We caught another Rat!

We caught another Rat!

Every time something new pops up in the Cars world I am ecstatic on two fronts: first, because another elusive piece of the band’s history has fallen into place, and second, because it bolsters my hope that there is even more yet to be revealed. And that’s on top of the thrill I always feel at just seeing or hearing my forever-favorite band. Anyway, you can imagine my elation when I returned from a recent trip to discover that a VERY cool friend had sent me some VERY cool files: new recordings of The Cars at The Rat!

Now you might remember that The Cars played The Rat for a four-night engagement spanning Thursday, April 28, through Sunday, May 1, 1977. A few months ago I uploaded an audio file from that weekend, though I wasn’t sure which of the dates it was recorded on. Well, with these two totally new shows, I’ve been told that they are specifically from April 30th, so they would be the Saturday night performances. As you’ll see below, each set offers us a previously unpublished gem, which makes these audios even more delightful.

In case you haven’t seen it before, on the right is an advertising flyer from that weekend. The Cars shared the bill with The Good Rats. I’m not sure who was the headliner; the way the ad is designed makes it look like The Cars were the big draw, but they were a fairly new band at the time (though the members themselves were not unknown). I think The Good Rats were still enjoying the regional success that followed their 1974 and 1976 albums, and they were coming up from New York, so they might have been a bigger deal? Oh, and each of The Cars’ sets was only about 1/2 an hour long, which seems more like a warm-up than a main event.

Okay, I got off track there, because I’m sure it doesn’t matter who was the headliner, but I was trying to imagine the order of the night. I’m going with The Cars, then The Good Rats, then repeat. There, I feel better now that I have that settled. Haha!

No more goofing off — let’s dive right in. Here’s the first set list, with the audio below:

  • 00:00 Leave Or Stay
  • 03:04 Cool Fool
  • 05:48 You Can’t Hold On Too Long
  • 08:54 Don’t Cha Stop
  • 12:25 My Best Friend’s Girl
  • 16:23 Gimme Little Sign (Brenton Woods cover)*
  • 19:40 I Don’t Want To (Elliot Easton on vocals)
  • 22:18 Strawberry Moonlight
  • 25:16 You’re All I’ve Got Tonight
  • 29:54 Just What I Needed

Some of my reactions to this set:

  • A lot of times when you go to shows, the crowd doesn’t seem to pay too much attention to the opener. The band might start, but people are still milling about, greeting friends, ordering drinks, and so on. I’m sure that was the case here, too, but the recording also picks up the sounds of cheers and whistling from the crowd at the beginning. I love it!
  • You have to know that I am thrilled that these recordings have come out of hiding — thrilled. But… there is one eensy weensy thing I wish I could change: I noticed that most of the transitions between songs have been edited out. That’s a little bit of a bummer because I feel like we can often glean several tasty bites of mood and personality from those breaks. Oh well! Not everyone’s as obsessed as we are. Better to have it with some edits than to not have it at all!
  • Let’s discuss the duo vocals on “You Can’t Hold On Too Long.” I have to admit it makes me wrinkle my nose a bit. Is it because I’m too in love with the album version? Or is it more that Ric’s voice clashes too much with Ben’s in this case? I mean, obviously there are many recordings where the two share the vocal duties successfully, but the disparity in their styles just doesn’t seem to blend well here.
  • I wish I could hear the what’s going on in the background after “You Can’t Hold On…” because I want to know what Ben is responding to when he says, “It’s not called that at all.” Sounds like he’s feeling squirrely!
  • I love Greg’s keyboard riff behind the chorus of “My Best Friend’s Girl” — it’s catchy! On the other hand, the absence of Elliot’s guitar solo is tragic. I’m glad that was eventually remedied; it totally changed the whole vibe of the song.
  • The big surprise in this set is the band’s cover of “Gimme Little Sign” by Brenton Wood (which I also carved out and posted separately). It’s been known in the Fanorama for a long time that they played this in their early days, but this was the first time I heard it. It’s great! Ric takes the lead vocals, but Ben’s voice is prominent in the chorus. Not sure who is doing the falsetto backing vocals, but there’s strong speculation that it’s Elliot. Hopefully someday we’ll have a definitive answer!
  • Here’s another recording of “I Don’t Want To” with Elliot on lead vocals. I think there is only one other published performance of this one, captured during the March 21, 1977, show when they opened for Bob Seger. Man, I love this song! I still need to get a lyrics post done for this — SO funny! Hey wait… there’s that high voice in the back again, but it sounds like Ben? Hmmm, the falsetto mystery continues…
  • By the end of the set the crowd is fully involved; you can hear them screaming and cheering as the band launches into “Just What I Needed” as their last song of the set. Hard to tell if it’s an encore but I would guess it is. Ben still hasn’t got those lyrics down all the way (LOL) but his adlibs are undeniably yummy. Elliot’s guitar melody during the chorus, which is rather hidden in the studio version, is front and center in this recording, and it freaking ROCKS.
  • “Thank you very much, we’ll see you in the neighborhood. Bye bye!” — Ben ❤

Whew! What an electrifying ride!

I wonder what they did while The Good Rats were playing? Probably changed their clothes, had some drinks and a few smokes, maybe put on a hat? Maybe they held court in dark corners and chatted up the girls.

This is a little bit of a detour, but if you’re a visual person like me you might get a kick out of it. I recently isolated a portion from an old Boston television program that showed footage of the inside of The Rat. If you have a few extra minutes, click on this video for a peek at what the venue probably looked like when The Cars were playing there.

Okay, let’s move on to their second performance that night:

  • 00:00 Bye Bye Love (Ric Ocasek on vocals)
  • 04:20 You Can Have ‘Em (aka Sleepy Wasted Afternoon or Blue Moon Saloon)
  • 07:21 Ta Ta Wayo Wayo
  • 10:08 Jezebel*
  • 15:48 Take What You Want
  • 21:41 My Best Friend’s Girl
  • 26:06 Something Else (Elliot Easton on vocals; Eddie Cochran cover)
  • 28:50 Just What I Needed
  • 32:35 Cool Fool (encore)

Let’s jump right into it:

  • The guys start off with a sizzler! (Mmm, Ben on the harmonies during “Bye Bye Love.”) Ric seems to loosen up a bit vocally on this performance so it’s not too unpleasant to have him taking the lead. Greg is killing it on keys, too.
  • I know I don’t comment about him much, but man, David’s playing really catches me in “You Can Have ‘Em.” He’s always so steady and solid back there, and I certainly can’t escape his perfect fills and flourishes here. Dude is on fire!
  • This set offers another tasty — and previously unpublished — surprise: “Jezebel!” I’ve loved this tune since I first heard Cap’n Swing’s demo of it, but I did not know that Ric had held onto it to include in The Cars’ repertoire. I definitely like the CS version better, although Ben’s vocals are luscious, no doubt about it. This song is great, too, because it is one of the few Cars songs that gives Elliot room to really stretch out and shine.
  • Elliot puts in another blistering performance on the mic with “Something Else.” That cover is so perfectly suited for him, and Greg’s scrumptious saxophone adds even more heat to it.
  • They attempt to close out the show with “Just What I Needed,” but the audience is wild for an encore. I particularly relate to the shrieking girls, who you know just want to see more of Ben. Haha! They return and launch into “Cool Fool” with swagger and energy. The crowd loves it.

And then it’s over. Another half an hour of raw talent from a band on the verge of changing the face of music. How fortunate we are to get to listen to the past!

I’ve given you a lot to unpack so I’ll leave you to it. Let me know what other bits and pieces stand out to you from these two terrific performances. Have fun!

*previously unpublished

Cover image photo credit: Larry Bouchie


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

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel and tap on the little bell to get a notification when I upload something new. Also, I’ve started keeping a playlist of the live shows in chronological order. You can check it out here:

Live at The Rat: the Evolution Continues

1977.04.28 ad for The RatFrom what I can tell, this was The Cars’ fourth weekend gig at The Rathskeller in Boston. They played Thursday through Sunday, April 28-May 1, 1977, sharing the bill with The Good Rats (a New York band with a cool history). It is unclear which night was recorded here.

The flyer advertisement I used at the beginning of the video includes a photo of the early band, before Greg Hawkes joined in January, 1977. The guy on the far right is Danny Louis, the original keyboard player. Elaine Hawkes once commented that she thought the reason the guys were still using this photo to advertise the band was because they were too broke to get new promo shots taken right away.

Another note about the video: I’m not sure if the photos by Joanie Lindstrom are from this actual Rat performance. They look awfully similar to the Robert Post set that was taken in early February, so they could be from that.

Okay, let’s check out the show. Here’s the set list:

  • 0:00 “Just What I Needed”
  • 3:30 “I’m In Touch With Your World”
  • 7:05 “Strawberry Moonlight”
  • 10:08 “Lover and A Holiday”
  • 13:50 “Bye Bye Love” (Ric on vocals)
  • 18:15 “Wake Me Up” (!!)
  • 22:00 “Cool Fool”
  • 24:54 “Looking to See You” (an unreleased surprise)
  • 29:08 “Don’t Cha Stop”
  • 32:45 “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”

There’s a bit of a rocky start, and it sounds like Ben jumps in just a little too soon, but he corrects himself and then away he goes. A pretty cool show here: more fiddling with the instrumentation and the vocal delivery, and the songs move another notch closer to their final versions. There’s a little feedback problem in “Strawberry Moonlight” — eek! — and Ric on vocals for “Bye Bye Love” — double eek! The live version of “Wake Me Up” is a gem and I’m so glad to have it, in spite of the poor audio quality. ❤

To me, the most notable thing about this show is the song labeled “Looking to See You.” This was completely new to me! The originator of the audio file isn’t even sure if that’s what it’s called because, as far as we know, there are no other published recordings of it. It’s a great song! I assume it was written by Ric, but I know nothing about it. Maybe others can fill in the details?

Enjoy the show!


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

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel and tap on the little bell to get notifications of when I upload new stuff. I’ve started keeping a playlist of the live shows in chronological order. You can check it out here:

Live at Boston University: Short and Sweet

I recently received a treasure trove of live shows from a very cool friend and Cars fan, along with permission to share them. Because it makes the most sense, and because I’m a big nerd, I’ve decided to upload them in chronological order to my YouTube channel, and post a little write-up here with whatever little deets I can dig up about the performance, along with my own $.02.

The first one I did was The Cars opening for Bob Seger at the Boston Music Hall on March 21, 1977. If you missed that one, you can read it here: The Cars and Bob Seger: Yay for Snowstorms!

stephenshermanbostonphotog-1568865106022
Photo credit: Stephen Sherman, 1977

This second audio is another oldie: The Cars at Boston University. There was no specific date for this show when it was given to me, other than March of 1977. I think it must have been recorded sometime toward the end of the month because both Ric and Ben mention Maxanne Sartori leaving WBCN, and her last day was April 1, 1977. This is just a short four-song set, but it sounds like it was part of a larger concert with multiple bands (based on the blurb from the emcee at the end).

The Cars kick it off with “Just What I Needed.” It’s an interesting version. In some of the earlier Cars recordings Ben seems to mimic Ric’s low, draggy vocal style, and he kind of starts off that way here, but then I love how bits of natural Ben break out here and there. It’s a treat, too, to get to hear Elliot’s guitar parts so clearly.  Obviously the song was still evolving at this point (though I do think Ben flubbed the words at :53, as opposed to it being a lyric that was later changed). I can’t tell for sure who is singing back up… is that Ric, maybe? It doesn’t really sound like any of the guys to me. Oh, and I did click backwards a few times to listen to Ben’s little laugh at about 1:45.

When Ric takes over the mic after that song, it’s really cool to hear how relaxed he sounds. He drops the clues for us about the date and purpose of the show, and then introduces “I’m In Touch With Your World.” It doesn’t sound like Greg was incorporating all of his instrumental gew-gaws quite yet, although I do hear a toot or two on the whistle and a few other odd little sounds here and there. I love it!

From there, Ben leads the band into “Cool Fool” and there is no trace of Ric impressions… it’s a full-on vocal Ben fest. The whole performance smokes: Elliot is off the chain, ripping it up left and right. David can’t be thrown off the beat for anything, and Greg holds it all up with his subtle keyboard work and the reappearance of that whistle. Dudes must have been sweating after that one!

maxanne
Maxanne Sartori. Image retrieved from the internet.

As the crowd swells with cheers of approval, I adore Ben’s response: “Thanks! Okay… this one’s our bye-bye song and for our very special friend, Maxanne.” The band jumps into “Strawberry Moonlight” with a raucous energy; the perfect way to end their set.

The last little snippet of audio features an announcer indicating that The Cars are just one of the bands that will be playing that day, but then he gets cut off and it’s a bummer because I feel sure he would have identified the occasion for the concert. Oh well, it’s better than nothing. I have my fingers crossed that someone reading this might have memories of that show they’d like to share with us. That would be cool!

The Cars and Bob Seger: Yay for Snowstorms!

So we know the story about Roy Thomas Baker driving out to see The Cars play in a snowstorm at the end of 1977, and everyone shaking hands on going to England with him to produce the first album. Well, that wasn’t the first time The Great Snowflake proved fortuitous for the band. Mother Nature gave our boys a little gift at the beginning of that year when they were just starting out.

Bob_Seger_-_Night_MovesIn March of 1977, Bob Seger was riding high on the huge success of his recently released breakthrough album, Night Moves. Though it was his ninth studio album, it was the first one to catapult him into nationwide success and his first to go platinum. He had booked a show at the Music Hall in Boston for Friday, March 18, with Derringer as his opening act. [Nerd alert: Seger had not headlined in Boston before. Another first for him!]

Friday arrived and Derringer opened the show as planned, but Bob got stuck. Heavy snowfall prevented his plane from landing and he was forced to fly back to New York. Apparently Derringer had finished their set before the postponement announcement came, and, amazingly, they played another rockin’ set before the fans were sent home.

The concert was rescheduled for Monday, March 21, but Derringer was not able to play that date for some reason. I didn’t do deep research on the ‘why’ behind that because what matters is that the opener slot was left vacant. Even up to the day of the show, the replacement act had not been announced: the newspaper ad stated, “It is expected that a local band will open tonight.”

stephenshermanbostonphotog-1568864708165
The Cars by Stephen Sherman, 1977; shared with permission.

The Cars were still fairly new at that time — in terms of the combination of members, anyway. Greg had joined the band sometime in January as the fifth and final Car part (groan!), and their first live show all together was at The Rat on February 7. In Joe Milliken’s book, Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars, we learned that band manager Fred Lewis convinced music promoter Don Law to let The Cars slip onto the bill for that Seger show, though they only had a handful of gigs in the bag.

Obviously, this was a terrific stroke of luck for The Cars. Not only did it give them a chance to reach a greater audience, but it also put them on the radar of the bigger wigs in the music industry. Yay for snowstorms!

So let’s get to the actual recording. I wish it was video footage! Still, I am so grateful for this auditory treat. The person who captured the concert on tape showed up just a bit late, so we miss a smidge of the first song. The Cars’ set lasted just under 30 minutes, and included:

  1. “Bye Bye Love” with Ric on vocals.
  2. “I Don’t Want To,” sung by Elliot.
  3. “Leave or Stay”
  4. “You Can Have ‘Em,” also known as “Sleepy Wasted Afternoon.” [Sweet Ben jumping the starting gun! ❤ ]
  5. “Don’t Cha Stop” (called “Don’t You Stop”), with a Greg synth riff in place of EE’s later solo and some slippery vocal timing on the chorus.
  6. “Come Back Down”
  7. “Strawberry Moonlight”

I couldn’t find a written review of The Cars’ performance (I guess Bob Seger was terrific!), but the crowd sounds appreciative of the band in the audio file. I also don’t know the number of people actually in the audience, but I think the seating capacity of the Music Hall was around 3,500, which was quite a bit more than The Rat held. Haha!

A few notes:

  • It’s cool — and a little strange! — to experience these early incarnations of “Bye Bye Love” and “Don’t Cha Stop.”
  • We definitely hear a little more addressing of the crowd than Ric usually participated in during a live show.
  • I love the little bits of banter that Ben sneaks in, like when he mentions the ‘strange people up there in the balcony’ around 12:25.
  • And is that Greg that says, “Good Lord! Look at that!” right before Ben’s comment?
  • And speaking of Greg, listen for his badass saxophone work!
  • Also, don’t miss Ben’s introduction to “Come Back Down” at about 16:12.

Oh, and about “I Don’t Want To”… I think this is an original Cars’ song because of the way Ric introduced it, even though I’ve never heard of it referred to anywhere else in The Cars’ discography. I wonder who wrote it? Probably Ric, I know, but it seems like something Elliot could have penned. I’ll have to do a lyrics post for it, too, because this song is hilarious. And does anyone else feel their heart rate spike when Ben sings, “bay-be bay-be bay-be, bay-bay!” or is it just me? I think that’s my favorite part of the whole show.

Okay, your turn! Click below to listen to one of the earliest published recordings of The Cars. Enjoy!

#CelebratingBenjaminOrr