Earlier in 2017, Record Store Day induced nearly 5,000 Cars fans to swarm their local vinyl shop in search of one of the limited editions of a new offering from Rhino Records: the officially released recording of The Cars Live At The Agora, 1978. I had the privilege of writing a review of the album for Standing Room Only, a website dedicated to promoting music, art, and specialty foods in the northern New England area. Click below to read my thoughts, and don’t forget to follow SRO’s Facebook page for more great articles!
The inclusion of The Cars into the Rock Hall Class o’ 2018 has me looking forward to the next year with a crazy-different outlook.
Of course, the induction ceremony itself is the big deal… to go to Cleveland or not go to Cleveland? I’ve got a little “Mad Money” envelope in which I’ve been squirreling away my shekels in the event that travel expenses are needed, so the money isn’t the hinge… it’s approaching the subject with The Fam.
To their credit, my husband and kiddos are pretty patient with my Cars obsession, but I know there is a limit to their tolerance, and I’m not sure if me winging my way across the country for a weekend of ‘brushing my rock and roll hair’ falls within the acceptable limits of “Mom time.” Haha!
But enough about what I might be up to… what treats can we reasonably expect from The Cars in the new year? Last January we caught a teasing glimpse of 2017’s offerings from a tweet by Elliot; this month we see Ric and David dropping hope-inducing hints, and giving us some outright revelations as well.
So… without further ado… here is my list of predictions and possibilities for 2018:
Rock Hall Induction (April 14): Okay, so we can count on new merch (I already ordered my RRHOF Class of 2018 t-shirt), but beyond that? Chances are great for a kick-ass musical reunion of Ric, Elliot, Greg and David on the stage! I’m also looking forward to more interviews and photographs with the band members, a heartfelt and touching tribute to Benjamin, a super-cool display of Cars memorabilia at the Rock Hall itself, great quotes from other music industry icons about how influential The Cars were/are, and the increased hype over The Cars in general.
Debut Album Anniversary (June 6): Right on the heels of the induction comes the 40th anniversary of that iconic debut album. I see SO much potential here for amazing stuff to come out of that vault in Ric’s basement! From a demo standpoint we may be all tapped out; we were given a generous helping of those with the 1999 deluxe edition. And it would be great if there were other original Cars songs that were recorded but didn’t make it to vinyl… Again, I know there are quite a few floating around out there so we may be out of luck. But at the top of my list of “please please please!” requests is FOOTAGE. And number one on the footage list? The Cars’ debut party! There are two clips on youtube from that June 23, 1978, show and I am aching to see the rest of it! I will say that the incredibly talented Paul McAlpine has been tweeting photos from that momentous event and I am over the MOON with happiness.
Catalog Reissues: Remember how electrifying it was to wake up to the news last May that The Cars were reissuing Candy-O and Panorama? Such a thrill! Well, in his interview with Rolling Stone magazine on December 13, 2017, David assured us that the expanded editions of Shake It Up and Heartbeat City were on their way next, possibly in February of 2018. I’m so curious as to what delights will be in store for us there… new photos? Previously unreleased tracks? I can’t wait to see the “Side 4” etchings… and then David had to go and get me even more excited by saying, “There’s going to be a surprise when you see one of the album covers I’ve been working on…” Gah! Don’t DO that to me!
Long shots and ‘magic lamp’ wishes: Okay, here’s where I start flinging snowballs into the underworld. Dare we hope… is it even possible? Will The Cars put out a new album in 2018? Or TOUR??? It might not be as out-of-the-realm as I once thought. When asked the question directly, Ric didn’t demur. “I don’t know. Maybe so. Maybe this will be a good reason to do it again, though I really miss Ben as part of the thing…” (Rolling Stone magazine, December 13, 2017). Holy heck! That would be incredible! Now, given their lack of enthusiasm for touring in general, I know that I’m REALLY pushing it, but could they make it all the way over to Seattle again? I would gleefully drive the seven hours necessary to park my little hiney in a seat for that!
More things I’d summon the genie for: Any previously unreleased concert videos, audio recordings, or photographs… the France show in its entirety would be terrific!… other shows in Europe, a Panorama show… How about footage of their recording sessions? Or let’s go deeper into the archives and dig up stuff from Ocasek & Orr, Richard and the Rabbits, and Cap’n Swing. As you know, my appetite for the band’s history is insatiable.
Other “Cars world” delights: I do have my fingers crossed for a few other things that are not part of The Cars “Official” but that would really roll my little skate just the same: I would love nothing more than to have a copy of Joe Milliken’s biography about Benjamin Orr in my hot little hands in 2018. Also, I am eager for more person-to-person meetings with members of the Fanorama (possibly in Cleveland???). I can’t wait to do some more writing for Standing Room Only — Cars-related and otherwise! On top of that, more researching, more blogging, more sunshine and rainbows… lots of fun and wonderful things to look forward to in the new year!
What do you think? How could The Cars shake it up for you in 2018? Leave a comment here or find this post on Facebook and let me know. ❤
For the final episode of 2017 Dave and Donna welcome a very special guest to the studio! Jenny Durgin shares her experience of attending the taping of SiriusXM’s Town Hall discussion featuring Ric Ocasek.
In an interview recorded on April 28, 2016, Ric sat down with moderator Mark Goodman to answer questions from a select group of about two dozen SiriusXM subscribers. The Q&A lasted roughly an hour and covered a range of topics, from Ric’s early days as a writer to the 2011 reunion with The Cars.
Jenny walks us through what it took to get a seat in the audience, relates some of the cool stories that didn’t make the aired audio, and offers her reflections on Ric’s overall demeanor and attitude. And of course, we can’t help but take a few shots at Mark Goodman here and there… just saying. We also chit chat about dear Pocket Benjamin — if you are not familiar with PB you MUST take a listen!
You can follow Jenny on Twitter @jendurama. You’re going to want to check out her youtube channel, too. She has a plethora of rare audio recordings and interviews, and her fan videos are awesome. So many gems to be found there!
I’m adding two links in here: the first is to the actual SiriusXM interview. Below that you’ll find the link to Episode 19. Take a listen, subscribe and comment. We want to know your thoughts! Don’t forget to follow us on twitter (@night_spots, @sweetpurplejune), too!
Thank you so much for listening to our ramblings over the last six months. We’ve had a blast, and we hope you have, too. Our next episode is scheduled for January 12, 2018. Have a safe and happy New Year, my friends!
“The grand room suited Paul, the cream-colored walls with gold accents a fine contrast to his dark good looks. I felt a wave of la douleur, one of the many French words that do not translate into English well, which means ‘the pain of wanting someone you cannot have.'”
December 13, 2017, marks a date that the Fanorama will long remember: The Cars were chosen for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Dave and Donna chat about how that feels as a fan after waiting through 14 years of eligibility and 3 years of nominations. They also take a look at what the ins and outs of the induction ceremony might entail, and speculate on how the band might best honor Benjamin.
Also discussed: Will Dave and Donna be at the induction ceremony in Cleveland? Will they be able to podcast live from the Rock Hall?? With PRESS CREDENTIALS???
Our special visit from listener Kurt was cut short by a call from Ric Ocasek, but it was nice of him to pop in and say hi! We also had a message from an irate listener for the Midnight Scroll… sort of. Pu-leeze, people! Write in! In fact, Donna convinces Dave to offer a hilarious incentive to get you to drop us a line — it’s SO worth it! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh, and just to clarify… Stevie Nicks is not sitting in as guest host; that actually IS Donna’s raspy voice. Thankfully, she didn’t have to gargle apple cider vinegar on the air (though she was prepared). Um, and please excuse the clanking of her spoon as she rudely eats ice cream… She gets a pass because she’s sick.
Today they announced that The Cars would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the “Class of 2018.”
I’ve been anticipating it, of course; it’s been on my mind for months. I’m not very well versed on all the ins and outs of the Rock Hall in general; never paid a whole lot of attention over the years because I like what I like and don’t really care what awards my favorites garner. When I joined The Cars world it became a ‘thing’ for me to put on the watchlist, because the guys were eligible in 2003 and nominated in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and as fans we wanted them IN. So I researched a bit; tried to figure out how it mattered overall, and how much it mattered to me. I love the band and I believe they deserve to have their name on that roster, for those who think the roster is important. But really…
Whenever anything with the band happens, a lot of my heart celebrates and gets so happy and excited, but I also get so achy, thinking of you and knowing you’re gone and unable to put your living fingerprint on all of this. Benjamin, would you care? If you were still here, how much would it matter to you? That’s what I keep thinking about… and so I speculate and ponder and take my best guesses about how you would feel.
People talk about what a private person you were. Shy and reserved offstage, somewhat of a ‘closed book’ about your innermost thoughts and feelings. Genuinely humble and unpretentious; able to separate yourself from your rockstar life. I think about you off in the woods, fishing and hunting, or out on your boat, breathing in the tangy air. Your quiet, solitary pursuits… but that wasn’t all of who you were.
You were a Cleveland native. You loved your city and your hometown fans; your loyalty was obvious and enduring. And you are adored and respected by your town. What a delight it would have been for you to come home, triumphant! The enthusiastic celebrations in your honor would have pleased you very much and overwhelmed your humble heart, I think.
From your youngest days you were making music, but it wasn’t enough to just play it, you wanted others to hear it. You dropped out of high school to pursue your dreams, leaving your home and relationships behind in the quest for that break through… for the opportunity to find an outlet for your talent. Your abilities were all over the board: that voice that could move mountains, those talented hands. You played drums, rhythm guitar, bass, keyboards… you did whatever it took to be on the stage. There was music in you that needed to get out.
And there was a performer’s soul in you that needed your essence to be heard.
You loved touring; being on the road. You put your heart into your shows, and you made time to connect with your fans. You played right up until a month before your death, until your body said ‘no more.’ You went out doing what you loved to do.
To be recognized by a large group of your peers, after all of these years, for your influence on music history and the part you played in the legacy of rock and roll… I think you would have loved it. I can just see your humble smile, with that little air of surprise and delight. I can imagine the deep satisfaction radiating from you. Ah Benjamin, how I would love for you to be here! To have one more moment in the sun before it sets on The Cars.
Seeing the induction will be bittersweet, Benjamin. Your name will be mentioned, and lots of attention drawn to your amazing talents and irreplaceable contributions; with any luck your voice will ring out over the crowd. I will be so happy that the world will have their eyes and ears on your music, just how you liked it.
On writing lyrics for The Lace with Diane Grey Page: “I had the tunes pretty much laid out, but my weakest point are lyrics, so I needed to get some help on lyrics. I asked her if she wanted to try a few with me, and the first one got into the second one and just kept… (trails off)” — interview with Mark Goodman, MTV, circa October, 1986
C’mon, do I even need to say it? Benjamin’s voice is… everything.
Beautiful to the ears. Wonderful in vocal range. He opens his mouth and easily creates those lilting harmonies, or those deep warm tones. Dramatic, melodic, seductive. Full of disdain or smoldering with emotion. Exuding confidence. Descending and weaving and pressing close…
I could go on and on, gushing about the mellifluous sounds that come out of that man, but I promised myself I wouldn’t. This is supposed to be just straightforward research. As you know, I love to have my little rows of facts and dates and figures; they make me so happy. Pulling data together and organizing it into a meaningful, structured presentation gives me a geeky thrill.
I’m a nerd… I know this.
So I decided I wanted to see a list of all of the songs Benjamin sang in his far-too-short career. Typing it into a single column in chronological order triggered a bout of pinball-machine-analysis and deep, varied speculations, but I’ll keep those to myself for now. And as satisfying as it was for me to see the list in a simple Word doc, I decided to stretch myself into the world of designing ‘infographics’ with this article. Bear with me, they are a little basic, but I wanted to add some color.
(And did you like my title? “Vocal List”… “vocalist”… see what I did there? Haha. Okay, okay… moving on…)
Before we dive in… some little disclaimers:
This blog post is a work in progress.
During the Milkwood and Ocasek & Orr years with Ric, the two harmonized and shared vocals so often that I decided not to list every single song they recorded, but instead only listed the ones where Benjamin handles the lion’s share of the vocals.
I believe Ocasek & Orr recorded a version of “Start It All Again,” and I have always assumed that Benjamin sang the lead on it (as he did with Cap’n Swing), but I didn’t list it under O&O since I’ve not actually heard that version (but boy, would I love to!).
I understand that Benjamin did some background vocals for other artists, but I haven’t been diligent about making notes when I come across that information. I’ll start a file to collect those notes, so hit me up with links, please and thank you.
And again, I am only listing songs where he sang lead or the majority of the vocals…
…except for “Since I Held You” and “You Are The Girl.” Wikipedia gave Benjamin a shared vocal credit on those, so I added them, too.
I’ve only addressed songs that I’ve actually heard or can otherwise verify the existence of, but as always, I obviously don’t know everything. If I’m missing information PLEASE let me know!
And we’re off!
** Update July 26, 2018: Added two songs to The Grasshoppers and the songs recorded by The Mixed Emotions (recently discovered through ebay). Also updated The Cars’ demos column to include “Midnight Dancer” and the demo recording of “Shake It Up” from the expanded edition of Shake It Up, released in 2018.
**Update August 18, 2018: Added “When You Gonna Lay Me Down” to The Cars — a song I somehow forgot to list. Thanks so much to my dear research-nerd-twin, JMW, for the catch!
**Update October 5, 2018: Added “I Know I’ve Had My Chance” to Cap’n Swing. Made available for sale by Glenn Evans in April, 2018; apparently recorded on August 28, 1975.
**Update June 17, 2019: Added “You Wanna Man” (written by John Gardina, sung by Ben) and “Julie Ann” (written and sung by Ben) to The Mixed Emotions. “Julie Ann” was performed and recorded with The Mixed Emotions at some point, and then apparently recorded again at Cleveland Recording Studio in November of 1969 while Ben and Ric were playing as Leatherwood.
**Update October 4, 2020: Added a circle for Leatherwood with “Falling Suitcases” and “Julie Ann” from 1969.
What was the discussion in moving forward without Benjamin? “In a nutshell, we felt as though we couldn’t replace Ben, so we wouldn’t even try, and we would just come up with technological solutions to the huge gap that his… absence leaves in the band… That’s just not The Cars, you know; that’s just not us.” — Elliot Easton, interview with Slacker Radio at Lollapalooza, 2011
In this episode, Dave and Donna take a closer look at the “official” presence of the band on the internet: what the Cars’ management is — and isn’t — doing across social media, and how it affects the Fanorama.
It particularly affected Mr. Steel Wool, who had to be “edited down” from the ledge after a rant about the Big Salad and BS posers who masquerade as being “connected” with the band. Donna’s sunshine and rainbows — and producer skills — were called into action to clean up the aftermath. Haha!
Christmas is right around the corner… don’t forget to tell your loved ones you want to find a hip, happening, unique Cars t-shirt from Tee Public under the tree! Then direct them to this link to make all your dreams come true: https://www.teepublic.com/user/nightthoughts
Questions? Comments? Complaints? Contact us! Dave wants you to direct your verbal abuse at him. Haha! Email us at email@example.com, or join us on Facebook in The Cars NiGHT THOUGHTS Podcast group and let us know how we’re doing.
Listen to us on youtube (bit.do/nightthoughts), then subscribe, comment, and share!