The Rat, June 1977: Take Me Now!

Another recording of The Cars at The Rat has surfaced, and it brings with it another rare gem!

I’m just going to jump right to the lightning bolt: they performed “Take Me Now” during the set! As we know, the demo of the song was released on the 1995 Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology, but I believe this is the first time we’ve heard this beautiful ballad played live. A few unfortunate flaws in the original tape mean that some significant sections of the song were lost, but what a treasure nonetheless, and such a clear recording! Ben’s achy vocal is layered so perfectly over Greg’s gentle keyboards and David’s faithful percussion foundation. Ah, it’s just so gorgeous! Someday… someday, I hope we can hear all of the verses. For now… 

As for the full gig, the band played a total of 9 songs in about half an hour. Here’s the set list:

  • “Leave Or Stay”
  • “Cool Fool”
  • “I Don’t Want To” (Elliot on vocals)
  • “I’m In Touch With Your World”
  • “Take Me Now” (!!)
  • “Come Back Down”
  • “See Through My Eyes”
  • “Looking To See You”
  • “You Can Have ‘Em” (aka “Sleepy Wasted Afternoon”)

Notice anything missing? The absence of “Just What I Needed” is a surprise, and leads me to think that they probably did an encore that either didn’t get caught on the tape or wasn’t released with the digitized files.

A little side note: I’m still digging to pinpoint the date of this performance, and to confirm that it is from The Rat. I’m not sure why, but something about the way the guy introduces the band at the beginning seems a little off and it kind of has me questioning the details. It seems like he’s trying to acquaint the audience with the band, but we know that The Cars had played there a bunch of times by this point. Of course, it’s not like I’ve ever even seen a show at The Rat, so what do I know? I may be totally off base, but those bits of info are puzzle pieces I’d like to have firmly in place. I’ll poke around a little more. 

The show seems to get off to a rocky start. After “Leave Or Stay,” the audience is either not paying attention, or they don’t realize the song is over, because there is an awkward moment of silence before the smattering of applause. Ric seems a little grumpy when he says, “There’s a lot of fucking room up here,” possibly referring to the audience area in front of the stage. Perhaps he got even more irritated by the overly-enthusiastic fan (apparently named Roy?) that causes a ruckus during the first half of the set. Or maybe that was just me getting annoyed. Haha!

Happily, the crowd becomes more enthusiastic as the band proves its mettle. Ric, Ben, and Elliot all take turns singing lead, one right after the other, and the contrast in sound and style is obvious but certainly not unpleasant. At a minimum, it underscores just how much talent these guys had to draw from. 

Benjamin Orr by Robert Post, 1977
Benjamin Orr by Robert Post, 1977

Whether he’s on lead vocals or singing backup, Ben weaves his way through the songs, his voice silky and smooth. He puts a more melodic spin on traditionally snarky songs like “Cool Fool” and “See Through My Eyes” than we find on other recordings (“nothin’s free, honey…” mmm). On “I’m In Touch With Your World,” Ben sings backup with an irrepressible seductive mellowness (at 13:03, for example), and his tranquil delivery of “Come Back Down” is flat out hypnotic. 

And since we’re talking about “Come Back Down,” after you soak up Ben’s vocal, I highly recommend that you listen through the song a second time, and maybe a third! You can really pick up the peppy fills in David’s drumming, Ben’s swaying bass, and all of Elliot’s brilliant guitar flourishes. Oh, and Greg’s perfectly understated keyboard outro that kicks in at 19:30… So, so good!

About Elliot: he is definitely delivering the goods in this show. While I understand the band’s decision not to have him continue as a vocalist, it’s always electrifying when EE takes the mic. He rips through a flaming and growly performance of “I Don’t Want To,” the most rollicking song of the whole show. Even as he continues to be a force on backing vocals, his guitar playing never lags. He stretches out some in “Looking to See You,” then he really lays into the audience with his work on “You Can Have ‘Em.” 

Greg is no slouch, either. His inventiveness and dexterity on “I’m In Touch With Your World” are moving the band closer and closer to their final studio version. “Looking To See You” really showcases his keyboard prowess, and it’s the ultimate cherry on top when he pulls out his sax on “You Can Have ‘Em.” Knowing now that it wouldn’t be long before that instrument would begin gathering dust, I just love when we are treated to him playing it in these early recordings.

All the while, David’s impeccable drumming, steady and stylish, is the essential framework of the whole show. No wonder they are screaming for more at the end! 

BONUS: There’s a good bit of audience and stage chatter, which I love (did you hear Ben saying, “I’ll have that, uh… soda… anytime” at 20:50?) It always adds that real-world touch that makes you feel like you’re at one of the tables in the club. I only wish there was more! It seems like there are a few places between songs where the transition is abrupt and I wonder what’s lost. No reason to dwell on that, though, when there is so much to love about this show.

Here’s the full set — take your time! When you’re done, leave me a comment and tell me your favorite part. Enjoy! ❤ 


Please remember that these live audios are not to be bought or sold!

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Cinders and ashes at the Metro, 1982

Between the tight instrumentation, powerful vocals, and sizzling energy, this short set is a real barn-burner! Today marks the 39th anniversary of the night The Cars showed up as surprise guests at the Metro in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 7, 1982, so let’s take a closer look.

We’ll start with this one lone video:

Though I am optimistic that the band’s whole set was filmed (it had to have been, right???), this is currently the only available footage for us Cars fans. It remains on my list of concerts I hope will someday surface from someone’s basement VHS collection.

Along with this visual remnant, we have some (only 3!) photos that have circulated from that night. They were taken by Michael Grecco, and they.are.GORGEOUS. Feast your eyes!


NERD NOTES

This performance is generally pinned to a Toys for Tots charity gig, but I was going over my notes as I was getting ready to upload the audio of their full six-song set (link below) and I discovered that that might not be the case. Let me lay out what I’ve got for you.

Apparently there was a charity show scheduled to benefit a punk/new wave music magazine called New York Rocker. The publication was in financial straits and was trying to scratch up an infusion of cash. This clip from The Boston Globe on December 6, 1982, sets the stage:

The next we hear about it shows up here: a Boston Globe mention on December 10, 1982, where it’s revealed that The Cars were a surprise guest at the NY Rocker benefit.

One more blip of that benefit, confirming that the purpose was to financially support NY Rocker, appeared just a couple of days later:

Inkedconfirming benefit concert for the New York Rocker magazine The_Boston_Globe_Sun__Dec_12__1982_ cropped_LI marked
The Boston Globe ~ December 12, 1982

Seems consistent to me. And judging by the publication covers, I could guess that that magazine would be something Ric in particular would be happy to support. In fact, it looks like The Cars themselves might have been included in at least one issue; I’ll have to see if I can track that down at some point.

As for the Toys for Tots benefit, that was a real thing, and The Cars were definitely involved… to a certain extent. They were co-sponsors of the annual Christmas party at the Metro, along with the venue and Warner Elektra Atlantic, where the only price of admission was the donation of a toy for needy children. Boston photographer Derek Szabo saved his 1982 invite and was so kind to share it with me. How cute is this?

 

The festivities included an hour-long open bar and live music, but it does not appear that The Cars were on the roster of performers. Check out this clipping from The Boston Globe, December 17, 1982:

Of course, it is entirely possible that The Cars did play at that party on December 22; I just haven’t been able to find anything to confirm it. If they did, I feel certain that it is different than the “Candy-O” performance footage we see above. 


So let’s get back to that December 7 show. For the most part, the set list has a gritty punk vibe that seems perfectly suited to an audience of New York Rocker readers. Fortunately for us, an audience recording of the full six songs The Cars performed that night has been preserved. It’s not the greatest quality, but it’s a treasure nonetheless.

The band opens with “Out of Control,” a previously unpublished tune that would show up on Ric’s first solo album, Beatitude, apparently released at the end of the month. [A little pet peeve of mine here: another instance of Ric showcasing his solo work during a Cars show, an opportunity apparently not given to Ben or Elliot in later years. Grr!] 

From there they rev things up with a raucous cover of Iggy Pop’s “Funtime,” and it sounds like all the guys are really enjoying themselves. And Elliot’s solo is blazing! EE continues to drive the show as they blast through  “Take What You Want,” a concert staple that never made it to vinyl. Interestingly, I believe this gig is the last time they played it for an audience.

Now we get to “Candy-O” which, of course, sounds a bit muted compared to the more professional video capture. Still, it’s pretty great! If you recall in the footage, at the end of the song the guys are taking off their guitars and preparing to exit the stage after being on for less than 20 minutes. So now brace yourself: a member of the audience, who is apparently unsatisfied with the very short set, begins booing in protest. Booing! Loudly. And complaining that it’s a ripoff. I mean, I can understand the guy’s disappointment, but it still grates on my nerves to hear him booing my band. Ugh.

Anyway, thankfully, The Cars do return and treat the enthusiastic audience to two more energetic gems.

I love love love the dizzying version of “Let’s Go,” and again, Elliot is just on fire. The big finish comes with “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” and please, I am begging you, do NOT miss Elliot’s sassy little guitar riff at 26:46. If an attitude can be summarized in four seconds of music, there it is right there. So freaking great! I swear, there had to be cinders and ashes floating to the ground as those guys took their leave. Holy wow.

Your turn to listen in! Be sure to share your thoughts below.

UPDATE December 11, 2021: A reader pointed out to me the similarity of Elliot’s “sassy little riff” at 26:46 to the “Wake Me Up” demo at 3:08. It blew my mind! Take a listen: