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!
No new info in the text, but the photos themselves make this book worth some effort. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!
On how he felt when Elektra Records approached him about doing a solo album: “I got pretty nervous there for a while… you know, ‘cause I’d never done anything like this before, so I wanted to do a good job and when they asked me to do it I said sure I’d do it, but then shortly there afterward I got a little nervous. (chuckles)” — interview with Scott Muni, Line One radio program, November 1986.
Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr… their names will forever be entwined in the annals of music history. These two very talented men pooled their considerable gifts and created one of the first ‘new wave’ rock bands to hit the airwaves… and the industry has never been the same.
Some fans get pretty serious about trying to determine which of these two artists deserved more ‘credit’ for the success of the band, dividing themselves into “Team Ric” and “Team Ben.” In this episode, Dave and I take a (fairly tame) look at what each man brought to the table, from before The Cars and beyond.
Also in this episode, Donna’s various confessions move Dave to tears, we get a tweet from Donald Trump, and listeners are treated to Dave doing a ‘river dance’ in his clogs as he returns from the bathroom. Oh yeah, and don’t miss Donna’s first attempts at 1. playing a sound clip and 2. public humming.
There tends to be a lot of high emotion and misunderstanding surrounding the fan vote for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but is it really THAT big of a deal? In this episode, Dave and I attempt to keep things real by discussing how the voting process works, how the band has fared in the past and The Cars’ likelihood of being inducted on their third nomination, and how the members themselves seem to feel about the whole shebang.
In the meantime, the fan vote is open until December 5th. Click here to go to the RRHOF website and cast your vote for our boys!
Have a thought to share yourself? Email us at email@example.com and give us an earful! And don’t forget to check out our new youtube channel for easy listening.