As one of the most recognizable and popular songs by The Cars, there are oodles of write-ups out there about “Just What I Needed.” Rather than add my little opinions to the fray, I’m going to focus on cool, fun and noteworthy versions of the song floating around. There are tons!
Ric Ocasek penned this tune in 1976, and of course, as you probably know, this was the song that launched the band… Radio DJ Maxanne Sartori heard it, loved it, and began playing it on her show in Boston. It quickly became a local favorite. On May 29, 1978, just before The Cars released their debut album, the band sent this single out into the world. Though it didn’t place high on the charts in the US (only reaching #27 on the Billboard Hot 100), critics and consumers loved it, and it obviously played a huge role in keeping The Cars on the Billboard 200 chart for 139 weeks. Many of us fondly point to this song as the one that started our Cars addiction.
In choosing various covers to include here, I started with the ones I enjoyed the most, and then narrowed it down based on the criteria that something unique stood out about the performance. There are so many interpretations out there; this certainly isn’t a definitive list.
I’ve got to start out with this terrific audio consisting only of Benjamin’s vocals, his bass, and the guitar solo. Off. the. CHAIN. I love this one in the headphones.
This next version is actually performed by just Ric on acoustic guitar. He participated in one of a series of artist ’roundtable’ shows at The Bottom Line in New York City on May 21, 1992. Organized by Allan Pepper and Vin Scelsa, the idea was to bring together a small group of songwriters and get them talking and playing, and let the music take over. Take a listen here:
Greg’s been known to jam to this song outside of The Cars as well. I loved seeing this video of him with the Aquabats on May 8, 2014, at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. I’m always delighted with Greg’s participation in children’s programs, and of course, it’s so terrific to expose the next generation to this great music:
And speaking of the next generation, listen to this little cutie pie banging out a drum cover. She nails it!
Then we’ve got a band of teens confidently rocking it out at a 2016 talent show. You’ve got the groovy chick on bass, the firecracker on the drums, and check out the dude doubling up on keys and lead guitar! I’m loving this:
This next one is more acceptable to MY teenagers, who love the dubstep genre. This modern remix, created by well-known Swiss DJ and producer, Antoine Konrad (aka DJ Antoine) will definitely get a party going. Give it a listen:
If you need something a little more mellow, get a load of this bossa nova version. I still laugh when I hear it… it always reminds me of Flint Lockwood taking a break in Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs… Haha!
Lots of bands have put their own spin on this iconic song. This one is probably my favorite… the vibe is so happy and the variety of stringed instruments makes it extra fun. That banjo, though!
Looking for even more fun than that? This ‘vintage 60s cover’ really takes it to another level, and the video has a host of visual delights: aside from the stunning Sara Niemietz, the background players draw the eye with their goofy antics.
Need to cut about a minute off of your listening time? Ghoti Hook, a 1990’s Christian punk band from Virginia, really ramps up the tempo in their cover… feels a little frantic to me but surprisingly appealing somehow… go figure! Just give it a try:
More recently, American country music singer Eric Church performed “Just What I Needed” during his May, 2017, show. I love how accessible this song is across genres, and the reaction of the crowd is terrific.
“Just What I Needed” has also been used in commercials, movies and in TV shows. Here are just a few samples, starting with this quick spot from Circuit City, 2005.
Many folks may remember the controversial-but-iconic teen film Over The Edge that came out in 1979. Not only was it Matt Dillon’s acting debut, but it featured “Just What I Needed” as the backdrop for a pivotal party scene:
And you can’t overlook this terrific scene from the Emmy award-winning television cartoon, Bob’s Burgers.
Even in recent films, “Just What I Needed” fits the bill: here is a trailer for the new Reese Witherspoon movie, coming out in September of 2017. I love how this song (and much of The Cars’ catalog) is timeless.
Okay, this final audio is so interesting to me. Since I sometimes have a hard time discerning the different instruments in full studio versions of songs, I am always fascinated by recordings that isolate various elements. The segment plays twice and it is well worth the second listen… it’s utterly delicious. Ooooh, that bass!
Do you have a favorite version that I didn’t highlight here? Comment below or find me on Facebook and tell me about it!