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!
C’mon, do I even need to say it? Benjamin’s voice is… everything.
Beautiful to the ears. Wonderful in vocal range. He opens his mouth and easily creates those lilting harmonies, or those deep warm tones. Dramatic, melodic, seductive. Full of disdain or smoldering with emotion. Exuding confidence. Descending and weaving and pressing close…
I could go on and on, gushing about the mellifluous sounds that come out of that man, but I promised myself I wouldn’t. This is supposed to be just straightforward research. As you know, I love to have my little rows of facts and dates and figures; they make me so happy. Pulling data together and organizing it into a meaningful, structured presentation gives me a geeky thrill.
I’m a nerd… I know this.
So I decided I wanted to see a list of all of the songs Benjamin sang in his far-too-short career. Typing it into a single column in chronological order triggered a bout of pinball-machine-analysis and deep, varied speculations, but I’ll keep those to myself for now. And as satisfying as it was for me to see the list in a simple Word doc, I decided to stretch myself into the world of designing ‘infographics’ with this article. Bear with me, they are a little basic, but I wanted to add some color.
(And did you like my title? “Vocal List”… “vocalist”… see what I did there? Haha. Okay, okay… moving on…)
Before we dive in… some little disclaimers:
This blog post is a work in progress.
During the Milkwood and Ocasek & Orr years with Ric, the two harmonized and shared vocals so often that I decided not to list every single song they recorded, but instead only listed the ones where Benjamin handles the lion’s share of the vocals.
I believe Ocasek & Orr recorded a version of “Start It All Again,” and I have always assumed that Benjamin sang the lead on it (as he did with Cap’n Swing), but I didn’t list it under O&O since I’ve not actually heard that version (but boy, would I love to!).
I understand that Benjamin did some background vocals for other artists, but I haven’t been diligent about making notes when I come across that information. I’ll start a file to collect those notes, so hit me up with links, please and thank you.
And again, I am only listing songs where he sang lead or the majority of the vocals…
…except for “Since I Held You” and “You Are The Girl.” Wikipedia gave Benjamin a shared vocal credit on those, so I added them, too.
I’ve only addressed songs that I’ve actually heard or can otherwise verify the existence of, but as always, I obviously don’t know everything. If I’m missing information PLEASE let me know!
What was the discussion in moving forward without Benjamin? “In a nutshell, we felt as though we couldn’t replace Ben, so we wouldn’t even try, and we would just come up with technological solutions to the huge gap that his… absence leaves in the band… That’s just not The Cars, you know; that’s just not us.” — Elliot Easton, interview with Slacker Radio at Lollapalooza, 2011
In this episode, Dave and Donna take a closer look at the “official” presence of the band on the internet: what the Cars’ management is — and isn’t — doing across social media, and how it affects the Fanorama.
It particularly affected Mr. Steel Wool, who had to be “edited down” from the ledge after a rant about the Big Salad and BS posers who masquerade as being “connected” with the band. Donna’s sunshine and rainbows — and producer skills — were called into action to clean up the aftermath. Haha!
Christmas is right around the corner… don’t forget to tell your loved ones you want to find a hip, happening, unique Cars t-shirt from Tee Public under the tree! Then direct them to this link to make all your dreams come true: https://www.teepublic.com/user/nightthoughts
Questions? Comments? Complaints? Contact us! Dave wants you to direct your verbal abuse at him. Haha! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or join us on Facebook in The Cars NiGHT THOUGHTS Podcast group and let us know how we’re doing.
Listen to us on youtube (bit.do/nightthoughts), then subscribe, comment, and share!
No new info in the text, but the photos themselves make this book worth some effort to acquire. However… don’t break the bank.
My long story:
You might remember that in 2016 I went on a mini-rampage to try to get my hands on any factual or biographical books about The Cars. Just when I had thought my little collection was sufficient, my Cars’ world buddy, Timothy, alerted me to THIS book, which had not yet made my radar. You can imagine my giddiness! I was under the impression that it was by Philip Kamin (see the NERD TOPIC below), so I began scouring the internet for a copy of it.
It proved to be more elusive than I expected, and I ended up stumbling across it on Amazon by accident. The reason I hadn’t been able to track it down was because it was actually listed under Stacy Leigh (the author), and it didn’t have Philip Kamin’s name anywhere on it.
During 1984 and ’85, Robus Books put out a series of biographical discographies covering an impressive selection of the most popular bands of the day, including Madonna, Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen, Howard Jones, Ratt, Van Halen, Wham!, and (of course!) The Cars. I made a cursory attempt to find out more information about the Robus collection but to no avail… I was hoping to discover more of the thought process behind the writing and publishing of this line but only ended up with chirping crickets.
Just looking at surface details… I suppose it could have been sold at concerts, but to me, this book comes across as something you might find in a middle school library, with the target audience looking to be about sixth grade and up. The simplicity of the syntax, the large size (it measures 9″x12″), and the limited number of pages point in that direction, and I happily imagine thoughtful teachers encouraging their reluctant readers to choose one of the ‘rock-and-roll’ series for their book report assignment. (Of course, I could be wrong, but my little scenario works for me for now.)
This juvenile approach to the product is not a negative, however. Who doesn’t love a good children’s book? And visually, this one is beautiful. Its 32 (unnumbered) pages are chock full of scrumptious photographs, many in full color, as well as some terrific black-and-white shots. True, most of the images (if not all) have circulated on the internet for some time, but there is nothing quite like holding a tangible, large print of those fascinating fellows in your hot little hand. (Bibliophiles, unite!)
The entirety of the text can easily be read in about 10 minutes (15 if you pace yourself). The format is a simple (if slightly inaccurate) chronological account of the evolution of TheCars, beginning in 1976 and tracking their success through 1984. It is straight narration; no interview excerpts or quotes from the band. Still, the descriptions are nice, and I love this little gem:
“Ocasek and Orr were seen as hip prophets of a new era of American rock supremacy, one in which technological sophistication, musical simplicity and sound songwriting craftsmanship would break new ground.” (p. 12)
WARNING: NERD TOPIC AHEAD!
One thing I find perplexing is the credit for the photography. The book lists Mike O’Brien and Kelly Thompson as the ones responsible, but it seems these photos belong to Philip Kamin. I say that because, 1. the shots are all remarkably similar to the photographs included in the McGraw-Hill book also entitled The Cars (to be reviewed shortly), which were explicitly taken by PK. And by “remarkably” I mean that they are so close, there could be a single shutter click in difference. 2. Philip Kamin claims credit for the book on his website, and 3. he was one of the regular photographers of the band for a time. But then again… many of the other books in the Robus series credit PK with the photography, and his name is emblazoned across the covers, but not this one. Hmmm….
So who are Mike and Kelly? Why are they listed in the book but not Philip? I’m tempted to research it more… I know it’s not a big deal, but little things like that just nibble at me.
The book was printed with a $4.95 price tag, but you won’t find it that cheap these days. Checking the web tonight I see that there are at least two listed on Amazon, one priced near $200, the other, well over that amount. I feel extremely fortunate to have found mine (in pretty good condition) for right around $15 — a steal, for sure! If it’s not in your budget, all is not lost. Be sure to check with your local library; they may be able to get it through inter-library loan for little or no cost to you. Believe me, it’s worth a try.
Bob Seger is definitely one of those artists I didn’t appreciate until later in my life. His achy lyrics fill me with longing for the innocence and freedom of those younger days… now that those younger days are a ways behind me.
Driving home in the dark tonight, I listened to this song over and over — particularly this second verse. I couldn’t help but think of Benjamin, and wonder if that is how he felt in the late 80s and early 90s, when things seemed to fall apart for him… when he disappeared for a while, and then started up with the Orr band… long before the joy of Big People and Julie.
Of course, I have no clue. Just another one of my speculations…
“The years rolled slowly past and I found myself alone
Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends
I found myself further and further from my home, and I
Guess I lost my way… There were oh-so-many roads
I was living to run and running to live
Never worried about paying or even how much I owed
Moving eight miles a minute for months at a time
Breaking all of the rules that would bend
I began to find myself searching…
Searching for shelter again and again”
In this episode, Dave and I discuss the individual contributions of Greg Hawkes, David Robinson, and Elliot Easton, to creating the unique sound and success of The Cars. We touch on a little bit of their solo work as well, but we’re saving the lion’s share of that for future episodes to give each their proper attention. The venerable Roy Thomas Baker gets some love, too, as the vital sixth member of the band.
Oh… and… Sixteen point two??? Yes, I’m afraid so, people. Our inaugural attempt to do a live stream on youtube was painfully inadequate, and technical difficulties cut the recording short (dang it!). After some consultation with our amazing, invisible, brilliant producer, Nick, we decided to go ahead and try the episode again with a straight-up Skype call, and the results were much better!
Some bonus elements of this episode include: an introduction to the show by our adorable voice talent, Miss Lizzie; a special message about the pod from Benjamin Orr; and Donna fumbling her way through her first time handling the audio clips. Not only that, but Paulina shows up in a dream, Dave gets his hand smacked at least three times (those last two events are not related), and we’re all transported back to 7th grade when ‘Curry’ messages Donna during her EE monologue and sends her into a fit.
We also get a taste of the holiday spirit by warbling a couple of our favorite Christmas song choices — in spite of Dave’s ‘humbug’ attitude. Haha!
Click below to take a listen, and be sure to comment and share. Oh, and don’t forget to send your questions for the ‘Midnight Scroll’ to email@example.com. Also, join The Cars NiGHT THOUGHTS Podcast group for all of the little extra uploads you’ll hear about in the podcast.
In the meantime, have a wonderful and delicious Thanksgiving, and we’ll see you again on December 1!