She’s A Lot Like You…

My husband’s brother, D, has always been my rock-and-roll buddy. We’ve talked music from as far back as I can remember, and he is one of only two members of my large extended family that will talk seriously with me about The Cars without looking at his watch. His all-time favorite song of theirs is “Dangerous Type,” the last track on the 1979 Candy-O album.

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Photo by Ebet Roberts

One might not consider the lyrics of The Cars to be ‘seductive’ in the traditional sense, but when my brother-in-law sings, “Inside angel, always upset. Keeps on forgetting that we ever met. Can I bring you out in the light? My curiosity’s got me tonight,” my sister-in-law blushes and giggles like a schoolgirl.

Such is the provocative power of The Cars!

(Of course, her response may have more to do with the fact that after all these years they are still madly in love, and just about anything he does makes her blush and giggle! haha)

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From Ric Ocasek’s book, Lyrics and Prose

Rock critics agree that “Dangerous Type” is one of the true highlights from Candy-O. Written by Ric Ocasek and produced by Roy Thomas Baker, it was never released as a single but it received a lot of radio play and easily became a fan favorite. This is also one of those songs where, if you really tried to pull a specific message out of Ric’s lyrics, you would likely be left scratching your head. That doesn’t stop any of us from singing along, though, does it? I’m sure each of us has some sort of connection we make with it, which is exactly what Ric wants.

There’s no denying that this song has panache. With every individual element, the guys get in there, throw their punches and then get out. You feel it from the first beats of David’s kick drum, and all through those excellent fills. Greg’s skillfully crafted synth sounds couldn’t be more perfect; I would love to lie across his keyboards and have him play those notes along my spine.  Ric’s vocal treatment is flawless, and adds just the right attitude to his cryptic lyrics. Benjamin’s got that pulsing bass line moving things along, and Elliot’s guitar work is no-nonsense and effective…. on out the door, the band entirely locked into that addictive outro.

Take a minute — well, 17 seconds, actually — to appreciate that guitar solo. It emerges from the chorus so subtly: edgy, powerful, and perfectly symbiotic with the keyboards in the background. When he’s made his voice heard Elliot drops us into to the next verse with little fanfare. That transition — from the end of the guitar solo to Greg’s kick-ass synth while Ric sings, “Museum directors with high shaking heads, they kick white shadows until they play dead…” — that is my absolute favorite part. I eagerly anticipate it every time I crank this song.

For our listening pleasure, there is an alternate studio version out there. It surfaced when the Candy-O monitor mix tapes were recovered. It’s pretty similar to the final track, with the most obvious exceptions being the missing guitar solo and a few minor lyric changes. I’m really looking forward to the Northern Studios recording that is slated to come out as a bonus track on the newly expanded Candy-O release, dropping on July 28, 2017 (just around the corner — yippee!). I’m always thrilled to hear something new.

This song has been covered numerous times. The most notable is this terrific version by Letters to Cleo, which was featured in the 1996 movie, The Craft, and included Greg Hawkes sitting in on the synthesizer. Greg also joins the band in their music video! I love love love this rendition! Take a peek here:

It was also covered by Johnny Monaco on the 2005 Substitution Mass Confusion tribute compilation. I haven’t heard that version yet; still trying to pick up that CD on the cheap. I’ve read that it’s well done. Another tribute album, Just What We Needed, came out in 2010 and includes a version by Graveyard School, but I can’t find that CD — cheap or otherwise — anywhere.

And now are you ready for a totally different take on this song? Check out this lush cover by Susan Hyatt, including some gorgeous trumpet playing by Zack Leffew… it’s a little startling, but I like it. From her 2016 album, Pin-ups and Trumpets.

A youtube friend let me know that “Dangerous Type” was also part of a movie soundtrack (though it does not show up on the official soundtrack album). The song plays for over 3 minutes during this transitional scene in the 1980 film, Times Square. Now I confess, I didn’t watch this movie; I generally like films about teenage angst but this one just didn’t appeal to me at all, though I understand that it is somewhat of a cult classic.

A bonus tidbit: on MTV’s first day of broadcasting (August 1, 1981), the 124th video they aired was “Dangerous Type.” I’m pretty sure it was this performance from The Midnight Special (I chose a higher quality of the footage rather than the one with the VH1 logo):

There are several live performances out there to listen to, but we’ll play out the article with this gem: the audio from The Cars’ set at the 1982 US Festival. Their energy is off the charts, Ric adds great flourishes to the lyrics, and Elliot shakes things up with his gritty guitar playing. Enjoy!

 

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20 thoughts on “She’s A Lot Like You…

    1. Glad you liked it, M! Yes, the new expanded editions of both Candy-O and Panorama will be released on July 28th. You can pre-order through Amazon if you want. I can hardly wait! I’m getting the CDs through Amazon but my vinyl from the local record store. 😉

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  1. As always SPJ this is well researched and puts a creative and in depth spin on your feelings about the song. Made me think. Well done!

    Definitely one of my favorite Cars songs.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Count me in as another Benjamin Orr obsessed fan. As of only a week! I can’t stop thinking about him after randomly finding the Midnight Special video of You’re Just What I Needed. And then I came across your comment about your blog on the Bye Bye Love video from RGTC…and so it goes. I feel like I’m losing my mind and can’t stop watching live footage of him and The Cars.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ah, welcome to our world, Carla! So glad you found us — and Benjamin! That Midnight Special video has been the hook for many of us. Check out the first episode of our podcast to hear my very similar tale. Benjamin definitely has that ‘something’ about him that buries itself deep in the minds and hearts of women. Be sure to find me on facebook and twitter, if you use those. I love to connect with other fans. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I know.
      That makes two of us, Carla.
      So very sad he’s gone.
      In my own little way, I am advocating for an enriched Benjamin Orr legacy with every heartfelt thing I write pertaining to him.
      I kind-of feel like he was to the Cars what Paul McCartney was to the Beatles.
      He was that special. Not to diminish Ringo, George and John or Greg, Elliot, Ric and David.
      There was that effervescence of purity coupled with an un-contrived sultry & sexy mystique that was Ben Orr. But he was so derned low-key and so free of excessive ego that millions rather than tens of millions of Cars fans really knew the extent of his imprint on The Cars of his many talents.
      ~p

      spj ~ you’ll find something new from me under Pam Davis for your post “She’s A Lot Like You” and it’ll probably make you think you’ve got a newbie. sorry for the confusion. I signed on fr another computer and it would not take my password for persephone 1776.

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  3. Hey, I wrote something about the Promo for “Dangerous Type” on youtube, where Benjamin was looking sultry and had his natural darker hair. That video is pretty darned cool and had some fun ‘going off’ on a stale youtube thread. I know our Benj fans, Cars fans and “Dangerous Type” fan enjoy ruminating so here goes ~
    So, I have a few minutes here to add to comments nobody will see or care about but what the hell, it’s worth it. These guys are worth it! ~~~~~~~ Pretty remarkable on a few levels: Ric looks very handsome, sounds awesome and makes some endearing moves as he performs one of their most finely crafted songs. Check out the Philadelphia 1987 video for this song and listen to it in all its live, embellished glory. Here, they are representing an early signature ‘look’ David had creatively directed them on: edgy red and black color scheme. As we know David; also instrumental in album covers, logo design, etc. Greg shows his chops and is one of the most proficient, inventive, best ‘ivory ticklers’ in the business. EE is reining in the passion and energy usually evident in live performance and still looks bad-ass! Oh, to see them evolve during their 10 year career ascension: a real treat. Benjamin Orr? Holy effing hell! Could he be any more alluring? Any more provocative? Any sexier? Well yes, in the German Musikladen 1979 tapes and Rock Goes to College 1979 videos: Off the charts Stunningly attractive! So we address his visage; a one of a kind, other-worldly man of massive masculine beauty. Makes me want to cuss and gush accolades! he-he :32 oh my f-ing gawd! and 2:08 plus 4 more seconds of – praise the Lord and thank you Jesus for this gorgeous freak of nature!!! They just don’t make normal humans like that!! Those eyes. Those lips. The looks he makes. His poise and control. KILLING ME!!!!! A photographer’s dream, be they male or female. The camera loved him and he, whether consciously or unconsciously, slayed all with a spell-binding beauty and stage style. What an enigma! Shy, yet loose and witty w/ inner circle. Known to be shy, yet emitting rock solid super-star confidence and mystique when on-stage or posing for photo-promos. He was what every model wishes, longs for and practices hard to be. Yet, years later, in a 1986 radio interview about his solo release of “The Lace”, a woman caller says to him; “Ben, I think you’re hot.” and he goes, “Thank you”, almost in modest, grateful surprise. The kicker comes in what he quietly says (under the babble of a DJ comment) , “You noticed”. You noticed, he says. Kindly drop a 550 lb anvil on the head of anyone who didn’t! You’d have to be either blind or lacking the discernment of recognizing beauty in any form to not notice Benjamin’s beauty and appeal. CRIMINY!!! Holy Mother of God, could he have been one of those beautiful humans who lacked a preening ego and failed to acknowledge or internalize, due to modesty or humility, that he’s drop dead gorgeous??? It IS possible. There are such people! What an enigma. I wish someone would put together a COMPREHENSIVE biography of Benjamin Orr. It would be incomplete if written w/o delving into Ben’s stunning looks and how he perceived his effect and how or if he interacted with women. Did they fall all over themselves to gain notice? Was he a dog, chasing tail at whoever caught his eye, whenever or every chance he had, as I hear commented time and again by men musing over the hordes of women throwing themselves at his feet? Or did he only engage in the occasional release found w/ a cute girl on the road and mainly keep to himself and his group the bulk of other time? It bears mentioning that sexy gorgeous women are not given to rolling in the hay with every man desiring to get with her. Just as many gorgeous men are not buggering every single or every other woman batting eyelashes at him! No mention is made above re: Benjamin’s voice. It was pitch perfect, dimensional, and exceptional made extra great by his very cool, unique enunciation. One could go on and on and trust me, I have. 🙂 Benjamin Orr is what catapulted The Cars onto the world stage due to what he brought to the table. I see him repeatedly praised by fans. However, he remains essentially unexplored, on the level deserved within the music world in which he made his indelible mark.
    L….moodylicious (youtube); aka persephone1776 (wordpress); aka PamDavisMD @twitter

    Liked by 2 people

  4. PS
    The radio interview was titled~
    “Benjamin Orr / Rockline Interview / 11-24-86”
    Correction – he said “Thanks!….you noticed” when gal said, “I think you’re HOT.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am pretty sure I have a complete understanding of this song, and after reading numerous posts online it seems like I am alone in this. Everyone focuses on the Subject, the girl being described, without really considering the Speaker doing the describing, which is the key to everything here. There isn’t a Mystery in these Lyrics. You just have to crack this song like a crossword puzzle, or great poetry, which I love also. 😉

    The person speaking in the lyrics isn’t a reliable narrator. He’s in a Psychiatric Institution, and so is she. It’s his infatuation with her in the age old tale of Boy meets Girl …in a Psych Ward.

    He doesn’t understand his own situation, only referring to himself, like her, as “a Dangerous Type”, which explains to him why he’s in such a place, for his safety and the safety of others, which they tell patients in psychiatric care. It’s up to us to realize that we can’t take him at his word.

    Rather than realize he’s in a Psychiatric Ward, however, he thinks he’s in a Museum. Rather than orderlies and nurses and doctors, he calls them “Museum Directors”. Their “high shaking heads” are a distorted view of them standing over him, or another patient, looking down in disapproval as they manage the patient in crisis, not by harmless restraints as they should, but by kicking the patents, or “white shadows until they “play dead”. The patients are likely in white gowns and are like shadows of people, heavily medicated, kept sedated, so they don’t have to be restrained.

    When he speaks of the girl, he calls her “geranium lover” specifically because she’s kept inside most of the time, like Geraniums, which are temperate climate hot-house flowers. Again, like treasured museum pieces, or dangerous objects, she is special, in her case a dangerous flower, to him attractively in bloom. There is one species of Geranium that is proto-carnivorous, incidentally.

    She spends so much of her time indoors, in locked confinement, that another term of endearment is “inside angel”, and the reason she spends so much time in lockup is because she’s “always upset.” The staff haven’t been able to keep her outbursts under control, which is like a crossword puzzle they can’t figure out. Rather than solve the medical problem or successfully regulate it, the staff at this place who “kick white shadows until they play dead” spend their time physically “crack”ing her “crossword smile” as they beat her into submission on the floor.

    Because he says she “keeps on forgetting that we ever met”, we know she’s there because she’s got multiple personalities, not all of them recall meeting him. We know he doesn’t really care which personality she’s on at a given time, because he says “oh come and take me, whoever you are.” Being in a confined facility, there probably aren’t a lot of options, and he’s not sane, so what are ya gonna do?

    My favorite specific image, if I could produce a Music Video for this, it would include him not in lockup, meandering down to her secured room, drawn to her dangerous “special-ness”, just like himself, he’s standing in the hallway, pushing the red intercom button while looking through the little rectangle of unbreakable glass, saying “Geranium Lover, I’m live on your wire….”, planning to break her out of there, to get a better look at her and resolve this “curiosity” that’s got him tonight.

    Rock on, Cars Fans! One of my all time favorite bands and songs at 52!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Forgot the opening lines….”Can I touch you, or Are you out of touch? I guess I never noticed that much.”

      He’s asking if she’s “herself”, at the moment, the one personality that he’s connected with on some level. But he’s also admitting that he hadn’t really noticed she’s switching personalities, probably because he can’t keep track of other people’s personalities, seeing them as objects or generic figures, but it also sounds like he doesn’t much care. He’s just that lonely, and not really.. shall we say “in tune” with other people. I think that diminishes how creepy this could be, because he’s not sinister, he’s just not “able”.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. WOW! What a visual interpretation! You are correct, I have never thought of the song that way. You’ve definitely covered all the bases, and it all makes sense. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  6. The night I learned Ric Ocasek died, I did a Cars retrospective and got carried away with a revelation that the “Dangerous Type” is about the Mona Lisa! My evidence is thin, but then the lyrics are thin. Well, I’m not so sure today, but here goes… The key verse:

    Museum directors with high shaking heads
    They kick white shadows until they play dead
    They want to crack your crossword smile
    Oh can I take you out for awhile, yeah

    What is the most enigmatic smile found in a museum? Only one answer to that. The Mona Lisa.

    So in my interpretation Ocasek falls into a reverie while looking at a reproduction of the Mona Lisa and addresses her in the verses. It’s vague and personal. He loves her and fantasizes about bringing her into real life. Then in the choruses he switches to addressing his real lover:

    She’s [Mona Lisa’s] a lot like you
    The dangerous type

    I enjoy imagining Ocasek in love with his girlfriend as a gentle, smiling yet enigmatic Mona Lisa — rather than a femme-fatale which was how I first thought of the song. His risk is falling ever more deeply in love, not abuse. Then with repeating, ever-more-layered choruses Ric and the boys take you to rock’n’roll heaven. Great song.

    It’s possible. As a bonus, there’s an earlier line where he addresses his “geranium lover.” Turns out there is a geranium officially named “Mona Lisa White.” Coincidence? I think not!  Ehh…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, SPJ! I like words and I like peeking into rock lyrics.

        The mystery of “Dangerous Type” is there are two women (or one with multiple personalities…) involved, and the narrator is fascinated with both. How does this work? Especially since he is blathering on about how great Woman One is to Woman Two, and he wants to make love to Two that night.

        If One is a flesh-and-blood rival for Two, it doesn’t sound like a winning seduction. However, if One is the Mona Lisa, Two might well be flattered by the “dangerous type” comparison. In fact it’s quite charming and the song’s transcendent rise into ecstasy makes sense.

        Hey, maybe I “cracked the crossword smile”!

        Liked by 1 person

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