Also, here is a video that includes the full interview that Ben was in, along with other media coverage of the project. Nothing new of Benjamin himself here, but several segments with the late Michael Stanley, and you can get a good feel for the heart of it all.

Just for kicks, and for the sake of my little completist heart, I’m including the lyrics of the full song here. I’ll emphasize the lines that Benjamin sings.

“The Eyes Of The Children” by Michael Stanley, Mark Avsec, Kevin, Raleigh, Bob Pelander, and Danny Powers

It's not such a strange situation
You've heard it all before
Someone needs a helping hand

And even the best of intentions
Sometimes they just aren't enough
So now is the hour to do all you can

Someone's crying alone in the night
Across the ocean, across the highway
There but for the grace of God go you and I

And the eyes of the children don't see black or white
There's no politics, no nations on a cold and hungry night
The promises and visions are only just a start
But it's the eyes of the children that keep the fire burning
Keep the fire burning in our hearts

There is no use in pretending 
That this will all go away
If somebody somewhere won't take a stand

And how much time would it take you
How much pain could you ease
And how many lives do we hold in our hands

Someone's crying alone in the night
Across the ocean, across the highway
There but for the grace of God go you and I

And the eyes of the children don't see black or white
There's no politics, no nations on a cold and hungry night
The promises and visions are only just a start
But it's the eyes of the children that keep the fire burning
Keep the fire burning in our hearts

And if you stop and think about it
Most of us have got it good
And if we try and find the answer
Well you know someday we might
Gotta try and make a difference
Gotta try and put things right

And the eyes of the children, they don't see black or white
There's no politics, no nations on a cold, cold and hungry night
The promises and visions are only just a start
But it's the eyes of the children that keep the fire burning
Keep the fire burning in our hearts

Let’s see… anything else? Oh yes, I think I mentioned this in a recent post. I discovered that this snapshot below of Benjamin with his good friend David Spero (another Cleveland legend in the music biz) was taken while Ben was in town working on this project. It was originally published in Joe Milliken’s book Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars. It’s a perfect way to end this article. ❤

ben and david spero
David Spero and Ben Orr, 1985. Photo by Bob Ferrell. Retrieved from Facebook.

Quoting Benjamin

On the reasoning behind the band name: “Who can forget the day he got his driver’s license? Or his first car, or his first drive-in? If I hadn’t had a car, I wouldn’t have driven over from Parma Heights to Fairview Park to go shopping, and I wouldn’t have met my future wife — Kris King from Bay Village. She’s a curly-haired strawberry blonde. Gorgeous!” — “The Cars take off fast in the record derby,” The Plain Dealer, June 9, 1978.

QuotingB

Let’s make a record!

Songs That Didn't Make It To Vinyl 5The discovery of “Looking To See You” from The Cars’ April, 1977, show at The Rat brought to my mind again that the band had a whole cache of great songs that they could have cobbled together into another record. I’m not saying that I wish the debut album was any different — for heaven’s sake, it’s perfection! — but it would have been cool to somehow have my cake and eat it too. They could have done a “lost tracks” compilation, or “road to the record deal,” that kind of thing, don’t you think?

Anyway, that got me pondering which songs I would put on an additional album if I had a say, and in what order. I noodled out my choices, but I want to hear yours! So let’s play a little game: Let’s make a record! All you have to do is:

  1. Look through the list of songs I compiled below. I think I’ve got all of the ones played by The Cars at some point in their career that did not end up on one of the seven studio albums. I’ve added YouTube links in case you need to revisit some of the tunes, and I included the dates in case… well, just because, I guess. Please let me know if I missed a song! (Also, you’re welcome to specify other versions of a song title if you have a favorite; I just grabbed one for each.)
  2. From that list, choose no more than 11 titles that you would include on a whole ‘new’ Cars record. (I capped it at 11 because that is the highest number of tracks on any one of their original studio albums.) You can decide if you want to group them by a time period, or a specific style, or if you want to make a concept album using the songs to tell the story. Or you could compile a ‘greatest hits’-type group, or focus on one of the band members. There are tons of possibilities.
  3. Now make your track list. Think carefully about sequencing. What song would really be a great opener to set the tone for the album? How about a great finisher? Don’t forget to split the list into Side A and Side B — remember, we’re playing with vinyl here!
  4. Brainstorm a title for your record.
  5. For extra bonus points, make a YouTube playlist to share with us!
  6. Overachievers can even go the Robinson route and create some album art. What colors and images would you use? How about photographs? Fonts? Sleeves? Liner notes??? The sky’s the limit! [You can work with any format, but if you’d like to monkey around with graphics, try exploring Canva. It’s free and very user friendly.]
  7. Share! Submit your track list (and/or your YouTube playlist, album art, liner notes, etc.) by posting in the comments below, sharing on Facebook, or by sending me an email through the blog if you don’t want to throw it all out there. 😉

Then… let’s see… should we put everyone’s records up for a vote? I say YES! I’ll gather everyone’s ideas and then organize a little poll here and on social media. I’ll keep all the entries anonymous to avoid personal popularity votes; every record will stand on its own merits. Ooo, I can even have several categories, like Best Track List, Best Cover Art, Best Overall Album, that kind of thing… Oh man, I’m already getting carried away, I can tell.

I’m cooling my jets now, but let’s set a deadline of April 15 for entries if you want to be part of a vote. I’ll see if there’s enough interest in going further. Regardless of if we end up doing that part of it, I really want to hear everyone’s ideas! You can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. It’s your record!

Okay, here’s the list of titles (with links):

Here’s a playlist of all of the songs together in the same order, if that’s easier:

Aaaaand…. GO!

Live at The Rat: the Evolution Continues

1977.04.28 ad for The RatFrom what I can tell, this was The Cars’ fourth weekend gig at The Rathskeller in Boston. They played Thursday through Sunday, April 28-May 1, 1977, sharing the bill with The Good Rats (a New York band with a cool history). It is unclear which night was recorded here.

The flyer advertisement I used at the beginning of the video includes a photo of the early band, before Greg Hawkes joined in January, 1977. The guy on the far right is Danny Louis, the original keyboard player. Elaine Hawkes once commented that she thought the reason the guys were still using this photo to advertise the band was because they were too broke to get new promo shots taken right away.

Another note about the video: I’m not sure if the photos by Joanie Lindstrom are from this actual Rat performance. They look awfully similar to the Robert Post set that was taken in early February, so they could be from that.

Okay, let’s check out the show. Here’s the set list:

  • 0:00 “Just What I Needed”
  • 3:30 “I’m In Touch With Your World”
  • 7:05 “Strawberry Moonlight”
  • 10:08 “Lover and A Holiday”
  • 13:50 “Bye Bye Love” (Ric on vocals)
  • 18:15 “Wake Me Up” (!!)
  • 22:00 “Cool Fool”
  • 24:54 “Looking to See You” (an unreleased surprise)
  • 29:08 “Don’t Cha Stop”
  • 32:45 “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”

There’s a bit of a rocky start, and it sounds like Ben jumps in just a little too soon, but he corrects himself and then away he goes. A pretty cool show here: more fiddling with the instrumentation and the vocal delivery, and the songs move another notch closer to their final versions. There’s a little feedback problem in “Strawberry Moonlight” — eek! — and Ric on vocals for “Bye Bye Love” — double eek! The live version of “Wake Me Up” is a gem and I’m so glad to have it, in spite of the poor audio quality. ❤

To me, the most notable thing about this show is the song labeled “Looking to See You.” This was completely new to me! The originator of the audio file isn’t even sure if that’s what it’s called because, as far as we know, there are no other published recordings of it. It’s a great song! I assume it was written by Ric, but I know nothing about it. Maybe others can fill in the details?

Enjoy the show!


Please remember that these live audios are not to be bought or sold!

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel and tap on the little bell to get notifications of when I upload new stuff. I’ve started keeping a playlist of the live shows in chronological order. You can check it out here: