I know it’s not a Vargas but…

panorama front

Panorama: My favorite album, and my favorite album cover! Gorgeous, right? Simple, clean, and badass.

Here’s a misconception we can clear up pretty quickly:

Cars’ drummer David Robinson is sometimes credited with painting the flag for the cover of the Panorama album.Ā  This Nightflight article states it, and I believe Wikipedia reported that at one time, too. Did you believe it? I did!

Well, it’s not so. David himself set the record straight in a Facebook post:

panorama conversation

That’s pretty definitive!

And of course we know that Paul McAlpine did the rest of the photography for the record, including the very cool cover art on the back, and the lovely album sleeve.

Heck, he took a ton of great photos of the band! If you’re not familiar with his work, do a quick Google search of “paul mcalpine the cars” and prepare to be amazed!

I do have to say, David’s “obviously” in his comment above made me feel a little foolish, because I did not doubt his ability to make a painting that looked so great. Was that naive of me? My husband did a pretty decent job with the duplicate he painted for me, so I thought, “Why not?” šŸ˜‰

panorama paintedpanorama painted 2

“Fast Times” is a drag.

You know Iā€™m not exaggerating when I say that every time the song ā€œMoving In Stereoā€ is mentioned in rock circles, at least half a dozen people (guys, usually) will enthusiastically reference Phoebe Cates and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. And even though I grew up right in the heart of the 80s, I never saw the film. I was only 12 when it came out and though Iā€™d heard people doing their Spicoli impressions all up into college, I just never had the desire to see it.

Image result for fast times at ridgemont high phoebeNow of course, I’ve been familiar with the scene where Cates comes up out of the pool and gives her little treat to Brad, and yes, I understand the iconic imagery paired with such a badass rock riff as The Cars deliver, but because I loved the song long before I was aware of that connection with the film, I knew ā€œMoving In Stereoā€ could, and should stand on its own. Yeah, I got pretty snooty about it.

And so every time someone would say to me, “Oh my gosh, you’ve NEVER seenĀ Fast Times at Ridgemont High???” (read that in a boorish man voice but know that I’m really referring to my podcast partner) I became more and more determined never to jump down from my pompous perch and watch it.

But then… Lately Iā€™ve been gathering video clips of the television shows and movies where The Cars make some kind of mark, and adding them in a playlist on YouTube.Ā  As a completist, avoiding Fast Times wasn’t an option, so I figured it was about time to just get it done. I checked out the DVD from my library andĀ  asked my 19yo daughter to join me; I figured if nothing else, the movie would be super dated and she and I could just enjoy making fun of it.

Um, yeah. That didnā€™t really happenā€¦

Iā€™m not going to beat around the bush: this movie is terrible. TERRIBLE.


  1. There is no discernible, interesting storyline to follow…
  2. … and certainly no depth of character to attach to.
  3. Spicoli is funny but completely underutilized, and his ā€˜revelationā€™ is forced (though I give him some bonus points for his checkerboard (aka Panorama) Vans).

Boringā€¦ flounderingā€¦ heinous, even.

  1. And the greater crimes? Underage nudity.
  2. Shocking apathy for the subjects of teen pregnancy, teen abortion, and statutory rape.
  3. A shameful casualness with regard to losing oneā€™s virginity, multiple sexual partners, and the tenants of healthy relationships.

Am I the only one who feels this way?

Now be clear: Iā€™m not shunning this film strictly for moral reasons. I watch lots of movies with a spectrum of questionable behavior and I have no problem enjoying it in the context of a great plot and charismatic acting. But that was not this… This was a bunch of 20-year-olds pretending to be vapid high school kids with a few boob scenes thrown in for cheap thrills, and nothing intelligent holding it together. It’s just embarrassing.

Am I a prude? Too old-fashioned? Is it because I’m a woman? Or maybe I’m just… old? Perhaps. Yes, I might have felt differently watching it as a single, ā€˜frozen fireā€™ 17-year-old, as opposed to a mother of four kids pushing 50, but somehow I donā€™t think so. My daughter, too, was bored stiff and frustrated with the banality of the whole thing.


So, just so you know? Whenever the pairing of MIS and Fast Times is put to me for comment, my answer will continue to be an emphatic (and now educated) ā€˜ughā€™ and an eye roll.

Hang on… Sarah is demanding the keyboard…

Okay, this is the aforementioned daughter speaking. I volunteered to write a review, but quickly realized I remembered almost nothing about the film itself. In fact, the only thing that stood out in my mind was Spicoli’s pizza disaster towards the end there… and yes, I had to ask Mom to remember the character’s name. The whole experience was a bit of a blur. There was one consistent thought revolving in my otherwise uninterested brain: “I have to work tomorrow. I don’t have time for this! Wait, what’s going on now?” (Spoiler: nothing.)

All in all, my final thoughts are these- this movie rates a triple-A in my book, meaning:

  1. Awful
  2. Absolutely forgettable
  3. An Absolute nightmare.

Can’t even remember the name of the train wreck. Excuse me- ‘movie’.


Well, there you have it.

What say you, Fanorama? Are we way off base on this or is it a slam dunk? Find me on Facebook or share in the comments!

Those isolated tracks!


Hello, friends! Just a quick post this morning as I got a great question from a reader (thank you, MV!). Having heard the isolated track that I posted in my article about “Just What I Needed,” she was curious and eager to find out if more such gems existed. I do know of a few, so I thought I’d post them all in one place to make it easier for all of us to enjoy the deliciousness of Ben’s vocals.


Here’s that initial one. It was posted by Jose Mirelli on Vimeo, and it includes Ben’s bass track and Elliot’s guitar solo:

Jose has two more on his Vimeo page: “All Mixed Up” and “Bye Bye Love.” I love the one for “Bye Bye Love” so much that I wrote a little gush about it.Ā Haha! Again, these uploads are both vocals and bass:


There is also a Youtube channel that has taken songs from The Cars’ first album and broken them down into isolated tracks. The only ones on there (right now) with Ben’s vocals are “Just What I Needed,” “Bye Bye Love,” and “Moving In Stereo.” These are literally *only* vocals, so you have to wait through the silence at the beginning of each track. Don’t give up — these are fabulous!



UPDATE: Here’s another, thanks to reader COrrvettes80He03Me: the isolated vocal track of “Drive.” This is so tender and lovely. I can’t help but imagine Ben singing this to his young son as a bedtime lullaby.

Ah, sweet Ben! I never get tired of his voice.

The reader who asked about this was pointing out that with the recovery of the Candy-OĀ monitor mixes, certainly the capability of creating more of these kinds of audios is out there.Ā Of course, we all wish that the vocal tracks would be released from EVERY song Ben recorded! To put on headphones and have him crooning right into my ears is such a divine experience, and believe me, I partake regularly. And now you can, too!

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy the post I did where I listed all of the songs I know of that Ben sang lead on. You can find it here: Benjamin: Lead Vocal List.

“Le Grand Chapeau”

Okay, so this is another one of my nerdy little mysteries … at least, it used to be!

I had heard this one 1987 interview on Youtube quite a while ago. It’s Ric and Ben with the late Bob Coburn on Rockline. A caller asked the guys what they do after a show, and Ben gave a rather odd and cryptic answer, which cracked Ric up, but left me baffled. Well, here… Take a listen:

Now what could he possibly mean? Surely not a literal hat, like his black bolero one from theĀ Shake It Up days. Hmmm.Ā Since I always chew on Ben’s words and turn them over and over in my head, his response really stood out to me but there was just no way I could figure out what in the heck he was talking about. So… I’m sure you can imagine how my eyes popped out of my head when I was readingĀ Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The CarsĀ by Joe Milliken and I got to this part on page 108:

“The Cars had no drug scene. Most, as I recall, smoked cigarettes and pot, which was referred to as ‘putting on a hat’ or ‘le grand chapeau.'” ~ Stephen Bickford

Ahhhh! SoĀ that is what Ben meant! Goofy boy. He sounds so pleased with himself, too, the way he is snickering at his own joke. Hahaha!

Well, I guess we can lay that little riddle to rest.

Oh, and just to clarify, Stephen Bickford is a talented set designer who started working and traveling with The Cars around the time they were makingĀ Candy-O. He’s also the guy who (thankfully!) filmed a lot of the backstage antics that ended up in the epicĀ The Cars: Unlocked DVD, and is credited with some great photos of Ben and the band, like this one:

Benjamin Orr, 1982. Photo by Stephen Bickford.

Not *Our* Grasshoppers


The Question: A reader recently asked me about this song on Youtube by The Grasshoppers and wondered if I could clarify, “Was this The Grasshoppers before Ben joined? Or a different band?”

The Answer: Nope. Not Ben’s Grasshoppers.


Though the music and vocals sound similar to the band that made Ben a local celebrity in Cleveland, Ohio, and the time period is chronologically right in there, it is just a coincidence. This single was recorded by a band out of Twin Cities, Minnesota, that consisted of Jiggs Lee singing lead, Ben Hamar helping with vocals and handling lead guitar, Tim Black on bass, Tom Acheson on rhythm guitar, and Phil Scowler on drums.

12360311_489952661215987_1722542770745606969_n.jpgJiggs would go on to front a band called Cain, a heavy metal group which had a degree of success through the 1970s with their two albums,Ā A Pound of FleshĀ (1975) andĀ StingerĀ (1977). Jiggs was inducted into the Mid-America MusicĀ Hall of Fame on September 17th,Ā 2010.

The song featured in the video in question is “The Very Last Day,” written by Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow. It was originally released in 1963 by Peter, Paul and Mary, and covered by The Hollies in 1965 (both versions also available on Youtube). This Grasshoppers recording was put out in 1966, and may have been the flipside to the band’s cover of “Sugar and Spice” by The Searchers.

Even though it is not our Ben, click below to take a listen. It’s a great tune!


My sources:

  1. Some information from Soundcloud.
  2. A little bit more from Discogs.
  3. A smidge from secondhandsongs.com.
  4. This quick blurb about Jiggs getting inducted by Zipperneck Studios.
  5. Lots more on Jiggs from Twin Cities Metal.

Candy-O… Candy? No.

Exciting news! Well, at least for me. You know how I always have this nerdy little list of Ben mysteries that I am trying to solve, kind of like cold case files in the detective world? Well, thanks to the sleuthing skills of one of my good friends, “The Case of the Candy-O Lollipop” has been cracked!

candy oWe are all familiar with the now-iconic photo of Ben loving on a lollipop on the backside of the Candy-O album cover (if you’re not, just look to your right). Early in my obsession I had read lollipop pensomewhere that the lucky candy treat was actually not candy at all, but a type of writing pen that was popular in the sixties and seventies, with a little skinny handle and a large round lid over a ballpoint tip. As I recall, the story was that a secretary or an assistant on location at the photoshoot offered it to Ben as a prop. Of course, I haven’t been able to find that source since, and it has long been one of those things that I just wanted to be able to verify once and for all. Does it affect the government shutdown? Of course not. But there are those of us that just have to knowĀ every little thing…

So here you go: definitive proof! Zooming in on this outtake from the Candy-O photoshoot clearly shows that it IS a pen. Ah… another thing crossed off my list!

Candy-O photos by Jeff Albertson.