Musical manipulation?

Even though  my kids are NOT Cars fans they are pretty good sports about my obsession (well, to the extent that they know about it). They laugh at my t-shirts, and listen to my little informational tidbits, and roll their eyes when they come home early and catch me blasting the stereo. And… they’ve pretty much figured out that they can manipulate their mama by quoting Cars’ lyrics to me.

I’ve had my 16yo daughter end a request with, “Please Mom, you know it’s just what I needed.” — many times! Or she’ll turn on The Cars station on Pandora and approach me with it playing as her lead-in to whatever she’s going to ask. And my 10yo son has gotten his way more than once by singing, “Don’t tell me no, don’t tell me… no!” while trying 100_9313to get chocolate from me. They know just when to wink at me and say, “We’re sorry, Mom, it’s all mixed up!” or “C’mon Mom, gimme some slack!” Even my 18yo son, who practically breaks out in hives whenever he hears The Cars, is skilled at telling me to ‘shake it up’ when I’m being uptight.

Sprinkled in there are the standards: ‘Let’s go!’ ‘Uh-oh, it’s magic,’ ‘It’s all I can do,’ and ‘Bye bye love!’, all delivered with a little shoulder shake and the two-handed, index-finger-out-thumbs-up gesture (is there a name for that?). They’ll even say to my hubby, “Daddy-O… I need you!”

The funny (shameful?) thing is that, the majority of the time, it WORKS.

My most favorite quote, however, came not from one of the kids but from my hilarious, foxy husband. Last week we were driving home from a school event and he said something smart-alecky, looking at me like he was the funniest guy in the world. I was *not* amused, so of course, I gave him that look like ‘oh please.’ As he turned his eyes back to the road he chastised himself quietly, “You were trying to be cute and it didn’t work out.” I burst out laughing and my bad mood was broken.

I love that even though my family doesn’t see what the big deal is about The Cars they understand and respect that *I* think The Cars are awesome, and they enjoy teasing me about it, and are not afraid to use it to their advantage in harmless ways.

I also love that while my kids claim to HATE The Cars, they have all those terrific songs tucked inside their little brains, and someday they are going to be in a store and hear Benjamin’s beautiful voice singing on the Muzak and get all sorts of warm, fuzzy feelings about this amazing band and go, “Aaawww!” So who is really being manipulated?

[Well played, Mom. Hahaha!]

In other words:

“Ben was just a greatBandE2 guy. He was funny, he was kind… There were things that we never learned about Ben until after he was gone, like he was taking care of cousins and family members financially that we never knew about and he never mentioned; he never wanted any credit for it. He did a lot of stuff like that. He was kind of a little bit of a closed book, Ben. He liked his alone time. He was great to hang out with and he was funny and he was great but he had a side of him that you couldn’t necessarily penetrate.” — Elliot Easton, Rock Solid interview, July 31, 2014

Lyrics: Jezebel (needs help)

Jezebel by Cap’n Swing

Jezzy took me up to her flat, we had a long conversation

We talked of traps and lies like that, the empty well of relations

And dream-dying plantations.

 

Now you can ride on the misery train ‘cause it ain’t going nowhere

You’re animated on pure cocaine; it’s something I would share

Well I guess I just don’t care… just don’t care

 

Sometimes you love it in this dirty old town

Sometimes I hate it when there’s nothing going down

I’m just lovin’ my Jezebel and working on my sound

Looking for the other side of this life

 

It’s me and Jezebel, just Jezebel and me

Just me and Jezebel, she sets my heart off reel

Jezebel and me

 

Jezzy…

Smokin’ it!

 

Let’s get down to the other side where every body’s a lover

We’ll float on in with the passion tide and sail away forever

Life’s ankle chain will sever

 

Lovers cruising on down the street, passing china chicken-town windows

See ( ) dancing in the summer heat, you should watch ‘em get low

They got a new rainbow

 

Sometimes you love it in this sunny old room

Sometimes I hate it in the pale afternoon

I just love my Jezebel and think about that moon

Looking for the other side of this life

 

Just me and Jezebel, just Jezebel and me

Just me and Jezebel yeah, she sets my heart off reel

Jezebel and me

 

Jezzy Jezzy Jezzy, Jezzy Jezzy Jezzy

Jezzy Jezzy Jezzy, Jezzy Jezzy Jezzy

Jezebel, oh sweet Jezebel

Hey Jezebel, sweet Jezebel

For the nerds.

I love numbers and statistics and facts. I *need* things to line up and balance… I have to cross-check and verify and substantiate. That’s just how I’m wired. And when it comes to writing about my favorite subject (darling Benjamin, of course!) I am compelled to make sure I know what the heck I’m talking about and that I have the documentation to back it up.

Fact-checking, unfortunately, takes a bit of time and so that is one of the reasons why I don’t post more often. I have a long list of ideas of what I want to write about but I’m always thinking, “Shoot, I have to find that one article…!” I really need to get a better system of organizing my materials. What I really wish I had was a database where I could scan in everything and tag every piece of info so that I could do searches based on whatever topic I’m chewing on at the moment…

nerd
So crazy about this nerd!

But I digress. The whole point of this little post is to share with you two of my favorite online sources of information, which I have ended up going back to more than I thought I would when I initially found them.

The first is setlist.fm’s statistics listings for The Cars’ tours. This little goldmine displays all of the performances by the band, what locations they played in (including television performances), and the set lists for each show. It also compiles numbers on the frequency and rotation of all of The Cars’ songs. On top of that, you can look at each song, see when it was first performed in concert, who has covered it, and a plethora of other information. It’s awesome!  I’ve used it over and over to help me pinpoint timeline info. The drawback is that it is a wiki, so it allows collaborative editing of its content by its users and there is a chance it is not entirely accurate. So far the one discrepancy I’ve heard of is that a show was missing from the list. I can handle that.

The second website is the United States Copyright Office public catalog. This garners a little less variety of information, but it has been very helpful in sorting out who wrote what, the approximate dates that songs were written, and who was working with whom. Unfortunately this has created more material for my “Benjamin, I wanted to ask you about…” file, as he is listed as co-writer on many songs I haven’t heard. The never-ending mysteries of Ben’s world!

So… if you’re a nerdy statistics junkie like me you’ll love these two resources — check them out!  And I hope that if/when I ever post anything that is not accurate someone will call me on it, please and thank you. We’ve got to band together to make sure Benjamin’s legacy is passed on with integrity and truth.

In other words:

“He was so sweet. He was the sweetest man ever. He was just so accommodating and such a talent. I mean, he was a star. When the guy opened up his mouth and that voice came out. Every night I ga8f1a803bad4aeb9e7cf11c893850259ot a chance, when the band was on tour, I had a chance to stand next to him and watch him sing “Drive” and he’d get a little grin on his face when he’d be singing it and he’d look out of the corner of his eye at me and laugh. He knew that I was just enamored by standing next to him watching him sing that song.” — Derek St. Holmes, member of Big People and former guitarist for Ted Nugent; Glide Magazine interview, June 6, 2016. [www.glidemagazine.com]

Stand there and perform your heart out.

What I wouldn’t give to travel back in time and see the Cars perform live! To be in the presence of those five talented, funny, intense men would be such an incredible experience; I know this is true because the live performances on youtube are so mesmerizing, even through the screen! The perfection, the tightness of their playing; their uncanny ability to interlock as musicians and create that unique, mind-blowing sound LIVE — often better than the studio recording. Could you imagine being in the same room with that energy???

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That is why I am just so mystified when I read any negative reviews from those fortunate enough to have seen the Cars in concert. The band has been compared to mannequins, “friggin’ statues,” corpses, and battery-operated robots. People complain that the guys don’t really move around, don’t interact with the audience, don’t vary the music enough. There is not any flash, no pyrotechnics, no circus. Several fans have commented around the web that the Cars were the worst show they had ever seen. One commenter said the Cars were the worst live show of the 80s. Wow! [Seriously, did no one see a wasted David Lee Roth prancing around and mumbling incoherently in ass chaps?] And this is not just Joe Shmoe off the street; some rock critics and entertainment writers seem to scratch their heads over this ‘weird’ phenomena.

I’ve been to many concerts and have seen a lot of variety. Steve Miller, Robert Plant, The Scorpions, Kiss, Rod Stewart… Hall and Oates, The Monkees, Neil Diamond, and oodles in between. Right off the bat I’d have to say that yes, there is a difference in the way the Cars perform; they’re pretty unique. I get it. They don’t run up to the audience and shout in the fans’ faces; they don’t strut around like peacocks, moving frenetically from one end of the stage to the other; and they certainly don’t swing from the rafters or come up through the stage on hydraulics. This writer describes their show pretty well (while trying to put a positive spin on it):

“The Cars epitomize the so-called ‘minimal’ school of rock. Onstage there are no between-song raps, no stretched-out solos. Tunes are cranked out like eerie replicas of their studio versions. There is no interpersonal kibitzing among band members or with crowds – and no introductions of song titles or musicians. Clearly, though, the Cars prove there is a market for such frigid and impersonal restraint.”  – Jim Farber, People magazine, August 13, 1979.

In the early years they certainly kept things very low-key. They had a prescribed color combination, a big logo behind them, a few spotlights… and not much else. Around the Shake It Up tour they started fluffing up the stage dressings and lighting effects, but for the most part they stuck to their formula: stand there and perform your heart out. I love it, and here’s why:

  1. I can hear the songs I love, just the way I love them. And I can sing along and get the words right. Sometimes Benjamin would vary a lyric line or ad lib a bit (I’m thinking of Candy-O in particular), or change his vocal inflection (and make me crazy with his increased sexiness) and that is enough for me.
  2. The vocals stay strong throughout the entire show because the guys are not getting winded from running hither, thither and yon trying to get the crowd hyped up. Those voices are what I want to hear!
  3. When the guys are standing still I can feast my eyes on them and get a fix on their beautiful faces. Well, you know that I really mean one face in particular. And I can watch those hands work the bass and follow his eyes and see his adorable facial expressions. I’m so glad the cameras don’t have to chase him/them around!
  4. I get a true sense of who they are as individuals by the way they naturally perform. BandE1Elliot rocks around a bit, Greg be-bops, Ric lurches and sways, and Benjamin moves to the back of the stage when he’s not at the mic. Nothing contrived, nothing pre-fabricated; just them and the music. I love the interactions between Ben and Elliot, too; so fun and friendly. For them to try to conform to outside expectations would only be a visual disaster (think of the video for Too Hot to Stop, or Ric’s awkward movements during Touch and Go).
  5. I can’t stand long, drawn-out solos. From any instrument or throat. Period. I’m so glad they don’t do any of that irritating showboat crap.
  6. They don’t need to be “entertainers.” The Cars are a group of guys that created amazing music, and that music has the capacity to stand on its own. There is no need to try to enhance the presentation of it with a bunch of smoke and lights. It is solid, captivating, addictive all by itself. And each member is a talented, interesting person who understands that the performance is about drawing attention to the music, not to the individual. It is this combination, the men and the music, that provide all the energy and pizzazz this band needs to give an amazing live performance.

I’ve read and listened to many interviews where the guys have all expressed their satisfaction with the way they perform, but I’ll end with this quote from the same article I used above:

“Observes drummer David Robinson, accurately: ‘It would be easier for the audience to understand it if people jumped around with their guitars on fire. We find we can get people excited without doing anything.'” – Jim Farber interview, People magazine, August 13, 1979.