It’s just an automatic line…

The other day in the car I found myself answering this question from my 11-year-old: “What the heck is he saying???”

We were at the end of rocking out to Night Spots, and it was where Greg is repeating, “It’s just an automatic line…” I told my son what the words were, and then explained my take on the lyric choice: In a lot of songs the singer repeats a line over and over at the end, and I think it was The Cars’ quirky sense of humor that led them to use those lyrics in kind of a teasing way; maybe poking fun at that habit of singers/songwriters (including themselves). Of course, as I’m telling him this, my own speculation makes me love the song and the band more than ever.

eenightspotssoloWhether my explanation is accurate or not, there is no denying that Night Spots is a damn fine song, with a heavy, pulsing bass line, a fantastic Elliot guitar solo, and bad-ass lyrics. And of course, Greg’s masterful synthesizer work! The song was written by Ric Ocasek (of course!) for The Cars’ first album, but ended up being used as the seventh track on Candy-O instead. It became a staple of their live sets in 1978 and was played in concerts all the way through 1987.

There are two studio versions published and both seem to exude power, though in different ways. The first one released, of course, is the track on Candy-O. It starts out with a little introduction of the synthesizer melody that hooks you for the entire song, and then the other boys are all in, churning away on that rocking beat. Every instrument is so present in this recording. Put on some headphones and get away by yourself for a few minutes — SO many audio delights here! Ric sings the lyrics perfectly; in fact this is one in a handful of songs where I would say I LOVE his vocals. His unconventional style is exactly what this song demands. Another favorite little tidbit about this tune is that in the live recordings Ric sometimes changes up the description of the woman’s hair: long blonde, blonde long, kinky, curly…

The demo version, likely recorded in 1978, wasn’t released to the world until it came out as part of 1995’s Just What I Needed: The Cars’ Anthology. Again, grab your headphones. This time we start out with an addictive beat, and then the layering begins: guitar, bass, guitar; building until the vocal jumps in, but with an almost entirely different set of lyrics. And here again, Ric’s singing is spot-on. In this version he comes across as rather amused and mocking of the woman in the song; as opposed to the bit of desperation, the awe for her that he portrays in the Candy-O cut. The biggest difference between the two tracks? There is no keyboard part in this early demo, and no blazing EE solo. Where the vinyl is poppish and danceable, this version is very bass-driven and very slinky… sexy. Quite a contrast.

It should be no surprise that I love both recordings. Each one conveys its own mood and message; I easily think of them as two individual songs, rather than one being an early version of the other. I’m going to post links to both of them here. I’ve decided not to use fan vids, mostly because I want to encourage you to close your eyes and focus on this incredible music. Enjoy!

CANDY-O VERSION

 

DEMO VERSION:

Lyrics: Night Spots (demo version)

Night Spots by The Cars (demo)

You walk a little bit curious
You look a little bit happy
You play a little bit sensitive
You stay a little bit beautiful

You’re just a little bit ridiculous
Sometimes a little bit off the wall
You are a little bit t-t-tight
Sometimes when you, you take the fall fall

Oo how you shake me up and down
When we hit the night spots on the town

Ah you walk a little bit curious
You look a little bit happy
You play a little bit sensitive
You stay a little bit beautiful

Oo how you shake me up and down
When we hit the night spots on the town
Oo how you shake me up and down
When we hit the night spots on the town

Just a little bit cool
Sometimes funny

Lyrics: Night Spots

Night Spots by The Cars

Could be you’re crossing the fine line
A silly driver, kinda off the wall
You keep it cool when it’s t-t-tight
Eyes wide open when you start to fall

You go d-dancing in the dim lit club
Some pressure cooker crawls up on his knees
Flashing sensations like a one on one
Stomping around in the jitterbug breeze yeah

Oo, how you shake me up and down
When we hit the night spots on the town

Oo, how you shake me up and down
When we hit the night spots on the town

It’s all behind you when you do catch on
You keep your lovers in a penny jar
A real romantic with a sultry stare
You keep on messin’ with your blonde, long hair yeah

Oo, how you shake me up and down
When we hit the night spots on the town

(it’s just an automatic line)
(it’s just an automatic line)
(it’s just an automatic line)
(it’s just an automatic line)

Quoting Benjamin

“For me it’s power. Myself and David supply the power. We are the ‘en-gine.’ That’s what it is to me… It’s also melodic, a bass instrument is melodic to me. I don’t go into playing straight ‘boom boom four’, you know. I like to experiment a bit, and sweeten it up, put a little melody behind the bass part. I think it helps. We’ll let the audience be the judge.”– The Cars: Riding the New Wave radio interview, 1982

waiting1

Lyrics: Goes On Sleeping

Goes On Sleeping by Cap’n Swing

You know the way she’s looking, she’s the one you’d like to touch

You were staying the night over and you could love her for as much

Because you’re the soft shade (?) lady, know the way that she could feel

If only you could roll on her you could spin her like a wheel

 

Too shy to love her with a secret on

You still caress her in your head ’til dawn

‘Cause if you hide it ’til the feeling’s gone it goes on sleeping

 

She’s a cool romantic, she’s giving up on you

And she always flies her ladies into the crystal blue

Hot lights and flaming nights leave a haunted smell in the air

Silk jeans and sweet love dreams make ‘em sometimes unbeware

 

Too shy to love her with a secret on

You still caress her in your head ’til dawn

‘Cause if you hide it ’til the feeling’s gone it goes on sleeping

 

Goes on sleeping…