“I’ve changed instruments according to how much I’ve wanted to keep playing. Some bands in town didn’t need a drummer so I started playing rhythm and some didn’t need a rhythm so I started playing bass. Some didn’t need any of those so I started playing with keyboards, which I’m not very good at, but I fake it.” — Up Close interview, August 1987
In general, I am not a big fan of Ric Ocasek’s voice, and so a bunch of the songs he sings are on my “I could skip this one” list. “My Best Friend’s Girl” was in that group for awhile… until I started tuning in to what Benjamin was doing during the song (which then made it irresistible to me). His melodic bass line during the verses is very addictive, and my ears tend to park there for the duration. And when they get to the bridge I can’t help but sing along with the guys, “Here she comes again.” I had to notice, of course, the progression of the number of times they sang that line… twice in the first bridge, three times in the second bridge, and four times for the final bridge. Yes, I am a nerd.
For our viewing pleasure, there are many great choices for MyBFG. One video, which I believe was shot at Elektra’s release party for the Cars’ debut album, features Elliot getting kisses (from his sisters, I am told) on the way to the stage, Ric chewing gum, Greg with his mustache, and Benjamin primping adorably. The footage from Musikladen includes, among other delights, a delicious shoulder shimmy from Ben, as well as an awkward twirl and an, “I’m thanking you all” at the end. Love it!
I kind of have a tie for my top choice, so I’m going to post both of them (in chronological order – ha!).
High up on the list for my favorite clip is the one from Rock Goes to College, filmed in England in 1978. You can really hear Benjamin’s bass, and I love it. His charisma is over the top, rocking that Vox in his red pants, and that face he makes at 1:25 just melts me. And did Benjamin actually pull his pick out from inside of his mouth??? I think I could make a convincing case that he did. From about 3:00 on it’s kind of a Benj fest, with plenty of opportunity to gaze at his beautiful face and watch his hands create that hunky sound. [It’s also during this last minute of the performance where one could be fooled into thinking that Ric is, in fact, blind.]
The second contender is also a live performance, this one from 1979, that is so fun to watch because every single member is on his game. Benjamin’s playing my favorite bass (the StingRay), he gives a heart-stopping smile at 1:39, and turns on the duck face/blink combo at 1:45. Gorgeous! Elliot rips a great solo from 1:54; Ric is chewing gum like nobody’s business, and he actually bites his own lip at 1:14 to emphasize the lyric line. (I love it, too, because Ric’s treatment of the final verse is more sing-songy than in the studio version, which makes my ears happy.) There’s a cool reflection in Greg’s glasses, and we almost see David’s face — such a tease! Tight performance, as always!
The shirt! When I first saw the video of “Just What I Needed” from the Old Grey Whistle Test, I had to have that shirt. Tried to search around for it to no avail (it’s so random, how could I find it???). Finally came across an answer! A moderator from one of the Benjamin Orr fan pages on facebook had recreated the artwork in a jpg file. She graciously gave me permission to use it, and I immediately contacted our local print shop to make my dream come true. Within a few days I had my prize, and by the next week I had one made in black, too. I love them! I consider it my little secret tribute to Benjamin whenever I wear one, and I feel so sly since no one outside of my family recognizes its significance. LOL
The Cars were certainly a fashionable band, thanks mostly to David Robinson, who called the shots when it came to style and color choices for the members. It would seem that they had no quarrels over their preferences; in fact, I have found that they often appear to go out of their way to match each other since they will ‘twin up’ in a performance or photo shoot. Usually my handsome Benjamin is one in the pair, so I can only conclude that he had the best taste and every one wanted to copy him. LOL
Here are some of the matchy-matchy combinations I have found:
I love this shirt! In fact, I had one of each color custom-made for myself. Benjamin and Greg sport theirs together in the video for “Just What I Needed” from the Old Grey Whistle Test.
Benjamin and Elliot here with matching jackets (from Elliot Easton’s twitter page) and matching boots at a record signing. Somewhere I think there is a photo of EE and Ben wearing matching red boots but I can’t find it at the moment.
Benjamin and Ric with their guitar straps. Funny how much more of it shows on Ric’s loooong torso. LOL
More guitar straps, this time with Elliot during the 1979 Midnight Special performance of “Let’s Go” (which, by the way, is delicious).
Benjamin and Greg with the shirts again. They’ve got the black-on-white, which they seem to share, and the white-on-black. Of course, there is some difference in the fit. Hahaha! And for the record, please notice the absolute awesomeness of Benjamin’s boots in the group photo. SO cool.
I know I’ve seen a photo with Ric and Greg wearing matching shoes but I can’t seem to find it. I’ve yet to catch David matching anyone, unless you count the ‘skunk stripe’ he and Benjamin both flaunted for a while there… [shudder]. I’m not giving Benjamin credit for starting that one! LOL
I’ll update as I find more because I’m just.that.obsessed.
UPDATE: Here’s the photo I was thinking of with the red boots. Closer inspection makes me think they are not *exactly* alike, but pretty darn close:
UPDATE: Found Benjamin and Greg sharing a tie on The Cars’ brief tour of Europe in 1978:
UPDATE: Found Benjamin and Greg pulling the twinsies routine with matching scarves. Love it! Photo by Philippe Carly, taken in Belgium on November 17, 1978.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time studying any and all live footage I can find of my beloved Benjamin, and in doing so I have picked up on some adorable little things he does that increase my love for him exponentially.
Of course I am enchanted by his beautiful smile, and the way his long, slender fingers move over the neck of his bass, and the sexy posture he assumes on stage, and by a myriad of other details about his perfection. This post isn’t as much about those obvious, given traits as it is about the subtle layers of who Benjamin is that come out in understated ways. Can’t call them ‘quirks’ exactly, and some of them are not really unique to him or even particularly unusual. They are just habits or patterns he has, or little changes he makes to his ‘norm’ that make me crazy when I notice them.
Because I have a freaky list-keeper personality, I’m going to catalog these endearing mannerisms that have caught my eye (in no particular order), and will probably add to this list as I continue to discover more about my precious Benj. Just can’t help myself.
The pout-and-blink combination.
Playing without a pick.
Chewing gum in concert and during music videos.
Hiding cigarettes in photos.
Looking to his left during his song performances.
Matchy-matchy outfits with other band members.
Tucking his sunglasses into his clothing.
Giving a rock-n-roll kick.
When he does that bad-ass move with his bass.
His signature “yeah.”
Tucking his legs up when he’s sitting down.
Wearing his watch so that the face is on the inside of his wrist.
Holding down the fort with his pinkie on that bottom string.
Aggressively adjusting his guitar strap.
Storing his pick IN his mouth, not just between his teeth (thanks, Vanessa!)
When I catch a glimpse of that 5 o’clock shadow.
Some of these I know I am going to cover elaborately in separate posts because I have so much more gushing to get out of my system. You’ve been warned! LOL
I feel compelled to make sure everyone gets a chance to listen to this version of “Bye Bye Love” that showcases our darling Benjamin’s incredible talent: only his voice and his bass. I swear this puts me in an other-worldly trance.
The first melodic bass notes of these isolated tracks invade every cell of my skin. I put my headphones on and close my eyes and I feel like I am in the recording booth with my man and his instrument. The first time I heard this I was surprised at how much he had going on that I could not discern on the studio recording but that contributed to the wonderfully addictive sound of this song. Of course, that awesome little riff at the beginning is always accompanied in my mind by the visual of him performing it in London — so sexy! I care very little as to the technical imperfections of Benjamin’s bass playing (which some have noted in the comments on youtube); I only respond to what gives me pleasure, and this recording is HIGH on my list.
Being able to hear every nuance of Benjamin’s vocals is magical. The way he dives into the song with his aggressive “I can’t feel this way much longer”…his concise pronunciations at the end of each line… the growly way he says, “foggin’ all my energies until you visited”… when the words “orangy sky” slide out of his mouth… his occasional hushed intake of breath… and of course I’m just mad about his soft “yeah” in the second chorus; so subtle in the full studio version, so delicious here, and SO adorably Ben!
Every second of this recording is grand delight.
**UPDATE (December 13, 2016): I’m so sad to see that this video is no longer on youtube! If it surfaces again I will be sure to add a new link. What a loss — this was one of my faves.
**UPDATE (August 24, 2017): Found it on Vimeo (many thanks to Michelle B!) so we can all enjoy it again. Hooray!