Quoting Benjamin

“The Cars just sort of happened without anybody really realizing it… I didn’t really realize it. You know, being through a number of bands like I was it seemed like the next best shot. So you know you try and it just happened, real fast… didn’t really have time to think about it. I didn’t really have time to think about it.” — Moving In Stereo: A History of Cars, The Source radio program, April 1982

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“…And everything you do-oo-oo”

WARNING: This is nothing but blatant fangirling, baby.

A bit ago I wrote about my struggles with the gush, and I am finally ready to sit down and have it out. I chose to go with Everything You Say, because the way I perceive Benjamin to be during this time of his life matches my current mood. It’s okay with me if that part doesn’t make sense to you… I also chose it because he’s absolutely AH-MAZING in this video!

Those first notes and that countdown raise my heart rate right out of the gate. The video editor makes me crazy by showing everyone else *but* Benjamin for the first 30 seconds, but when my man finally comes out of the dark and onto the screen he has been worth the wait: he is GORGEOUS. That layered black leather wrapped around his husky build, the 1987 blonde shag, and (as always) the way his hands move on his bass… Seriously, I have to pause here and breathe for a minute.

He starts singing in that low voice and it is sooooo delicious and sexy. The way he says ‘honey’ makes my spine tingle. And oh, those closeups at 1:02 and 2:04! With the sweat on his jaw and his glance over to the right; that way he sort of half-purses his lips… yummy.

Catch his beautiful smile, too, that smile at 1:39! Grooving moves at 2:42, his hands at 2:57 (really, through the whole thing), and his shrug and grin at the late spotlight at 3:26… Ah, and that little bass swing at 3:57! I love it!

Other things that crack me up about this vid: Looks like Elliot gives up at 4:26; the way Greg be-bops around reminds my kids of a little parakeet, I love Ric with the acoustic guitar, and the footage of David is wonderful! Think I’m going to make some gifs from this one. Hee hee!

Be sure to comment on your favorite parts — and let me know if I missed anything!

Touch and Go (oh oh oh!)

There are a few songs in The Cars’ collection that, when I first heard them, I gave them a decided ‘thumbs down.’ During my early explorations of the Panorama album, I can clearly remember sitting in the kitchen and saying to my husband, “This song is just so hokey, with its ‘doong da da doong da da doong’ cowboy rhythm. Sounds like a weird western thing going on.”

Can you imagine?

No surprise that now I listen to it constantly and consider it one of the high points among (ten) high points on Panorama (which is now my favorite record!). Not sure exactly what changed my mind but I think it was Elliot and that hot solo. More about that in a minute… Let’s start with some basic facts. Released as a single on August 25, 1980, “Touch and Go” is the second track on that album, the first of three sent out, and the only song to chart from Panorama, reaching #37 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was written by Ric Ocasek and produced by Roy Thomas Baker. “Down Boys” was on the flip side.

One of the things you immediately notice in the song is the complexity of the tempo during the verses, and then the change up when they move to the bridge and chorus. In my highly technical mind (ha!) I think to myself, “Wow, that sounds so tricky and awesome!” But people who understand the REAL way music works call it polymeter: using two different time signatures simultaneously. I learned about it from this educational blurb:

“‘Touch And Go’, a hit single by The Cars, has polymetric verses, with the drums and bass playing in 5/4, while the guitar, synthesizer, and vocals are in 4/4 (the choruses are entirely in 4/4).” — Guitar Alliance

touchandgogregcountMy mind, while sincerely nerdy and fact-based, is not super flexible, and concepts like this are somewhat slippery for me to get a grip on. The best way for me to grasp it was by watching Greg count the beat on his fingers during this performance on Fridays (aired September 19, 1980). Luckily no one’s going to test me on it, so I just took enough knowledge to increase my appreciation for the song (and my admiration of the band) and tucked it away; I encourage you to do the same.

The other notable thing about this song — and really, it’s the ultimate, BADASS, off.the.chain, “WTF did I just hear?” portion of this song — is Elliot’s guitar solo. This was decidedly the game changer for me, the element of this song that pulled me in initially and still won’t let me go.

As we know, Elliot has always been the master of crafting the perfect punch for the typical 15 to 30 seconds he might have to make his mark in a song, and his work here in “Touch and Go” just might be his best overall. I am blown away every time I hear it! For a full forty seconds he builds and layers, and takes me higher every step of the way, ending at the perfect peak before dropping me back into the soft lap of Ric’s vocals and Benjamin’s swaying bass. But did you know that this beautiful creation almost didn’t make it into the final recording?  Elliot tells the story himself in this audio clip from my all-time favorite EE interview:

[Pat at RockSolid has given me permission to make and publish that audio clip, but I highly encourage you to take the time to listen to the full 2-hour interview with Elliot; it is funny, poignant, and extremely insightful. You can download it and take it with you on your morning commute, during a long run, or while you’re doing chores around the house. You won’t regret it!]

As to the lyrics for “Touch and Go,” Ric is quoted as giving a rare interpretation of his own writing on page 60 of the book Frozen Fire, by Toby Goldstein: “This is one of those songs about people having a difficult relationship and not understanding why they’re having problems, but they put up with the uncertainty anyway.” Makes sense to me; more so than my 11 year-old son’s take on it: “Touch and go. That’s the same as hit-and-run, right?” Hm, I actually think I could buy into that explanation, too…

The icing on this musical cake is, of course, Benjamin. I cannot resist that wonderful bass sound, alternately rollicking and gentle, pulling me through the song. I love the live footage where I get to study Benjamin’s hands making it happen.

Though “Touch and Go” was released almost a year before MTV successfully launched video music television in the United States, The Cars were, as always, thebouncerwhalomparkin with the pioneers of technology and new music frontiers. They teamed up with Gerald (Jerry) Casale of Devo to produce a ‘short band film’ (sometimes called a ‘pop clip’) to go with the song — not a common practice among artists at the time but growing in popularity. The second verse of the song was omitted, shortening it up a bit.  The official video was filmed at historic Whalom Park in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, on July 7, 1980. The park closed its doors on September 4, 2000, but you can still see two of its popular rides in the video: the Whalom Park Carousel and The Bouncer (pictured).

I love the opening shot of the hands putting the picture disc on the turntable… I don’t know why, but that just is SO cool to me. I also love the parts where Ric is singing in the near-dark and the boys emerge one by one, slowly gliding through our field of vision. And Elliot spinning on The Bouncer with his guitar — could he be any more badass? Even without the special effects and high tech equipment that are available for today’s music video productions, this cutting-edge gem delivers some great visual tidbits.

Here are a few more things about this song that maybe you hadn’t heard yet:

  1. On December 8, 1980, John Lennon mentioned “Touch and Go” specifically in the last interview of his life. Check it out  here. If you don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, feel free to skip ahead; the relevant discussion starts at 1:41:00 and lasts about one minute.
  2. The song did better globally: it peaked at #2 on the French Singles Chart and #16 in Canada.
  3. “Touch and Go” has been compared musically to “Spirits in the Material World” by The Police, and “You Got Lucky” by Tom Petty, both released after Panorama, and both possibly influenced by The Cars.
  4. Whalom Park’s ride, The Bouncer, had a strong reputation for making people vomit… Wonder if any of the guys were queasy after shooting the video?
  5. The filming of “Touch and Go” was  possibly the second music video The Cars made. The first might have been the fun and funny spy video they filmed for the song “Panorama,” which was also directed by Gerald Casale, along with co-director Chuck Statler (known as the ‘godfather of the music video’). I can’t find a production date for “Panorama” so I can’t say with certainty which came first, but it is listed first on Gerald Casale’s videography, which I’m assuming is chronological.

Here’s the link to the official music video. I also posted the lyrics here if you want to sing along (skipping that second verse, of course). Enjoy!

Lyrics: Touch and Go

Touch and Go by The Cars

All I need is what you’ve got
All I’ll tell is what you’re not
All you know is what you hear
I get this way when you come near

Then I know, it’s gone too far
Uh oh, I touched your star and it felt so right
Just like the hush of midnight
And then you said with me it’s touch and go, oh oh oh
Touch and go, oh oh oh

All I need is you tonight
Flying like a cement kite, yeah
In your headlock on the floor
Who could ever ask for more

And I know, it’s gone too far
Uh oh, I touched your star and it felt so right
Just like the hush of midnight
And then you said with me it’s touch and go, oh oh oh
Touch and go, oh oh oh

All I want is you tonight
I guess that dress does fit you tight, yeah
You know that look does make me shake
It almost looks too good to fake

And I know it’s gone too far
Uh oh, I touched your star and it felt so right
Just like the hush of midnight
Then you said with me it’s touch and go, oh oh oh
Touch and go, oh oh oh

Well it’s touch and go, oh oh oh
Touch and go, oh oh oh

Well it’s touch and go, oh oh oh
Touch and go, oh oh oh
Touch and go, oh oh yeah

Well it’s touch and go, oh oh oh
Touch and go, oh oh oh
Touch and go
All I need is what you’ve got

In other words:

larry-klein“He’s a very quiet guy and at times it was hard for me to know what he was thinking. Since we were doing so much structural work on his songs, I was very emphatic that I wanted him to like all the changes. It was sometimes hard to get a take on whether he did or not.” — Larry Klein, co-producer of The Lace; Musician, March, 1987

To gush or not to gush?

bensurpriseIt has been an incredibly loooong couple of weeks. I’ve been sick (which rarely happens!) and dealing with a hideous stye on my eye. Haven’t felt like running.  Things are crazy with kids and homeschooling and holidays… and I’ve missed Benj-ing with my dear friend, Jen, whose wonderful heart and hilarious ways always help me cope with life. So on this day I just needed a flat out, no-holds-barred, uninterrupted drool fest over the man of my dreams.

Except when I sat down at the computer to do it, it was gone. My ‘gush’ — my super power! my outlet! my joy! — was gone. And I was so devastated by the absence of it that I wanted to cry. Or get drunk. Or both. So I did what every good modern-day, red-blooded woman does: I posted about it on Facebook.

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And then I closed my laptop and went away feeling blue. That night I tossed and turned, trying to figure out what went wrong; where was my passion for my blog? It wasn’t long before I pinpointed the problem in my heart: it was my spine.

I’m going to assume you’ve read at least some of my blog. You know that sometimes I can’t contain my feelings for and my reactions to Benjamin’s beauty and talent, and many (so many!) times I have not held back in writing out my thoughts about it. Well, I have received some… criticism, for lack of a better word, from different quarters. Some I don’t care about but some I do — a few have been particularly painful, depending on my level of respect for the giver of the negative feedback. And even though I have received a lot of positive responses, somehow it has been difficult for me to get over the bad stuff.

Now I’m not talking about a situation where someone might come to me and say that what I’m writing is hurtful to them personally, or that I am misrepresenting facts — that kind of feedback I welcome and am happy to respond to, because I always desire to 1. keep the peace where I can, and 2. to be accurate. Instead, it is when one gives his or her personal opinion of my writing style, or of my expression of my feelings for Benjamin.

I know that I shouldn’t worry about pleasing everyone, and I just need to write for my own pleasure (that’s why I started this blog in the first place!) but I have found that I DO care about others’ opinions (more than I thought I would), and now I feel like I have those couple of stink eyes looking at me all the time and it is making it difficult for me to cut loose with my thoughts and feelings. I’m battling with letting those few critical words take the joy out of it for me.

My recent blog article about the song Night Spots was tough to write because I so wanted to gush about what Benji’s bass does to my insides, but I felt like I ‘had’ to keep it on track. I read it now and it just leaves such a bitter taste in my mouth because I didn’t mention his name once. Not ONCE. Can you believe it??? Makes me want to cry. And it’s my OWN fault, being so influenced by a couple of people who have a different opinion about how to honor Benjamin. And that personal weakness makes me crazy, and I’m irritated with myself for not having more of a spine when I wrote it.

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Graphic courtesy of @Night_Spots

So later, when I checked back in on Facebook I wanted to cry again (am I usually this emotional??? I don’t know!) but this time it was because of the loving, funny, and steadfast support of some of the sweetest friends I have met in the Benj world. They posted photos and assurances and hilarious comments that not only made me swoon (!), but reminded me of why I jumped into this crazy thing in the first place: because I adore Benjamin, and I want to share that with other like-minded people and be able to obsess *together*.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’ve decided that I don’t care about what other people think. I do. I just need to be true to myself — and get a stronger backbone. Writing about Benjamin brings me so much happiness! Yes, I do get silly, but I also write some serious pieces, and I hope that all Cars fans will find something they enjoy here. But if you’ve read my blog and you don’t like it then I thank you for giving it a try and I wish you well, but please don’t feel compelled to read further.

Now that all of that is off my chest I think I can move forward with a good old-fashioned gush session… Stay tuned!