Quoting Benjamin

“Well, most of the concerts haven’t been bad at all. We did open for Dickie Betts once and that didn’t work out. We were facing an audience that’d paid $9.50 to hear him and when we came on a few glasses and ice cubes were tossed our way. We didn’t need that. We just said ‘thank you’ and split.” — Toronto Star, September 13, 1978

waiting1

Bootleg book?

The Cars by Vincent Price

 

The Cars

Written by Vincent Price (not the actor)

Published by Blurb, August 28, 2019

ISBN# 978-0-46-425861-2

 

 

 

 


My quick opinion:

Clearly self-published, possibly plagiarised, and stuffed with low-resolution images likely downloaded from the internet, this book offers nothing new to Cars history. Save your $20.

My long story:

On Monday night I heard the surprising news that there was a new book about The Cars that was just published. C’mon, you know me… I had to jump right on that train! I found the book online and ordered it up via Amazon Prime that same night. While I waited for its arrival I poked around to see what I could discover about this unexpected addition to The Cars’ legacy.

My cursory research into the publication and the author turned up few details. The book appears to be part of a larger series of celebrity biographies churned out through Blurb, a self-publishing website where a product like this one would cost either $6 or $14 (approximately, and depending on if the author chose economy or standard color printing). Vincent Price has published at least 25 of these readers in the last four months.

So today, Friday, mine came.

I can’t beat around the bush. I was definitely disappointed after my first flip-through, but only to a certain extent: I knew that weighing in at only sixty-eight pages, I wasn’t going to get a long, detailed history of the band. I was not wrong. But upon closer inspection, there were other immediate and stronger impressions that left me feeling more angry than anything else.

Let me give you the basics:

  1. The book is paperback, measures at 6″ x 9″ and, as I mentioned, is sixty-eight pages long.
  2. There are thirty-five pages containing generously-spaced text, and thirty-three pages printed with a total of fifty-five images, mostly in color with some black and white.
  3. The cover of the book includes no title, author, or publishing house information. There is no writing on the front, back, or spine, other than the band’s original logo and a barcode.
  4. There is no title page, copyright page, or any kind of heading, subheading, or introduction inside the book.
  5. The author’s name does not appear anywhere in or on this book.
  6. There is no publisher information in or on the book; not the publisher’s name or location, nor the date of publication.
  7. There are no acknowledgements or photo credits anywhere in the book.
  8. There is no bibliography.

Did I get some “lemon” copy of the book? Did Amazon or Blurb print it wrong? Maybe… but I double-checked with my friend, Craig, and his looks the same as mine. So we’ll keep going…

The text starts out with about two dozen paragraphs giving a brief (and slightly inaccurate) history of The Cars. This appears to be a narrative based almost entirely on an article called “The Cars” by A.J. Wachtel (for Music Museum of New England). I believe Price attempted to restate Wachtel’s research in order to make it his own, and I will just gently say that it seems like he did not have the benefit of an editor OR a proofreader, and he was very much in need of both.

Now here’s where I might not be so gentle. There are some very obvious and unhappy flaws in this book.

The rest of the text appears to be a cut-and-paste job of three articles that are currently posted online. In the order that they appear in the book, they are:

  1. “The Cars’ ‘Drive’ to the Rock Hall” by Jim Sullivan, April 12, 2018, bestclassicbands.com
  2. “Second Gear: After 24 Years, The Cars Return” with Ilana Kaplan, April 20, 2011, interviewmagazine.com
  3. “The Cars Take on Their Critics” by Mikal Gilmore, October 30, 1980, rollingstone.com

Incredibly, there is no introduction to these articles, no proper credit given, no acknowledgement of the other writers, no reference to the source material at all. Instead, the text is very slightly altered to change the tense of the interviews. For example, in the piece by Interview Magazine, Ilana Kaplan posed questions directly to Greg Hawkes, like, “Did you ever think there would be a reunion like this after so long?” Price edited the text to read, “Had Greg ever thought there’d have been a reunion like this after so long?”

And let me be clear, these are not excerpts. In all three cases, the entire interview is included with those amateur edits. Even the most inattentive high school teacher would identify the rampant plagiarism here.

At a minimum, reproducing someone else’s work in its entirety, without giving credit to the original writer and/or publication, and especially without doing a single thing to make it clear that it is not the author’s own work, is unethical, disrespectful, and rude.

Furthermore, it is very likely grounds for a lawsuit. As tempted as I am (and believe me, I am!), I won’t take the time here to detail the ins and outs of Fair Use, but I feel very strongly that this book is a monumental violation of copyright laws. (If you’re interested in looking into this issue yourself, start with this helpful and layman-friendly article from Nolo.)

Is it possible Price had permission to reproduce these texts? Yes, of course. But I am suspicious because it doesn’t seem reasonable to me that there would be zero acknowledgement of the original source. If I am wrong, I will happily and humbly apologize.

The second half of the book is chock full of images from well-known photographers like Ebet Roberts, Lynn Goldsmith, Philippe Carly, Jeff Albertson, Peter Simon, and Marco Glaviano. Unfortunately, all of the images are available on the internet and have been circulating for years. Some are obvious screenshots from video, some bear watermarks, and some are duplicated on other pages. Judging by the substandard quality of the majority of them, my guess is that they are low-res copies downloaded from various websites.

The photo section lacks in another respect. The majority of the pictures feature the full band; the only ‘solo’ shots are of Ric and Ben. Since the book was published prior to Ric’s recent passing I can’t justify the singling out of those two as any kind of memorial tribute, so I find it annoying that equal treatment was not given to all five members. That, of course, is just my personal opinion.

More importantly, here we are again with copyright concerns. Not a single photo is credited, there are no descriptions of dates or locations; heck, they are not even in chronological order. Again, I can’t help but question if the author had the proper permissions to reproduce these works.

I can’t recommend this book at all, based on the sketchy text, the poor quality of the photos, and the fact that there is no new content offered. But here’s the truth of the matter: this book makes me angry because I believe that this author may be illegally profiting from the hard work of those that came before him. This is similar to the frustration I feel at bootleggers who take Ben’s unreleased solo tracks and sell them on CD, or profiteers who jack the official Cars logo and produce merch that they resell on ebay for exorbitant prices. It’s selfish, unscrupulous, and just plain wrong. I strongly urge you NOT to support such exploitation.

In other words:

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Photo by Ebet Roberts. 1978

Do you think about Ben a lot? “He was certainly my closest friend. He was in every band I ever had. It was a pretty close relationship. He crosses my mind a lot. I certainly see pictures of him around or I hear his voice.

“It’s funny, for some of these re-release things we would find some alternative cuts or things. I’d find demos or recordings where Ben and I played acoustically at Cambridge, Massachusetts, those clubs around Harvard. It was just him and I. They were kind of great. Every time I heard him sing on anything, whether it was a demo or a living room, it always sounded amazing. I could never get over how great his voice was, at least to me.

“So yeah, I think about him. Unfortunately, there were a lot of artists I was close to we lost in the past couple of years, Alan Vega and a bunch … I guess time rolls on.” ~ Ric Ocasek, Rolling Stone Magazine, December 17, 2017.

Our Fanorama Family

With the passing of Ric Ocasek on September 15, the world has gone into mourning. Rock legends and up-and-coming musicians (and everyone in between) have been paying tribute to him all week long, in all sorts of meaningful ways: posting photos, tweeting remembrances, and singing his songs in live sets across the country. Not only do they celebrate the man they loved and admired, but they give us a gift in revealing more about who Ric really was. I am deeply appreciative.

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Photo by Paul McAlpine

Seeing all of the headlines day after day, my sixteen-year-old daughter remarked, “Wow. I didn’t think it would be this big of a deal.” You see, here in my house, my family obviously knows about my fixation with Ben and The Cars, and they lovingly humor me about it, but they think it’s just my ‘little thing.’ They don’t know how important The Cars have been to the world at large, and none of them really understand how much the band matters to me. They don’t get that it is more than just an obsession or a hobby. Ben, Ric, David, Greg, Elliot… these guys move me. Their music is part of my brain matter, intimately inseparable from my emotions and memories. Their existence is important to my existence. And when they are no longer leaving fingerprints in this world, I feel it deep down inside. Not many of my peeps around here get that.

And so it has been all the more precious to me to see how the Cars fans have come together over the news that Ric is gone.

A few years ago someone coined the term ‘Fanorama’ to encompass the members of the Facebook groups and Twitter pages (and anywhere on social media, really) who regularly check in to geek out about The Cars. Over the years I’ve developed many solid relationships inside the Fanorama; people who I may or may not have ever met in ‘real life’ but that are part of my daily landscape. And while I’ve long considered them friends, I believe that Ric’s death has made us a family.

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Artwork by Jim Clarke

When someone you love dies you automatically want to go to others who also loved that person and express your shock and sadness. You want to share the memories and pictures, you want to cry together and tell of regrets and give words of hope. It’s a natural human response, right? “Misery loves company.” And you bond as brothers and sisters in your grief.

And that’s what we did, our Fanorama. When Ric died, we virtually looked at each other in disbelief and said, “tell me it’s not true!” We collapsed on each other’s shoulders and cried together in grief. We gave strength and we took strength and we squeezed each other’s hands and asked, “how are you holding up?” We wrapped our arms around each other and held on tight and assured each other, “it’s going to be okay.” And we shared memories, music, stories, artwork, awe, laughter, frustration, gratitude. I felt it — I still feel it — every time I get on social media, the healing comfort of my dear Cars family.

I find that in the midst of this devastating loss there is so much love. It’s a beautiful thing.

So many offerings I’ve seen and heard this week have helped me, but I think this video comes the closest to encompassing my emotions in a visual form. I woke up the morning after Ric passed away feeling confusion and achy longing and at a bit of a loss. My FB feed was flooded, but this post from Becky B caught my eye. As I watched the incredible video she created, the tears came again, but as much pain as I felt watching it, it was different somehow. I saw the celebration of Ric and Ben. Her tribute skillfully addressed the hurt and the healing and the hope, all at the same time.

The song choice, the photos and live footage, the spiritual aura… I’m not sure how to explain my impressions.  I’ll just let you watch it. Be sure to grab some tissue.

I send out a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to Becky. I can’t imagine how late she stayed up the night Ric left us in order to create this tribute, but I’m so glad she did. It went straight to my heart.

And thank you, my Fanorama family. Being able to stay in touch with you this week has been such a consolation to me, and I know you are comforting one another, too. We’ll see each other through this, like a family should.

Rest in peace, Ric Ocasek.

ric from paulina.png
From Paulina, 09.16.19

Ric died on Sunday.

You probably already know that. Of course you do. It is all over every newswire; the world is in mourning.

I’m touched by the number of friends and fans that have contacted me to make sure I was aware, to see if I was okay, and to share their tears with me. Thank you for that. It is both overwhelming and comforting to be a part of so much heartbreak. There is shelter in our mutual grief, and I am grateful for the sincere connection with so many people who love the band I love.

Like many Benjamin Orr fans, when I first started learning all about Ben and researching the history of The Cars, I immediately adopted the opinion that Ric was the bad guy. I couldn’t see the necessity and beauty of his role; I only saw things in the negative: lead vocal distribution, video screen time, touring and merchandising decisions. It’s no secret that he was highly controlling (he admitted it himself more than once) and that he gained the most financially from the band’s success, and I felt that he often came across as arrogant and self-absorbed in those early interviews. I pinned everything on him: SCAN0082certainly the break-up of the band, as well as Ben’s drinking, Ben’s sadness, and Ben’s lack of commercial success in those turbulent 1990s.

It was my friend and podcast partner, Dave, who helped me unclench my fist. We’ve always shared a friendly “Team Ric vs. Team Ben” rivalry, and through many lengthy discussions he chipped away at my tunnel vision and illuminated the human side of Ric, the likeable side. My perception slowly shifted.

I acknowledged that Ric was the one who wrote the music that moved me, the lyrics that resonated. I admitted that I loved a lot of the songs Ric sang. I was reminded that he was Ben’s steadfast partner in chasing the dream, the two of them trekking from state to state in one band or another, both aware (subconsciously or not) that they needed each other to make it. Ric introduced us to David, Elliot, and Greg, too, when he finally solidified The Cars. I saw how in his later years Ric mellowed, spoke kindly of Ben and the band, and communicated his deep respect for the men with whom he made his mark. All these things softened me.

I’m not saying that Ric didn’t play a significant part in all of the ugly, he doesn’t get a ‘pass’ by any means. And I’m not claiming to know how deep his regrets may or may not have been. But I do believe that Ben and Ric made amends before Ben died. I believe that Ric’s love for Ben was sincere and deep, in spite of whatever divided them in the past. Elliot, Greg, and David all speak of Ric with the affection and loyalty that reflects the thick bonds of brotherhood they all shared. If those who were actually hurt by Ric can forgive him, how can I, an outside observer, hold a grudge?

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I’ve grown to genuinely admire and respect Ric so much over the last two years. He was intelligent, creative, talented, and he was an integral part of the band I love the most in this world. His death is a terrible blow, a sucker punch. Tears came unexpectedly; many, many tears. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I’d have to say goodbye to my rock idols someday… but not Ric. Not now.

There’s just such a finality in Ric’s death. It’s the end of an era. There is really no more Cars. There will be no more albums, no more tours. And what of the fabled vault? It’s excruciating to accept that so much history may be gone forever, too.

And so I focus on gratitude.

Thank you for all that your music gives me, Ric: the hyper, the healing, the escape. Thank you for the way you gave me Ben. Thank you for providing the platform for David and Greg and Elliot. Thank you for performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2018 so I could see The Cars live. Thank you for changing the course of music history.

I don’t know exactly how the afterlife works but I suspect (and hope) that you and Ben are reunited, rockin’ and happy. Rest in peace.

March 23, 1944 ~ September 15, 2019

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It reminds me of him.

Image result for rob lowe stories i only tell my friends“The effect famous people can have on other people’s lives is not to be underestimated. They can inspire us with their talent; make us feel like kings with their kindness, with a hello, a handshake, or an autograph. They seem like creatures from another race with supernatural abilities.

“And the true stars understand that. When you are around them, the ones at the top of their game, there is always the possibility that some of their magic could rub off on you.”

— Rob Lowe, Stories I Only Tell My Friends