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!


17 thoughts on “Don’t Go To Pieces

  1. Where would we be without the 3-disc Anthology? I find it far more rewarding than the Deluxe Edition of the first album.

    Of course, this song sounds VERY Panorama fully produced,, and they could have kicked off “Running to You” in favor of this one. “Don’t Go to Pieces” is included in the Panorama songbook, so I learned a rough version of it, before I actually heard the recording.

    Good slideshow. Many of these pics, I never saw before. I get the impression that Benjamin had a good sense of humor . . . fortunately! (There’s nothing worse than a handsome man who takes himself too seriously.)

    In one of these pics, he had some heavy eyeliner on, and now I’m trying to imagine Benjamin Orr wearing makeup and war paint like Adam Ant (circa “Antmusic” or “Prince Charming”). Can you imagine?

    Don’t be mad at me, but I’m not too crazy about this actual song.. The lyrics don’t do much for me. They’re too cryptic (Even by Ric Ocasek standards!) The reason this song works, IMO, is because Benjamin REALLY sells us on every line! I have no idea what the song means, but he sure seems to believe it’s vitally important! Every songwriter should be so lucky to have a co-singer like that. I think only Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey can compare to the magic of Orr singing Ocasek. (I have mad respect for the Who, but still like the Cars better.) Or maybe David Gilmour singing Roger Waters lyrics in Pink Floyd.
    Point being, I only like this song because it’s one hell of a vocal performance from Benjamin Orr..

    I imagine he’s singing about the same woman as in “Down Boys”. . . ?


    1. Of course, as a Benjamin fan I would never agree to have “Running to You” kicked off of my favorite album; I might agree to Getting Through, though. Ultimately I think they should have just added DGTP and had 11 songs. I *love* Benjamin with a little guy-liner on, but full-on Adam Ant? Nah, too much. Sexy as AA was, I’m perfectly content with Benjamin’s natural look. But like you said, I think B had quite a sense of humor and he might have gotten a kick out of a little war paint. Hahaha!


    2. And I agree, Benjamin could sing anything and make you believe it. Ric and Benjamin made the perfect team, because the attitude that B brought to those arcane lyrics really gave him a lot of vocal variety that I find is missing in The Lace.


  2. “Ultimately I think they should have just added DGTP and had 11 songs.” I wish I can go back in time and re-read as well as figure out which magazine I was reading sometime in the early 80’s (I would hazard to guess early 1981) that had a review of ‘Panorama’. The very interesting part is that the review stated ”11 songs (or tracks?)”, and try as I might in looking up and down (slight pun intended) as well as every which way but loose within the review I couldn’t figure out or find which was the 11th song! The mystery *might* have been solved within the summer of that year. If you don’t recall what I said about “DGTP” within a post on the Cars group via Facebook, it had to do with spotting the “Gimme Some Slack” single on the jukebox at the local Blimpies and selecting the b-side. Sadly, it seemed like forever waiting for the song to come on. There were a batch of songs that were playing beforehand so me and a friend got tired of waiting, and up and left without ever hearing it. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I *do* remember that post, JM! And I’ll keep my eyes out for that review article; I’ve got a lot on my head (my own slight pun) but I’m hoping to catch up on my backlog of Cars’ reading soon. Thanks for commenting!


  3. I love the song.
    Wish i knew what it meant..he sounds angry, and seems like a sad song just to me….yet the music sounds oddly upbeat..i love it idk why..i can hear Elliott’s voice clearly on the ” make the switch part”..honestly i dont like overanalyzing lyrics, but how i wish i knew Ric’s meaning with many of his words etc..
    Only discovered this song a couple months ago…yes Ben sounds pleading in the DGTP line.
    How i miss him..he breaks my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I often feel like Ric is venting some internal struggles and/or frustrations… but he’s obscure enough that everyone can sing the words and focus their feelings on their own situation. This song is still in my top 3 all-time favorites.


  4. “…It includes rare backing vocals from Elliot and Greg. (I confess I always assumed Elliot and Greg sang backing vocals so I didn’t realize it was a big deal.”
    I thought Greg and Elliot regularly did the back up vocals, too. How did it usually go?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I remember reading this a while back when I just was browsing your site and I wondered about that as well. If it wasn’t them singing the backing vocals, who was? I don’t think Ric actually sang much in the way of backing vocals or harmonies on the albums, and Ben had a lot of range but it wasn’t him singing all the parts.

        Maybe it was meant to be some sort of weird way of distinguishing between harmony vocal and backing vocal? I know pretty much nothing about music technically, but I seem to recall hearing that harmony vocals and backing vocals are different things. Maybe they normally considered Greg, Elliot and Ben as harmony vocals and this was considered enough of a departure from that to get them a little extra notation?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey, that’s entirely possible, I bet you’re right on that one. I wonder if vocalists get compensated differently than instrumentalists? When Ric let JWIN to be used in that commercial didn’t he mention something about more royalties for Ben’s estate or something?

    Liked by 1 person

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