Cars + Books = My Happy Place

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I am a book freak (along with my other little obsessions) and of course I love The Cars, so imagine my giddiness when those two worlds collided and I found myself with a (near) complete collection of written-and-bound material on my boys!

I do qualify my statement by saying ‘near’ complete, because I know that Ric has some other printed material out there; poetry and what not. I confess I’m not really looking for those so much — unless, of course, I happen to come across the little pamphlet that Ric hand-made and would leave lying around in bookstores back in the 1970s… Now THAT would be a treasure, indeed.

In the meantime, I’ve very happy with my little stash. They’ve been great sources of photos, quotes and information about this wonderful band. Here’s a short description of each (hoping to eventually write reviews of all of them). Clockwise from the top left:

Robus Books: The Carswritten by Stacy Leigh, photography by Philip Kamin; published by Robus Books, 1985. (ISBN: 0-88188-364-6) First one pictured, but last one I bought. I wasn’t aware of this book until my Cars buddy, Timothy, pointed it out to me and then (of course) I went on a relentless search to find it. It’s an elusive one, but I was able to pick up my not-entirely-pristine-but-pretty-close copy off of Amazon for about $15. A steal!

The Cars, written by Peter Goddard, photography by Philip Kamin; published by McGraw-Hill, 1986. (ISBN: 0-07-033498-6) Another hard-to-afford book, but I managed to win it on ebay for just under $50. SO worth it! Nice large format and beautiful photographs.

Super Groups, written by Cynthia Dagnal; published by Tempo Books, 1981. (ISBN: 0-448-17228-3) This book covers several bands and contains a significant chapter on The Cars. You can generally find it on Amazon on the cheap. Lots of great coverage considering the band was only 3 years old at the time.

Lyrics and Prose, written by Ric Ocasek; published by Blue Rider Press, 2012. (ISBN: 978-0-399-16370-8) Huge collection of… well… lyrics and prose. LOL Great reference book and fun to see some of Ric’s handwritten pages. Picked this up on Amazon, too.

Frozen Fire: The Story of The Cars, written by Toby Goldstein, photography by Ebet Roberts; published by Contemporary Books, Inc., 1985. (ISBN: 0-8092-5257-0) I wrote an in-depth review of this book already, not knowing it would inspire one of the biggest sweetie pies in the world to send me a copy! My dear sister-in-the-Cars, Leigh, ‘shocked me into sense’ by giving me this book as a gift, and I am forever grateful. Not only do I enjoy the book, but her generosity at a time when we hardly knew each other just floored me. The Fanorama never ceases to amaze me.

As difficult as it can be to purchase some of these, there is hope of getting your hands on them… I was able to check several of them out through the inter-library loan system (I LOVE my local library!) before I bought them. Although I guess that’s no guarantee you’ll get to read them: one friend of mine checked out Frozen Fire only to find that all of the pages about Benjamin were torn out. Go figure!

Thanks again, Leigh, for providing that final piece, and to Timothy for alerting me to the existence of the white Robus book!

Book Review: Frozen Fire

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Frozen Fire: The Story of The Cars

Written by Toby Goldstein

Photos by Ebet Roberts

Published by Contemporary Books, Inc

Copyright 1985 by Toby Goldstein

 

My quick opinion:

If you can get your hands on a copy it’s definitely worth the read, but I wouldn’t fork out a lot of money for it.

My long story:

Though I have enjoyed the music of The Cars for many years, it wasn’t until social media opened up the world of Benjamin Orr that I discovered a book had been written about the history of the band. Like all properly obsessed fans I immediately set out on a mission to gain possession of this gem, come hell or high water. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very realistic quest; the book has been out of print since its first edition and a simple search at the time revealed that if I wanted my own copy, I could expect to pay upwards of $200. Yikes! Of course, this high price made me even more desperate to get my hands on it; surely its market value was a reflection of the awesomeness of the contents and the extent of the treasures within.

As much as I tried to juggle the budget and scrape together spending money from the couch cushions, I simply could not justify buying this book. Thankfully I had one more trick up my sleeve: in my small town (population less than 2,000) we have the best little library ever, and Miss Whitney was able to get a copy of it sent through inter-library loan from another state. Imagine my giddiness! I was giggling like a fool at the check-out counter; couldn’t help myself.

As soon as I had the kids on lock-down for the night I dove in. The book is only 118 pages long and contains a generous sprinkling of photos so I figured it would be a fairly quick read, but I wanted to take my time because I was sure I would need to store up all of the fascinating details about the lives of my five favorite rock-and-rollers in the world.

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Uh… no. Reality. This book is exactly what it says it is: the story of The Cars. As in, history, plain and simple. Not “stories about The Cars”… my first disappointment. It kind of starts out like you’re going to get lots of anecdotes from the members and get to see past their stage presence, but the book soon settles into the chronological details of the evolution and success of the band.

Now let me clarify here, lest I sound ungrateful. I LOVE having the facts laid out for me, as you know. I eat that stuff up! But it was kind of like expecting caramel chocolate cheesecake and getting Ben and Jerry’s ice cream instead.

Apparently most of the information is compiled directly from the author’s interviews with the band members and, logically, Ric’s voice is the most prominent one. I’ve got no gripes with this because The Cars always were and still are *his* band (as all of the members firmly acknowledge), so it is largely his story to tell… but my expectations set me up for my second disappointment: I wanted to hear heavily from all of the band members. Okay, really, I wanted to hear specifically from Benjamin. Unfortunately he seems to be represented the least of the group (likely owing to his own reticence when being interviewed).

ebetairportThe third stumbling block for me came early in the book when the author recounted how Benjamin avoided the draft by “acting mentally ill.” This story definitely sounds hinky, particularly because there is other documentation reporting that Benjamin received an exemption for being an ‘only surviving son.’ Though this snippet is told in the book in quotes (which leads me to suspect that Benjamin may have said this but was pulling the author’s leg (entirely possible)), the fact that it is included as if it were true cast an air of suspicion over the entire text for me. Made me feel like I should take the rest with a grain of salt, especially regarding other seemingly far-fetched details (a promotion where fans got to take showers with the band members? Really???)

Still, there is a LOT of terrific stuff in these pages.

  1. Some great insights from the legendary Maxanne Sartori herself, whom we laud for her faithful support of our boys and her determined efforts in launching The Cars.
  2. The author takes us on a detailed walk through almost three decades of history and couches the years with relevant industry opinions and events.
  3. We do get a little glimpse into what was going on behind the scenes during the breaks between albums (though I find myself with even more unanswered questions!), and
  4. I noted several very cool quotes, which I plan to use in future posts.
  5. There is a generous amount of Ebet Roberts photos, some color and some black and white, which are delightful and definitely stare-worthy.
  6. The author is obviously a great fan of The Cars, and her devotion to them shines throughout the pages.
  7. One of my favorite lines: “The Cars may seem as icy as chrome, but a fire burns within — the blaze of sensual intelligence.” (p. 3) So perfect!

It’s a bummer that the book ends in the spring of 1985. Of course, I wish there was an epilogue covering the years after Heartbeat City and through to 1988. Oh well. I truly *am* thankful for this handy and fun-to-read resource.

In conclusion? As a Cars fan, I still really wish I owned this book. It just *needs* to be part of my collection. Having read through it, though, and finding that its purpose is different than what I was originally seeking, I confess I don’t feel the same sense of urgency I did at first.

A quick check as I’m getting ready to publish this blog post reveals copies are ranging from $20-60 on ebay and Amazon… I’m thinking about it. Certainly much more reasonable than earlier this spring! And this library copy is in pretty rough shape; it won’t be around forever…