It reminds me of him.

This song by 38 Special is wrapped around many of my fantasies of Benjamin. Words he says to me, words I say to him. How I dream I changed his life… the overall feeling; the memories it invokes of my early years… And to have Benjamin play it during his time with Big People is just icing on the cake.

Here is footage of Big People performing this terrific song. Benjamin gives a charming little intro… and can I just tell you that there is the most beautiful, lingering camera pan of Benjamin at 0:52? I about DIED.

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In other words:

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Photo courtesy of Chris Kamburoff

“He would just walk into a room and everyone would stop talking. Chicks would just come up to him. We used to joke about Benny always having a box full of engagement rings for all the women he’d meet.”  — Wayne Weston, former drummer and band mate from The Grasshoppers; The Plain Dealer, November 10, 2000.

Quoting Benjamin

“I mean, if you’re playing in a band with someone you have to respect them for what they do and you can’t fight them at every corner. We get along pretty well I would imagine because we need to respect each other’s own background and their abilities, and you know if there’s a problem you have to file it under the right perspective, you know. You can’t let it blow out of shape. Okay, a problem, let’s take care of it but let’s do it so the band stays together because why not? Why shouldn’t the band stay together? And it’s working well for us so why cut your own throat? An ego is an ego, you know, and you can fortify your ego within a group if you really want to.” — Moving In Stereo: A History of The Cars, The Source radio show, April 1982

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Don’t Go To Pieces

What IS it with this song?

No matter what mood I’m in, this track meets me there. Giddy? It’s perfect for dancing. Lethargic? It makes me hyper. Sad? It cheers me up. Pissed off? It shakes its fist with me. I am so nuts about this tune and I feel like I can never get it deep enough into my system.

A few fast facts about today’s little gem. As expected, it was written by Ric Ocasek and produced by Roy Thomas Baker, and it is worthy of noting that Greg is credited on the copyright record for the music.  It first showed up when the single “Don’t Tell Me No” was released on November 10, 1980, from the Panorama album — “Don’t Go To Pieces” was the B-side. It made a second appearance as the B-side to “Gimme Some Slack,” released only a few months later, on January 5, 1981.

Having never shown up on an album (though I think it would have fit perfectly on Panorama) it was destined to fade into obscurity, but this terrific tune would not be forgotten; it found a place on Rhino Records’ 1995 compilation called, “Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology.” Hooray! This is how I got my hot little hands on it.

According to Wikipedia, one thing that makes this song unique is it includes rare backing vocals from Elliot and Greg. They jump in singing, “You can make the switch, you can have your wish,” followed by the band joining and singing the chorus “don’t go to pieces, b-b-b-baby.” (I confess I always assumed Elliot and Greg sang backing vocals so I didn’t realize it was a big deal. Learning something new every day!)

As for the song, itself…

Within the first seconds after pressing ‘play’ my feet are tapping. The music is so addictive: that driving bass line, that punky guitar. My shoulders are grooving and I’m grinning like I’m plotting evil. The lyrics are on the edge of meaningless and yet somehow so relatable… signature writing from Ric and it works, largely because Benjamin’s treatment of them knocks it out of the park. Can’t help but furrow my brow and curl my lip as I sing along. (You can find the lyrics in a separate post, if you need them. They are so snide!)

And that voice! Oooo, Benjamin’s voice is so full of sensuality and attitude; so sexily edgy and scornful. But when he cuts into that chorus there’s that little catch — almost a plead — that sends me flying high. How does he DO that? “It’s all so mystical.” And in spite of him telling me not to, I do, in fact, go to pieces nearly every.single.time. B-b-b-baby!

How I wish there was live footage of them performing this song! If you come across any, let me know. In the meantime, I found this wonderful fan video that is chock full of great Benjamin pics and is absolutely scrumptious. Enjoy!

 

Lyrics: Don’t Go To Pieces

Don’t Go To Pieces by The Cars

What’s it gonna be? Red jacket girl, lover, midnight spree

What’s it gonna be? You look so imperial

What’s it gonna be? You tried and you tried but you couldn’t hook your shoelace

What’s it gonna be? Know you got intention, difficult to see

You can make the switch… You can have your wish

 

What’s it gonna prove? Turning all the dials, making all the right moves

What’s it gonna prove? It’s all so mystical

What’s it gonna prove? You look so tacky in your chrome-drip belt

What’s it gonna prove? You’re ready to rage and starting to meltdown

You can make the switch… You can have your wish

 

Don’t go to pieces, b-b-b-baby, don’t go to pieces

Don’t go to pieces, b-b-b-baby, don’t go to pieces

 

What’s it gonna show? All left out and ready to go

What’s it gonna mean? You feel like trash but you look so clean

What’s it gonna do? All of them angels jealous of you

Where’s it gonna go? Anyplace, faster pace, overcome the low blow

You can make the switch… You can have your wish

 

Don’t go to pieces, b-b-b-baby, don’t go to pieces

Don’t go to pieces, b-b-b-baby, don’t go to pieces

 

Don’t go to pieces, b-b-b-baby, don’t go to pieces

Ooooh, don’t go to pieces

Ooooh, b-b-b- baby

Ooooh, don’t go to pieces

Ooooh, don’t go to pieces, b-b-b-baby

Ooooh, don’t go to pieces

Ooooh

In other words:

So how did it go and what about when Ben got sick?  “We did a tour opening for Styx and that went well until May of 2000. Ben was told he had pancreatic cancer and we lost him five months later. He was a trooper and when he got out of the hospital he said, ‘When I fall down and can’t pick myself up we’ll know it’s over. Until then- we rock!’

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“We played that whole summer and it was awesome. He played with passion and fire and the shows we did were the best I can ever remember playing. I think we all played for each other – Ben for us and we for him and that is what made those shows so special. The band will sorely miss him.” — Jeff Carlisi, member of Big People and former guitarist for 38 Special; Swampland interview, October 2001.

Yes, you’re too hot… but please stop.

Okay, I can’t put off writing about it anymore. It is the elephant in the room. Well, you know… the elephant in the room in my head that is filled with Benjamin.

If you’ve spent any amount of time on this blog you know that I am head-over-heels, crazy in love with Benjamin, completely immersed in his legacy, and totally obsessed with his life. Nothing he did will ever change that. And you might think that *I* would think that every little thing he did is sheer perfection. And for the most part, every little thing he did is perfect… but there’s this one thing.

This one thing that he did. It makes my cheeks burn with embarrassment.

It’s the video for “Too Hot to Stop.” I can’t STAND it.benjamin-orr-too-hot-to-stop-elektra

There. I said it.

Before you decide to hate me at least hear me out!

Benjamin in black leather? Yes! And you can’t unzip that jacket far enough, buddy. That Hawaiian tan? Bring it on. Cameos by David and Greg? Supportive friends warm my heart. The song is great and I gleefully listen to it over and over. But please…

Someone PLEASE give my man a guitar!!!

I’m just going to lay it all out here. Benjamin, bless his heart, certainly seems to be giving it his best shot… but he looks SO uncomfortable in this. His makeup is awful. His Neil Diamond dance moves are painful to watch. The lip-synching is a disaster. And I feel like I can tell pretty much every point where they stopped filming and Someone said, “how about you dance like this” and “why don’t you move over this way” and “try throwing your arms up” and “now give us the smoldering look.” At no time does he look to me like he’s truly enjoying himself.

Up until I decided to write this review I had only watched this video twice. You can imagine my expectations the first time I clicked ‘play’, can’t you? Can’t you??? Well, it was like a sucker punch. I couldn’t have been more dismayed if he had come out with his head shaved and wearing Steven Tyler’s tights.

I wanted to love it so much! It’s BENJAMIN, for crying out loud! I watched it a second time, thinking that maybe it would move into that grace-filled category of “it’s so bad, it’s funny and I love it” – but no, just more trauma. And in spite of my dear friend Jen’s attempts to get me to give it another go, I just couldn’t do it. I refused to pull it from the corner where I had shoved it, deep in the back of my mind, and managed to ignore it for a while… and yet here I am. I can’t seem to let it go.

Now come on. Think back to every performance you’ve ever seen of Benjamin Orr — and I’m talking about before this video *and* after.  That cool demeanor, those sensual facial expressions… how he could define ‘rock star’ just by standing there, working that bass or guitar and mesmerizing you with his voice, and then turn your knees to noodles with his brilliant smile. This persona fit him perfectly; he was in his element. It was obvious that he was comfortable there; I believe it came very naturally to him.

The Benjamin Orr of the 2H2S video is just *not* him. It seems like a parody, a joke.  Whose idea was this? Please don’t tell me it was the 80s and that’s what everybody did. This was Someone’s concept *for* Benjamin but not *about* Benjamin; it was Someone trying to push a rock star peg into a cheesy hole. It was Someone trying to make my man into something he wasn’t.

But I will say this for him, he was a gamer. However uncomfortable he may have been he pushed through and made it happen; made Someone’s dream come true. And yes, I’m definitely convinced that this was NOT his idea… because he just looks SO wrong.

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I read an article from The Boston Herald, dated January 24, 1987, about the making of the 2H2S video. Most of the column inches are spent talking about the complex state-of-the-art lighting used for the ‘futuristic’ backdrop on the set. There is one quote from Benjamin; he says this: “My only idea was to have the video have something to do with outer space. That’s what seems to capture attention the most these days, so I wanted to see if we could go out there for a while — or at least fool the camera into thinking we had.”

My darling, nerdy, love-of-my-life, I wish you had been a just little more opinionated as to how this was all going to play out…

Not sure I can really find my usual little tidbits to gush about. Certainly that smile at 3:30 melts my heart. I know we all adore Benjamin, and I accept that not everyone feels the same way about the 2H2S video as I do, so I’ll let you watch and add your own heartthrob moments in the comments. Maybe you can point out something wonderful that I missed.

In other words:

Ben Orr and Ric Ocasek of The Cars in Brussels, Belgium 1978

What would you say, thinking back, was Ben Orr’s strong suit, the thing that bonded you guys?: “I met Ben in 1968. I had a band in Columbus, Ohio, called, of all things, ID Nirvana, very era appropriate—and he came to see us. He told me he could sing, came to my house and sang the Beatles’ “Yesterday” in the sweetest voice I ever heard. Next day, he joined that band and every band I had up to and through to the Cars. He was my best friend, we hung out together, lived across the street from each other. We were practically married. He had great ears. I adored his personality and that voice of his—it was so much better than mine.” — Ric Ocasek, Magnet Magazine, May 2, 2016