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.

Book Review: The Cars (Robus)

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The Cars

Written by Stacy Leigh

Photography by Mike O’Brien and Kelly Thompson

Published by Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation

Copyright 1985 by Robus Books

 

 

My quick opinion:

No new info in the text, but the photos themselves make this book worth some effort to acquire. However… don’t break the bank.

My long story:

You might remember that in 2016 I went on a mini-rampage to try to get my hands on any factual or biographical books about The Cars. Just when I had thought my little collection was sufficient, my Cars’ world buddy, Timothy, alerted me to THIS book, which had not yet made my radar. You can imagine my giddiness! I was under the impression that it was by Philip Kamin (see the NERD TOPIC below), so I began scouring the internet for a copy of it.

It proved to be more elusive than I expected, and I ended up stumbling across it on Amazon by accident. The reason I hadn’t been able to track it down was because it was actually listed under Stacy Leigh (the author), and it didn’t have Philip Kamin’s name anywhere on it.

During 1984 and ’85, Robus Books put out a series of biographical discographies covering an impressive selection of the most popular bands of the day, including Madonna, Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen, Howard Jones, Ratt, Van Halen, Wham!, and (of course!) The Cars. I made a cursory attempt to find out more information about the Robus collection but to no avail… I was hoping to discover more of the thought process behind the writing and publishing of this line but only ended up with chirping crickets.

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The Cars, 1980; scanned from the book

Just looking at surface details… I suppose it could have been sold at concerts, but to me, this book comes across as something you might find in a middle school library, with the target audience looking to be about sixth grade and up. The simplicity of the syntax, the large size (it measures 9″x12″), and the limited number of pages point in that direction, and I happily imagine thoughtful teachers encouraging their reluctant readers to choose one of the ‘rock-and-roll’ series for their book report assignment. (Of course, I could be wrong, but my little scenario works for me for now.)

This juvenile approach to the product is not a negative, however. Who doesn’t love a good children’s book? And visually, this one is beautiful. Its 32 (unnumbered) pages are chock full of scrumptious photographs, many in full color, as well as some terrific black-and-white shots. Though my copy did not include it, I understand that the original publication contained a poster of the the band of the image above. True, most of the images (if not all) have circulated on the internet for some time, but there is nothing quite like holding a tangible, large print of those fascinating fellows in your hot little hand. (Bibliophiles, unite!)

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Benjamin and Ric, 1980; scanned from the book

The entirety of the text can easily be read in about 10 minutes (15 if you pace yourself). The format is a simple (if slightly inaccurate) chronological account of the evolution of TheCars, beginning in 1976 and tracking their success through 1984. It is straight narration; no interview excerpts or quotes from the band. Still, the descriptions are nice, and I love this little gem:

 

“Ocasek and Orr were seen as hip prophets of a new era of American rock supremacy, one in which technological sophistication, musical simplicity and sound songwriting craftsmanship would break new ground.” (p. 12)

 

WARNING: NERD TOPIC AHEAD!

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Philip Kamin, via the internet

One thing I find perplexing is the credit for the photography. The book lists Mike O’Brien and Kelly Thompson as the ones responsible, but it seems these photos belong to Philip Kamin. I say that because, 1. the shots are all remarkably similar to the photographs included in the McGraw-Hill book also entitled The Cars (to be reviewed shortly), which were explicitly taken by PK. And by “remarkably” I mean that they are so close, there could be a single shutter click in difference. 2. Philip Kamin claims credit for the book on his website, and 3. he was one of the regular photographers of the band for a time. But then again… many of the other books in the Robus series credit PK with the photography, and his name is emblazoned across the covers, but not this one. Hmmm….

So who are Mike and Kelly? Why are they listed in the book but not Philip? I’m tempted to research it more… I know it’s not a big deal, but little things like that just nibble at me.

The book was printed with a $4.95 price tag, but you won’t find it that cheap these days. Checking the web tonight I see that there are at least two listed on Amazon, one priced near $200, the other, well over that amount. I feel extremely fortunate to have found mine (in pretty good condition)  for right around $15 — a steal, for sure! If it’s not in your budget, all is not lost. Be sure to check with your local library; they may be able to get it through inter-library loan for little or no cost to you. Believe me, it’s worth a try.

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 Mike O’Brien and Kelly Thompson; 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…