Kicking off the month of March with something we’re so lucky to have: new footage!
And when I say “new” I mean brand-spanking, never-before-published NEW FOOTAGE. I’m so grateful to my cool collector friend who generously dug through the stacks to pull this to the surface for us!
I’ll be uploading more from this show (along with some behind-the-scenes deets) later this month, but for now, please enjoy the ORR Band’s performance of “Candy-O” at the Beach Club in Salisbury, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1998.
Hey friends, happy Valentine’s Day! Sweeter than chocolate, prettier than flowers… I’m giving you a yummy handful of holiday hearts in the form of a new video!
I’ve uploaded Ben’s performance at the Eureka Festival in Tarentum, Pennsylvania, on July 11, 1998. I’m still digging up background information on the show, but you don’t need my scribblings to be able to enjoy this rare footage. Have at it! ❤
P.S. I’ve also separated out and uploaded the backstage bits so those who are freaky-obsessed like me can more easily watch and re-watch it and analyze every.single.bit of it. Dig in!
On October 26, 1978, The Cars opened for Cheap Trick at the Selland Arena in Fresno, California. From the looks of this newspaper article in the Fresno Bee on October 20, it was a highly anticipated appearance.
What a treat to know that we can still experience that show!
First, the video. You’ve probably seen this before. Sometime at the end of 2018 (I think Octoberish?) this partial footage was shared on YouTube by Fresno Media Restoration (FMR). By the end of 2020 it had disappeared, but luckily, fan Gwyneth Jeffer had the foresight to save it before it was gone. She passed it on to me a while ago to upload it to my YouTube channel and I’m just now getting around to it — yay!
FMR had published the footage in two parts, but I’ve taken the liberty to combine them here in the order of the set. It’s just over 20 minutes long all together, which is about half of the full show. The video shows, to varying degrees, seven of the ten songs of the night. Here’s what they’ve got:
00:47 “Good Times Roll”
04:26 “Since I Held You”
07:57 “Candy-O” (incomplete)
09:48 “My Best Friend’s Girl” (incomplete)
13:41 “Bye Bye Love” (incomplete)
17:23 “Just What I Needed”
21:00 “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” (incomplete)
Take a look:
The guys are so tiny and the lighting is a struggle, and watching it makes me feel like I couldn’t afford a ticket so I had to sneak peeks through a missing board in the fence. Haha! Any view of them live is so great, though. We can find lots of things to gush about!
Ric’s cool as a cucumber, as always.
It’s an absolute treat to get a nice long look at David playing drums, and…
…Ben’s gorgeous in all red and his little black boots! Did you see (at about 11:30) when he moved off to the side to let Elliot have the spotlight during “My Best Friend’s Girl?” I love when he does that!
Elliot deserves having all eyes on him during that epic solo. They catch him during “Just What I Needed,” too, and I’m so glad — EE’s energy is hitting the ceiling!
We don’t get to see enough of Greg, but there’s a great moment of him in the spotlight during “Bye Bye Love.”
Let’s just focus on Ben here for another minute. He drives me crazy with his little head tosses, those badass rock star poses, and all that 1978 pout. He’s such a natural up there, addressing every corner of the audience, bold and upfront when he chooses to be. He sounds freaking amazing, too. And while Elliot’s energy is obvious in the way he jams his way through the songs, Ben simply exudes it, just standing there. It’s mesmerizing. I think my very favorite little part is at 20:30, when he pulls a stork pose at the end of JWIN. Dude’s on FIRE.
I’ve been wondering why the footage is interrupted by picture fills and dropouts. At first I thought maybe large portions of the original tape were damaged and that’s the best FMR could do to make it whole. Definitely possible, but now I’ve come up with a different little theory.
Friend and fan Jon Mortas mentioned on Facebook that the video was shot with a super 8 camera, and I figure this may account for the frequent intermissions of still photos with the live action. I am NO camera techie, but from what I understand from my cursory research, super 8 film spools could only hold 3 to 5 minutes of footage at a time, so the camera operator would have to stop filming, swap out the cartridge, and then resume recording, accounting for some loss of live footage. There’s a good chance that that is the case here, and that FMR added in still photos (or screenshots) to fill in the gaps so the audio track could continue uninterrupted. This is all just my speculation, of course.
Happily, the rest of the show is not lost to us — at least, not to our ears. I’ve uploaded the full audio recording to my channel for our listening pleasure. Here’s the complete set list:
01:08“Good Times Roll”
04:50 “Moving In Stereo”
10:30 “Since I Held You”
17:00 “My Best Friend’s Girl”
25:45 “Bye Bye Love”
30:20 “Don’t Cha Stop”
33:56 “Just What I Needed”
38:15 “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” (encore)
It’s so great how clear Elliot’s guitar comes through. I think that’s actually my favorite part. And I love the little bits of chatter, but I can’t always tell who says what. I mean, I’m pretty positive that it’s Ben that says ‘thank you’ at 21:14, but does he also say ‘Fresno?’ It sounds weird. Haha! Or at the end, who is encouraging the crowd to “wear a badge for the future?” Is that Ric??
The best is when they come out for the encore and Ben says, “Thank you down here, thank you up there!” (around 38:15). Oh, one more… I can’t make out what Ben’s saying at 33:55; sounds like the recording got clipped a little. Dang it! Oh well. In spite of that and a few other minor flaws, this is an outstanding performance! I hope that all who took the Fresno Bee’s advice would agree. ❤
How about you? What is your favorite video moment? How about the audio? Let me know in the comments below, or via YouTube or Facebook. Enjoy!
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”
“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.
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!
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.
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!
The Cars at the Metro by Michael Grecco. December 7, 1982
Benjamin Orr at the Metro by Michael Grecco. December 7, 1982
Ric Ocasek at the Metro by Michael Grecco. December 7, 1982
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 Boston Globe, December 6, 1982
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.
The Boston Globe ~ December 10, 1982
One more blip of that benefit, confirming that the purpose was to financially support NY Rocker, appeared just a couple of days later:
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?
1982 invitation front, courtesy of Derek Szabo. Shared with permission.
1982 invitation back, courtesy of Derek Szabo. Shared with permission.
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:
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:
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
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!
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:
From 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:
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:
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.
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!
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!
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.
In 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.”
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:
“Bye Bye Love” with Ric on vocals.
“I Don’t Want To,” sung by Elliot.
“Leave or Stay”
“You Can Have ‘Em,” also known as “Sleepy Wasted Afternoon.” [Sweet Ben jumping the starting gun! ❤ ]
“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.
“Come Back Down”
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!