Big People in Rehearsal!

hat from jeffYesterday I published a video of Big People rehearsing “Bye Bye Love” at Crossover Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. Recorded in 1999, the footage was captured by Derek St. Holmes’ late wife, Rhonda, and includes a peek at Derek’s four beautiful kiddos.

In spite of it being a bit blurry, you can really see the genuine affection that these guys felt for each other. Their goofy smiles, side glances, and mugging for the camera reflect the completely relaxed atmosphere and their confidence as friends and band mates. Then there’s the music — the music! Even in practice, these guys are killing it!

And again I am struck by the colossal amount of talent stuffed into that room; all five musicians were (and are) absolute powerhouse performers, as we know. To see them jam like this is glorious!

  • I love Derek’s jaunty vibe as he be-bops a bit and shoots grins at his children. He looks to be on top of the world.
  • Ben seems completely content, too. Though he must be playing this song for the upteenth million time, he’s clearly enjoying himself, the way he smiles at Derek and watches Pat play the keyboard solo.
  • Pat, with his rock-and-roll hair! He covers both the guitar and keys with style.
  • It’s funny to have Liberty and Jeff in the same camera frame: Liberty is crackling with energy and humor while Jeff is placid and smiling shyly as he nails those lead solos.
  • And at the end? How cute is it that they imitate the lead-in to “Moving In Stereo?” That just cracks me up.

I’ve watched it over and over and over. I love it!

I  received this treasure from Jeff Carlisi. He had told me back in February that he had found some stuff to send me, but then the pandemic hit and everyone was laying low for a while. He mailed me a package at the end of the summer. I was excited to share it as part of my October #CelebratingBenjaminOrr tribute weekend, but nope. According to the tracking, the package got within seven hours of me, but the post office listed it as ‘in transit’ for days and days after that (and it’s never surfaced). I was so bummed!

But once again Jeff displayed his generosity to me: in the middle of his hectic schedule he offered to burn another DVD for me — and this time he sent is via UPS. Though it arrived too late for my original plan, I was so stoked to finally have it in my hands! And he sent me an original Big People hat (pictured above)!  How can I ever say ‘thank you’ enough to Jeff? He’s just the BEST.

So anyway, here’s the video I posted on my channel. I hope you love it as much as I do. More coming soon, I promise! ❤

The Final Interview

I’m not sure of the exact date, but this week marks the 20th anniversary of The Cars’ final interview.

From what I understand, Ben flew right from this interview in Atlanta, Georgia, to Palmer, Alaska, for his last performance, playing the August 25th show at the Alaska State Fair. If that’s the case, it is reasonable to assume that he flew out of Atlanta late on the 23rd and arrived on the 24th, allowing time to rest and prepare for their gig. It’s also possible that they did the interview on the 24th and then flew out that day; I’m just not sure.

Here are some things I do know:

  • The interview took place at Turner Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, where Ben was living with Julie Snider.
  • Well-known Boston writer Brett Milano moderated the event. 
  • Jeff Carlisi, Ben’s Big People band mate, was there at Ben’s request.
  • The footage was released on October 24, 2000, exactly three weeks after Ben’s death, by Rhino Home Video. It was a special feature on a DVD called The Cars Live. 
  • This reunion was the first time the members of The Cars had assembled in over a decade. 

full band final interview cleveland browns david ric ben elliot gregAs told in Joe Milliken’s book, Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars, everyone went out to dinner together the night before the interview and spent time reconnecting. Although David, Greg, Ric, and Elliot were all aware that Ben was sick before they arrived, each of them has since expressed that they were taken off guard when they first saw him, having to face the finality of the devastating progression of his illness. Still, the men fell back into step and determined to keep things light and positive. 

The fact that they were all together again touched a deep chord in the hearts of Cars fans. These five men had labored together to reach the highest heights of fame and fortune only to have their brotherly bond disintegrate. But this reunion brought peace. By all public accounts, amends were made.  

I mentioned that this interview was included on The Cars Live. That DVD is the official release of  The Cars’ performance for Germany’s pop music show, Musikladen (recorded in November of 1978 and aired in 1979). It is apparent that the band members watched that concert before the camera started rolling, as Milano opens by asking them how it felt to see that show 22 years later. Greg jumps in and the conversation starts rolling.

The guys cover some varied ground in the nearly 50 minutes of discussion. They talk about that European experience in 1978, go through the band’s history and early days, and reminisce on owning their own studio. They laugh over cover songs they used to do and share what they are most proud of when they look back at their time with The Cars. There are some obvious edits to the footage which leave you hanging a bit, most notably at 33:26, when I wish we could hear more of Ben’s thoughts on the duality of his life as a rock star vs. a regular guy.

Their interplay seems very much the way it always used to be, with Ric doing the lion’s share of the talking and Elliot right behind. David and Greg add their funny quips and Ben is largely silent, just like the old days. Ben’s illness does cast a pall, though, as you can see that he is very frail and tired. Still, he is attentive and involved, and chimes in when he wants to, and from time to time he flashes that gorgeous smile.  

I know this can be really, really hard to watch, as Benjamin is so physically altered, but I wanted to honor this important event in his history and in the history of The Cars.

One fan left a comment on YouTube sharing that she listened to the interview with earbuds while doing chores and she was better able to focus on the content of the discussion. I think that is a terrific idea for those that can’t get past the visual change in Ben. 

But let me also encourage you. Ben was strong right up to the end. He wanted things to continue on as normally as possible, until they couldn’t anymore. He didn’t want special treatment, he didn’t complain, he never faltered. He wasn’t ashamed of his appearance, he didn’t even fully conceal his eyes. He didn’t hide in the shadows. He desired peace, and he desired to give pleasure to his fans.

Though his body is ravaged, the strength of his incredible spirit shines beautifully in this final interview. I hope you can embrace it, too. ❤


A side note about Ben’s final performance:

I learned this past winter that there was a discrepancy over the date of the last show Ben performed. Joe Milliken and I wrote this clarification for the Let’s Go! Facebook page and published it on January 3, 2020.

On October 5, 2000, ABC News published an obituary for Ben that, among other details, claimed that he played his last show with Big People on September 27, 2000, in Alaska, less than a week before he passed away. Various other media outlets also picked up that information and it has been widely circulated – and relied upon by Ben/Cars’ fans – ever since.

Unfortunately, it recently came to our attention that this information is not accurate. Big People was actually booked to play at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, Alaska, on August 25, 2000, not in late September. We have since clarified with Big People band member, Jeff Carlisi, that Ben’s last performance was indeed on that August 25 date. He also added that Big People did play one more show on September 27, however, it was in Texas and Ben was not there. It was the only show that he missed, which is indicated in the book.

Although we surely want to bring this correct information to light, we are also distressed, as pieces of the narrative in “Let’s Go!” relied upon the previously circulated news information, along with individual interviews, to describe Ben’s last days, including anchoring the date of his final interview with The Cars. We are continuing to flesh out more accurate details, and will also be working with our publisher to see what corrections can be made to the book moving forward.

We appreciate everyone’s understanding and of course, we continue to strive towards ultimately painting the clearest and most accurate picture of Ben’s amazing life. ~ Joe and Donna

The time has come for Turbocharge!

movie posterIt’s finally here, people: Turbocharge: The Unauthorized Story of The Cars is available on Amazon Prime! Regular followers of the podcast will know just how much my co-host Dave Curry and I have longed for this day! The journey goes back over a decade…

Dave remembers when this film was completed in 2008, and there were posts popping up on social media about some screenings in New York. For many Cars lovers, the thrust of the movie was perplexing and unclear. A website to promote the film was also launched, featuring some bizarre clips and puzzling images that could only serve to mystify fans even more. Dave’s curiosity was piqued and never quite subsided, even as chatter about the movie eventually cooled. In time, it seemed the reality of this little film was sinking into the depths of Fanorama folklore, with only odd blips of its existence evidenced on its equally fading website.

But like Gage coming back to life in Pet Sematary, awareness resurfaced when the writer of the film, David Juskow, brought up Turbocharge on his personal podcast in December of 2017.  Its revival spurred Dave into action, and he began a little Twitter campaign prodding Juskow to dust off the film and share it with us for review on our NiGHT THOUGHTS Podcast. His efforts were successful and Dave and I were allowed a private online screening. We were electrified by the movie, recognizing it as a hilarious and wonderful tribute to The Cars, and we strongly encouraged (begged?) Juskow to reconsider releasing it to the rest of the world. And so here we are!

**Before I get into my review/history of Turbocharge I am going to issue a DISCLAIMER: I know there’s been lots of recent discussion about who we would cast in a serious movie about The Cars. Let me state unequivocally that this movie is NOT a serious movie about The Cars! While much of the band’s true history is represented, this is a parody, an exaggeration, and at times a downright fabrication of events for comedic purposes. As Dave Curry said on our podcast, “In order to enjoy this film, you have to set aside what you know about Ric Ocasek, Benjamin Orr, Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes, and David Robinson, and you have to accept them as these characters in this film.” If you can do that, you will love this movie!**

badassbenjamin

Created more as an act of rebellion, New York comedian, writer, and filmmaker David Juskow was fed up with the stereotypical ‘serious’ rock biopic. One night in 2005, after nearly gagging on the cheesy dialog and overbearing drama in Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story, he had had enough. It was the final push he needed to pursue his own project.

“I made Turbocharge out of spite, let’s just say that. It is completely spoofing the genre of any biopic that’s been made of a music band. That is exactly what it is,” Juskow told me with finality.

It’s no secret that The Cars were crazy-popular throughout the late 70s and on into the 80s, but intuitive fans recognize that they were never ones to really push themselves into the spotlight. No exhaustive merchandising, far-reaching world tours, or relentless appearances on the late night television circuit. As a whole, they were a low-key and private band, holding the media at arms’ length and creating an air of mystery about their deeper identity. Did they have a story to tell?

Juskow believed they did.

Exaggerated personalities, terrible wigs, and an unorthodox plot make this hilarious film the breath of fresh air the genre needs. Narrated by a snowman a la Rankin/Bass, the story revolves around The Cars’ reputation for being robotic and boring during live shows, and their supposed determination to correct that perception with the fans. Running alongside that thread is the assertion that bassist Ben Orr was secretly plotting to wrest the control of the group from co-founder and songwriter Ric Ocasek. In an unexpected twist, Phil Collins is delightfully in the middle of it all.

Sure, Juskow pokes fun at the band, but he’s not vicious. He respects all five members very much.  “Nothing about the movie is mean-spirited,” he assured me. “I can’t make a movie like that. It’s always got to have goodness in it.” And it’s not like he had to make a bunch of stuff up; Juskow would soon discover that The Cars’ own history easily leant itself to comedic treatment.

79423416_1228562430677576_83295135449743360_nOn the whole, David Juskow is a man of strong, immediate emotions paired with a very thin verbal filter, pretty standard on the streets of Brooklyn (“People either love me, or they really, really dislike me,” he laughs). Fortunately he grew up in the riotous era of late 1970s television and he generally sees the world through sitcom lenses. Juskow takes timeless gags and bits from those classic shows and weaves them into his standup act. His penchant for spotting the ridiculous moment, his ironic delivery, and his spot-on celebrity impressions soften his edges with his friends and fans. Those talents also lead him to create great comedy.

The idea for Turbocharge actually materialized in the mid-80s during Juskow’s college days. The Heartbeat City album took his ears by storm. He remembered, “I thought it was the greatest album I had ever heard in my life, and ‘You Might Think’ – the song itself – just completely spoke to me. I went backwards from there and started worshipping all of their stuff. The videos made no difference to me, it really was the music, and I just really got into that Heartbeat City album. Greg Hawkes’ influence in that stuff really worked for me and that’s why I really liked them. They just had such interesting melodies and electronic keyboards. And then I was just obsessed with everything they did.”

Lightning hit in the summer of 1985. Juskow’s voice escalated with emotion as he explained, “I remember exactly where I was during Live Aid. I was at this party in Rochester, New York, and I was waiting and waiting for The Cars to come on.  Everybody was outside but I’m just waiting for them to be on, and then they get cut off by Phil Collins! And I was like, ‘What?! How could you do that to my boys?!’

“Being a huge fan of The Cars at that time I was so angry that they got shafted that it turned to comedy in my mind. I was like, ‘Someday I’m going to depict that!’”

Two decades later, the time had come. The 20th anniversary of Live Aid unearthed Juskow’s earlier grudge over the Phil Collins fiasco, and that, coupled with his disgust over the Def Leppard movie, prompted him to approach his good friend, television industry veteran Memo Salazar. “I said to him, ‘Let’s just do this. It will be stupid, but it will be brilliant… in a way,’” he laughed.

Memo said he might do it if Juskow wrote the script, and so it was on. Juskow spent the next several months researching The Cars’ history, confirming things he already knew and then going deeper. And the further he dug, the funnier it became. The peculiarity of Ric and Ben’s early partnership, The Cars ‘trashing’ a hotel by leaving pictures askew, the perceived disaster of the Panorama album… it was the oddities in the band’s journey that propelled everything forward with the movie.

1984 by Brian Brainerd backstage at McNichols Arena
The Cars by Brian Brainard, 1984

Not only that, but the band members’ public personas were ripe for humorous distortion. David Robinson, the consummate ladies’ man – you just had to have that character brought out. And Ric’s exaggerated awe of anyone who does anything ultra-creative, Elliot’s stony seriousness that was masking his sharp wit, and the sweet-faced Greg, who surely must have been hiding a side of snark behind that smile.

“You couldn’t even make a serious biography about these guys. It would have to be hilarious. They are a true rock and roll band who are a bunch of nerds, and I knew I must tell this story in a nerdy way… and yet we all know they rock.”

Juskow does take an obvious amount of creative license, but many of his conjectural elements are a weighty mix of fact and thoughtful contemplation. He fleshes out underlying fan controversies… questions like why didn’t Ben sing more? Was Ben ambitious? Did Ric and Ben reconcile before Ben passed away? Juskow speculated about what might have been bubbling up in Ben. “It’s weird. He clearly has a better singing voice. He’s clearly more attractive. And in my mind I’m saying, ‘what’s going on behind the scenes? Why don’t I do a movie just saying how angry this guy is? He doesn’t have any songwriting talent so he gets screwed.’”

“Everybody takes liberties for drama purposes,” Juskow went on. “What would you have if you didn’t have a fun antagonist? C’mon, you need someone to get mad about Andy Warhol: ‘You hired this guy? Are you kidding me?’”

And there’s the difference: Juskow’s forays into embellishment are not designed to evoke emotion with the cookie-cutter ‘climb to fame’ struggles of the typical rockumentary… they’re just damn funny.

The cast is largely made up from Juskow’s comedy family and ‘friends of friends,’ including Kevin Kash, Rachel Feinstein, Jonathan Katz, Irene Bremis, H John Benjamin, John Samuel Jordan, David Engel, Tom Shillue, and Dave Attell. Juskow himself plays Ric Ocasek. Out of necessity, the lines were few and far between for his character. “There was no way I could direct and be in the movie; it was too complicated. It was way easier to just be silent and ‘tortured.’”

The soundtrack includes music from Eric Barao, The Cautions, Frank Stallone, and a couple of Cars-flavored tunes written by Juskow himself.

As I mentioned above, the film originally opened in 2008 with a few private screenings in the New York area, but Juskow didn’t pursue much more exposure than that. He felt it was a bit of a niche film and was afraid there wouldn’t be much of an audience out there, but we know there is! The playful humor and witty references will hit home with Cars fans and lovers of 80s culture alike. You can check it out on Amazon Prime by clicking here: Turbocharge! Watch it, and then find me on Facebook or comment below to tell me what you think!

To learn even more, visit the Turbocharge Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/turbochargethemovie/, and check out David Juskow’s comedy podcast on Soundcloud here: https://soundcloud.com/davejuskow

ONE

Tonight She Comes

I would guess that 1985 was a crazy year for The Cars.

They spent the last half of 1983 living in England while recording Heartbeat City. They toured pretty much from April through September of 1984 behind that album, and spent time shooting four videos and playing for MTV’s “A Private Affair.” On the surface, it might appear that The Cars had taken a well-justified break in 1985, only publicly performing at Live Aid in July of that year, but that was certainly not the case.

Closer inspection reveals that the members of the band were going gangbusters, creatively. Elliot had released his solo album and was touring behind it; surely Benjamin was writing and working on his; and Ric was definitely spending time in the studio with his second solo effort, This Side of Paradise (which Greg, Benjamin and Elliot all appear on!). And it was during this time that the decision was made to release a ‘greatest hits’ album.

Makes sense: the band’s popularity was riding high with five American Top 40 singles from Heartbeat City, the exposure from Live Aid (where “Drive” was used as the background music to an iconic video montage of images depicting the famine in Ethiopia), and claiming the honor of “Video of the Year” from MTV’s inaugural music awards. It was a perfect time to expose this 80s generation to the full scope of The Cars’ creative history.

greatesthitsfrontOn October 25, 1985, Elektra released The Cars Greatest Hits. It contained twelve songs (a nice sampling from across the band’s first five albums) including a remixed version of “I’m Not The One” from the Shake It Up album. Along with those, a previously unrecorded track was offered: an entirely new song, “Tonight She Comes.” Ric tells how it came about:

“The record company wanted a new track for the greatest hits album, and I was in the middle of recording my solo album, and it was one of the songs that I didn’t use in the solo album at that point, and we just did that single… Actually, I was in the studio upstairs doing the one record and then we had another one going downstairs at the same time. That was like a one-off single that we just all came together and did and it was quite fun to just go in and do it like that. And I like the video for that one because it was crazy.” – Up Close radio interview, August 26, 1987

Listening to Ric’s description, I envisioned the guys all showing up and jamming the song out in short order, like in the old days. I was surprised to find out that it was actually a four-week project. The song was recorded at Electric Lady studios in New York, and was produced with the help of Mike Shipley (who would later work with Benjamin on his solo album, The Lace). It was released as a single on October 14, 1985, with “Just What I Needed” on the B-side.

It turns out that it was extremely appropriate to put the song on a ‘greatest hits’ CD, as “Tonight She Comes” would end up being one of the band’s highest charting singles. It hit #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts, and went as high as #7 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Elektra also released the song on a limited edition picture disc. The album itself was a commercial success as well, reaching #12 on the Billboard Hot 200 and eventually being certified six times platinum.

 

 

Strangely, this doesn’t seem to be a track that you hear about often. Maybe because it wasn’t on a regular album? It’s a shame, because it’s a terrific song. The music is fun — very bright and poppy — and I love Benjamin’s deep background vocals. The lyrics are happy and loving, upbeat; less cynical than many of their other songs. It definitely holds up well with repeated listening.

In the spotlight, though? Elliot’s guitar solo is amazing! And while it has a spontaneous feel to it, it turns out he spent a lot of time crafting it. Elliot told Guitar Player magazine in February of 1986, “I happened to have worked on “Tonight She Comes,” mostly because I had such a long wait in a hotel room in New York. At night, I would sit around watching the tube with my guitar by my side. I had a little micro-cassette recorder, and I would add another lick to the solo. With this approach, you end up with a mathematically cool solo. Then you’ve got to learn it and make it sound like it’s coming off the top of your head, which is an art.”

And then of course there is the small ruckus over the song title. Does Ric mean what most people assume he means? Some people don’t care; some think it’s raunchy… I’ve not heard Ric address the issue (and I wouldn’t really expect him to, given that he likes the listener to draw their own connection to his writing) but Elliot is quoted in the Anthology booklet as saying, “It doesn’t actually say that she reaches orgasm. It could mean that tonight she’s coming over to make popcorn.” So there you have it! Haha!

A couple of other little notables:

Benjamin plays his Guild Pilot bass in the official video (link below), which also happens to be the beauty he was playing at Live Aid that summer.

The woman who stars in the video is Tara Shannon, a well-known model who, at the time, had not starred in any previous videos or movie projects. She says she was shot separately from the band so she didn’t get to meet most of them, but she had a great time filming her part. She also won an award for “Best Performance by a Fashion Model in a Music Video” for her work in “Tonight She Comes.” You can read her thoughts on her experience here.

And my last note. I love the lyrics; they don’t phase me. My favorite line is, “She jangles me up, she does it with ease. Sometimes she passes through me just like a breeze.” Yeah… I know that feeling… but about a guy. LOL

Enjoy the official video below, and click here if you want the lyrics to sing along to.

“…And everything you do-oo-oo”

WARNING: This is nothing but blatant fangirling, baby.

A bit ago I wrote about my struggles with the gush, and I am finally ready to sit down and have it out. I chose to go with Everything You Say, because the way I perceive Benjamin to be during this time of his life matches my current mood. It’s okay with me if that part doesn’t make sense to you… I also chose it because he’s absolutely AH-MAZING in this video!

Those first notes and that countdown raise my heart rate right out of the gate. The video editor makes me crazy by showing everyone else *but* Benjamin for the first 30 seconds, but when my man finally comes out of the dark and onto the screen he has been worth the wait: he is GORGEOUS. That layered black leather wrapped around his husky build, the 1987 blonde shag, and (as always) the way his hands move on his bass… Seriously, I have to pause here and breathe for a minute.

He starts singing in that low voice and it is sooooo delicious and sexy. The way he says ‘honey’ makes my spine tingle. And oh, those closeups at 1:02 and 2:04! With the sweat on his jaw and his glance over to the right; that way he sort of half-purses his lips… yummy.

Catch his beautiful smile, too, that smile at 1:39! Grooving moves at 2:42, his hands at 2:57 (really, through the whole thing), and his shrug and grin at the late spotlight at 3:26… Ah, and that little bass swing at 3:57! I love it!

Other things that crack me up about this vid: Looks like Elliot gives up at 4:26; the way Greg be-bops around reminds my kids of a little parakeet, I love Ric with the acoustic guitar, and the footage of David is wonderful! Think I’m going to make some gifs from this one. Hee hee!

Be sure to comment on your favorite parts — and let me know if I missed anything!

Touch and Go (oh oh oh!)

There are a few songs in The Cars’ collection that, when I first heard them, I gave them a decided ‘thumbs down.’ During my early explorations of the Panorama album, I can clearly remember sitting in the kitchen and saying to my husband, “This song is just so hokey, with its ‘doong da da doong da da doong’ cowboy rhythm. Sounds like a weird western thing going on.”

Can you imagine?

No surprise that now I listen to it constantly and consider it one of the high points among (ten) high points on Panorama (which is now my favorite record!). Not sure exactly what changed my mind but I think it was Elliot and that hot solo. More about that in a minute… Let’s start with some basic facts. Released as a single on August 25, 1980, “Touch and Go” is the second track on that album, the first of three sent out, and the only song to chart from Panorama, reaching #37 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was written by Ric Ocasek and produced by Roy Thomas Baker. “Down Boys” was on the flip side.

One of the things you immediately notice in the song is the complexity of the tempo during the verses, and then the change up when they move to the bridge and chorus. In my highly technical mind (ha!) I think to myself, “Wow, that sounds so tricky and awesome!” But people who understand the REAL way music works call it polymeter: using two different time signatures simultaneously. I learned about it from this educational blurb:

“‘Touch And Go’, a hit single by The Cars, has polymetric verses, with the drums and bass playing in 5/4, while the guitar, synthesizer, and vocals are in 4/4 (the choruses are entirely in 4/4).” — Guitar Alliance

touchandgogregcountMy mind, while sincerely nerdy and fact-based, is not super flexible, and concepts like this are somewhat slippery for me to get a grip on. The best way for me to grasp it was by watching Greg count the beat on his fingers during this performance on Fridays (aired September 19, 1980). Luckily no one’s going to test me on it, so I just took enough knowledge to increase my appreciation for the song (and my admiration of the band) and tucked it away; I encourage you to do the same.

The other notable thing about this song — and really, it’s the ultimate, BADASS, off.the.chain, “WTF did I just hear?” portion of this song — is Elliot’s guitar solo. This was decidedly the game changer for me, the element of this song that pulled me in initially and still won’t let me go.

As we know, Elliot has always been the master of crafting the perfect punch for the typical 15 to 30 seconds he might have to make his mark in a song, and his work here in “Touch and Go” just might be his best overall. I am blown away every time I hear it! For a full forty seconds he builds and layers, and takes me higher every step of the way, ending at the perfect peak before dropping me back into the soft lap of Ric’s vocals and Benjamin’s swaying bass. But did you know that this beautiful creation almost didn’t make it into the final recording?  Elliot tells the story himself in this audio clip from my all-time favorite EE interview:

[Pat at RockSolid has given me permission to make and publish that audio clip, but I highly encourage you to take the time to listen to the full 2-hour interview with Elliot; it is funny, poignant, and extremely insightful. You can download it and take it with you on your morning commute, during a long run, or while you’re doing chores around the house. You won’t regret it!]

As to the lyrics for “Touch and Go,” Ric is quoted as giving a rare interpretation of his own writing on page 60 of the book Frozen Fire, by Toby Goldstein: “This is one of those songs about people having a difficult relationship and not understanding why they’re having problems, but they put up with the uncertainty anyway.” Makes sense to me; more so than my 11 year-old son’s take on it: “Touch and go. That’s the same as hit-and-run, right?” Hm, I actually think I could buy into that explanation, too…

The icing on this musical cake is, of course, Benjamin. I cannot resist that wonderful bass sound, alternately rollicking and gentle, pulling me through the song. I love the live footage where I get to study Benjamin’s hands making it happen.

Though “Touch and Go” was released almost a year before MTV successfully launched video music television in the United States, The Cars were, as always, thebouncerwhalomparkin with the pioneers of technology and new music frontiers. They teamed up with Gerald (Jerry) Casale of Devo to produce a ‘short band film’ (sometimes called a ‘pop clip’) to go with the song — not a common practice among artists at the time but growing in popularity. The second verse of the song was omitted, shortening it up a bit.  The official video was filmed at historic Whalom Park in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, on July 7, 1980. The park closed its doors on September 4, 2000, but you can still see two of its popular rides in the video: the Whalom Park Carousel and The Bouncer (pictured).

I love the opening shot of the hands putting the picture disc on the turntable… I don’t know why, but that just is SO cool to me. I also love the parts where Ric is singing in the near-dark and the boys emerge one by one, slowly gliding through our field of vision. And Elliot spinning on The Bouncer with his guitar — could he be any more badass? Even without the special effects and high tech equipment that are available for today’s music video productions, this cutting-edge gem delivers some great visual tidbits.

Here are a few more things about this song that maybe you hadn’t heard yet:

  1. On December 8, 1980, John Lennon mentioned “Touch and Go” specifically in the last interview of his life. Check it out  here. If you don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, feel free to skip ahead; the relevant discussion starts at 1:41:00 and lasts about one minute.
  2. The song did better globally: it peaked at #2 on the French Singles Chart and #16 in Canada.
  3. “Touch and Go” has been compared musically to “Spirits in the Material World” by The Police, and “You Got Lucky” by Tom Petty, both released after Panorama, and both possibly influenced by The Cars.
  4. Whalom Park’s ride, The Bouncer, had a strong reputation for making people vomit… Wonder if any of the guys were queasy after shooting the video?
  5. The filming of “Touch and Go” was  possibly the second music video The Cars made. The first might have been the fun and funny spy video they filmed for the song “Panorama,” which was also directed by Gerald Casale, along with co-director Chuck Statler (known as the ‘godfather of the music video’). I can’t find a production date for “Panorama” so I can’t say with certainty which came first, but it is listed first on Gerald Casale’s videography, which I’m assuming is chronological.

Here’s the link to the official music video. I also posted the lyrics here if you want to sing along (skipping that second verse, of course). Enjoy!

A list of the oodles.

Not long ago I posted this video to my twitter account citing, “Oodles of sexiness, a couple of matchy-matchies, & just a ton of over-the-top awesomeness!” Well, some friends were a little distracted by Ric’s… uh, shall we say… ‘uncharacteristically hyper movements’ and could not see past *that* display, so I feel compelled to document (in nerdy list form, of course) the ‘oodles of sexiness’ that actually make this performance drool worthy — even with Benjamin in the back. Here we go!

  1. Right off the bat: Benjamin in black leather.
  2. Benjamin’s beautiful face at 0:37 and the way he mouths, ‘star.’
  3. Working that bass from about 0:45 – 0:50.
  4. Benjamin’s retreat into his rock-and-roll pose at 1:31-1:34.
  5. David’s gorgeousness at 1:35!
  6. Getting into it at 1:41… ah, that mouth!
  7. Elliot’s adorable dancing at 1:52, and all through Gimme Some Slack.
  8. Matchy-matchy: shirts on Benj and Greg; guitar straps on Benj and Ric.
  9. Catch Benjamin’s face at 2:26-2:27.
  10. Pretty much every single time they show David… he’s working hard and looking GOOD! Hot stuff!
  11. At 2:47: the stance,the moves, the sexy little bass grind at 2:55. Mercy!
  12. Ooo, that look at 4:00-4:02.
  13. The way his hair moves on his collar gets me all woozy, especially at 4:05.
  14. View from the back at 4:28 – his hair, his jacket, the way his arm moves… damn amp’s in the way.
  15. His face at 4:52, and then how they cut to the gal in the audience that is in awe… you know she watched Benj the whole time.
  16. Close call with Greg as they are leaving the stage at 4:58. LOL
  17. David’s manly shoulders retreating at 5:04.

So much yumminess!

[Nerd fact: original airdate of this performance is September 19, 1980.]

That rock and roll kick!

Normally I don’t care for songs with long, drawn out solos (as you may know) and in fact, I had heard “Take What You Want” once or twice and thought, “blah!”… but then I saw this footage of The Cars playing it for Musikladen on the big screen and the thrill of watching them boosted this powerful tune onto the list of my all-time favorites. Their performance is off.the.chain.

Before I dive into my looooong recap of what I love about this video segment, I’ll lay out my research. I believe Ric wrote the song in 1977, and it was played in concerts with some consistency through the latter half of that year and on into 1979. The last live performance of it may have been at a charity concert on December 12, 1982, at the Metro in Boston. A quick search for “the cars take what you want” will bring up a few fan videos with various live audio tracks — their performance at the El Mocambo in Toronto is pretty great. For whatever reason, this song didn’t make it to vinyl, but thankfully it showed up on Elektra’s 1999 CD release: “The Cars: Deluxe Edition.”

This song is pretty hard rocking for The Cars. It has such a terrific garage-band-jam-session sound to it. Taking Greg off the keys and hanging a guitar around his neck has a lot to do with that, I’m sure, since he usually plays the bright, pop-ish synth riffs that put one Cars foot on the ‘new wave’ side of the rock-and-roll fence. I think the other reason it comes across so gritty and ragged is because Elliot is allowed to spend some time coaxing those bad-ass sounds out of his guitar. In the meantime, Benjamin is playing out his driving bass and deep background vocals, and David keeps our blood moving with that steady beat. Overlay the primal music with Ric’s edgy lyrics (posted separately) and you’ve got one heck of a wicked song.

musikladen6-ee

As for the video itself, right off the bat you know things are going to be different because out pops Greg from behind his keys, donning a guitar. I love his silliness with Elliot, and how Greg and Benjamin share a mic — or don’t, at 2:32. [Keep an ear out for what sounds like the keyboards at around 4:44 (yes, really!)… I wonder if Ric is playing? Greg is still clearly in the guitar group at that point so it’s not him. I’d love to get some insight on that.]

And then things get a little crazy. Benjamin gets his attitude on starting at 1:30, when he approaches the mic with that cocky swagger. His vocals rise and there’s a little shoulder shimmy before he sets the world on fire with that rock and roll kick. Luckily Elliot was positioned well enough to NOT get his head taken off, and instead he responds with some smokin’ attitude of his own. You just know he’s winding it up…

It’s a tiny gesture, but there’s also that little chin lift that Benjamin does at 1:50. He’s still in rock star mode all the way; and here he comes with it: the ten best Benj seconds of the whole video. Throwing out his pick, strumming that chord before aggressively grabbing another pick off the mic stand, and then retreating into his sexy jamming stance, adjusting his bass, as he gets ready to watch Elliot burn the place down (2:37-2:47). I always need a healthy swig of ice water after that little sequence.

Unfortunately the camera is not catching the beginning of Elliot’s pyromaniacal activities, so I  amuse myself by focusing on the way Benjamin’s hair moves on his collar. Makes me crazy; that’s how much of an obsessed freak I am.

Now look out, Elliot steals the show from about 3:10 on out. It is rare that we get to see him unleash like this, and it is mesmerizing! It’s like he goes into his own little bubble, just him and his baby, and the intensity on his face pays tribute to how far gone he is. Do NOT miss him twist his guitar to make it moan at 4:10 — incredible! (I’m convinced I see a little smile from Benjamin in the corner there.) Elliot seduces us like this for almost a full minute more before we are reined in by a return to Ric’s invasive, forceful vocals.

Elliot is still feeling the grind and we can see it in his growly face at 5:29, and on into his jam with Benjamin from 5:33-5:39. Excuse me if I can hardly focus on anything but Ben’s mouth at that point.

The song comes to its abrupt end and I have to tell you, I’m exhilarated and dying to watch it again. It’s so addictive! Take a turn with it yourself and tell me what you think.

 

A Bit of German Hospitality (Musikladen)

On November 29, 1978, The Cars continued promoting their debut album in Europe by scooting on over to Bremen, Germany, where they performed for the German television program, Musikladen. The concert was aired on June 7, 1979, and later released on DVD by Rhino Records on October 24, 2000 (just three weeks after Benjamin’s death).

[Included on that DVD is the final interview with all five band members, which offers some great insights into this performance as the guys reminisce about their first crazy year of fame. I will pull information from that source in this write up of the Musikladen concert, but I will post separately about the actual interview itself at a later date.]

musikladen2

Musikladen was sort of the ‘Midnight Special’ of Germany, running from December of 1972 to November of 1984. Around 90 episodes were aired, plus 59 billed as Musikladen extra (including this performance by The Cars) with most being made in the period between 1974 and 1979. All episodes were produced by Radio Bremen and directed by Michael Leckebusch.

The Cars take the German stage exactly one week after their Rock Goes to College performance, and only two days after playing in France. Interestingly, this show has a whole different feel to it than either of those two. Where the guys were facing antagonism in the UK, and the Paris concert was so elegant and rather formal, here in Germany the whole atmosphere seems more relaxed, and truly conducive to an intimate jam session. The venue appears quite cozy, with colorful but muted lighting. The platform is fairly low, and is small and uncluttered, snugging the band together. The audience is perched on their seats right up to the edge of the stage, and they are open and receptive throughout the show.

There are a few drawbacks here. Unfortunately, the tight space doesn’t allow for much variation in camera angles. I can live with this because I still feel like I get a good view of all that is going on during the show, and every member is well represented. It is especially wonderful to get to see more of David, since he is usually hidden toward the back; here he is included clearly in much of the footage.

As far as the technical stuff goes, there is a raster pattern (had to look that one up) that blemishes the screen from time to time, but it is so quickly tuned out of my brain that I never notice it anymore. The lighting definitely adds a warmth to the atmosphere, but combined with the limited camera range it sometimes creates shadows that take some getting used to. Again, easy to overcome. I am not picky about the nuances of sound quality so you’ll have to be your own judge in that area; I love it and think it sounds great.

There is SO much to this show that I can’t possibly review it all in one piece. I’m sure I’ll eventually do separate little posts to get out what I can’t keep inside, but here’s what I will tell you now: the thing I find unique about this live show is that every man seems to have his own story. Somehow, it’s not *all* about Benjamin this time (believe me, I’m as shocked as you are! LOL). Again, I think the cozy ambiance of the setting brings everyone in close and invites a connection with each member.

Ironically, the guys report being hungover and not feeling well the day they recorded this concert; a bit too much German hospitality in the form of trays of apple Schnapps. I would not have guessed that from watching this footage. They put on a fabulous show, playing almost flawlessly and really coming across like they were having a blast. I imagine that if I could have sat in Ric’s basement during a rehearsal session it would have been a lot like this performance.

Off the top, I kind of think that Greg is the star among stars imusikladen5n this show. He emits his usual adorable, talented nerdiness, but then goes far beyond that. Watching the footage of him working his insane instrument skills during “I’m In Touch With Your World” left my mouth hanging open the first time I saw it, and it continues to thrill. A little later he comes out from behind his synth lab and joins the guys on guitar for “Take What You Want” — it’s awesome! It’s particularly endearing because he doesn’t adopt any kind of guitar player mannerisms, instead his robotic-style movements and wide-eyed looks remind us that he’s still the same old Greg.

I feel like Elliot finally gets the opportunity to really shine here. The camera absolutely adores him as it zeroes in on his blistering solos, and he plays it up one side and down the other. You can see in every close-up that he is having the time of his life; that he is, without a doubt, doing what he lives for and loves with a crazy passion.  His interactions with Benjamin are classic, and he has fun with Greg, too, when Greg shows up on Elliot’s side of the stage.

As I mentioned before, I love that David doesn’t escape the camera. There are great shots of him doing his thing and driving the songs forward. In the interview footage, he recalls being passed out before the show, and having to be helped in and out of the venue. He played the show ‘in a complete daze’ and has no recollection of the actual gig itself. And yet when you watch him work his drums his arms move with power and energy and he never misses a beat. Truth be told, his performance here just steals my heart, knowing that he feels like trash but he continues to bang it out like a rock star. Of course, there are times when he looks like he’s ready to lean over and barf off to the side, but I didn’t really notice that until after I listened to the interview.

As for Ric… Well, I always have such a hard time connecting with Ric. He still sort of paces around like usual, appearing to monitor the guys like a nervous middle manager, but in these close quarters it comes across more social than menacing. He does seem more unclenched and loose in this concert, chewing gum and mouthing the words to Benjamin’s lead in “Bye Bye Love.” Oddly, the thing that my 13yo daughter found enchanting was that he pulled out a pink guitar for MyBFG. I guess that will do it.

germanyOf course I have to save Benjamin for last. My man is oozing with rock star attitude throughout this entire show. He’s got the shoulder shimmies and the rock-and-roll kick; the bad-ass pick grab and the aggressive bass moves. Don’t even get me started on what he is wearing. He melts the audience with his smooth voice as he introduces songs and thanks them for their attention, and then he ignites them with his edgy vocals and pouty lips. (Well, the audience appears to be mostly men so maybe they don’t spontaneously combust like I do? LOL) All the while, he, too, seems more relaxed than in the other two concerts, like he’s really enjoying himself, being silly with his formal bows and his “I’m thanking you all” comments. We definitely get a strong glimpse into his personality in this show.

[Miscellaneous tidbit: at about 13:00 minutes in the camera shows a bit of  the audience and there is a female photographer that looks entirely stunned by what she’s seeing. Me: “Yep, that’s Benjamin, baby. You’ll never get over it.”]

Okay, your turn to watch it. As always, I’ll give you the set list first. The longest of the three recorded European shows, the band played the following songs:

  1. Good Times Roll
  2. Bye Bye Love
  3. Nightspots
  4. I’m In Touch With Your World
  5. My Best Friend’s Girl
  6. Candy-O
  7. You’re All I’ve Got Tonight
  8. Take What You Want
  9. Since I Held You
  10. Don’t Cha Stop
  11. Just What I Needed

Such a terrific line up! Here’s a newly found link to the show in its entirety. Enjoy!

Yes, you’re too hot… but please stop.

Okay, I can’t put off writing about it anymore. It is the elephant in the room. Well, you know… the elephant in the room in my head that is filled with Benjamin.

If you’ve spent any amount of time on this blog you know that I am head-over-heels, crazy in love with Benjamin, completely immersed in his legacy, and totally obsessed with his life. Nothing he did will ever change that. And you might think that *I* would think that every little thing he did is sheer perfection. And for the most part, every little thing he did is perfect… but there’s this one thing.

This one thing that he did. It makes my cheeks burn with embarrassment.

It’s the video for “Too Hot to Stop.” I can’t STAND it.benjamin-orr-too-hot-to-stop-elektra

There. I said it.

Before you decide to hate me at least hear me out!

Benjamin in black leather? Yes! And you can’t unzip that jacket far enough, buddy. That Hawaiian tan? Bring it on. Cameos by David and Greg? Supportive friends warm my heart. The song is great and I gleefully listen to it over and over. But please…

Someone PLEASE give my man a guitar!!!

I’m just going to lay it all out here. Benjamin, bless his heart, certainly seems to be giving it his best shot… but he looks SO uncomfortable in this. His makeup is awful. His Neil Diamond dance moves are painful to watch. The lip-synching is a disaster. And I feel like I can tell pretty much every point where they stopped filming and Someone said, “how about you dance like this” and “why don’t you move over this way” and “try throwing your arms up” and “now give us the smoldering look.” At no time does he look to me like he’s truly enjoying himself.

Up until I decided to write this review I had only watched this video twice. You can imagine my expectations the first time I clicked ‘play’, can’t you? Can’t you??? Well, it was like a sucker punch. I couldn’t have been more dismayed if he had come out with his head shaved and wearing Steven Tyler’s tights.

I wanted to love it so much! It’s BENJAMIN, for crying out loud! I watched it a second time, thinking that maybe it would move into that grace-filled category of “it’s so bad, it’s funny and I love it” – but no, just more trauma. And in spite of my dear friend Jen’s attempts to get me to give it another go, I just couldn’t do it. I refused to pull it from the corner where I had shoved it, deep in the back of my mind, and managed to ignore it for a while… and yet here I am. I can’t seem to let it go.

Now come on. Think back to every performance you’ve ever seen of Benjamin Orr — and I’m talking about before this video *and* after.  That cool demeanor, those sensual facial expressions… how he could define ‘rock star’ just by standing there, working that bass or guitar and mesmerizing you with his voice, and then turn your knees to noodles with his brilliant smile. This persona fit him perfectly; he was in his element. It was obvious that he was comfortable there; I believe it came very naturally to him.

The Benjamin Orr of the 2H2S video is just *not* him. It seems like a parody, a joke.  Whose idea was this? Please don’t tell me it was the 80s and that’s what everybody did. This was Someone’s concept *for* Benjamin but not *about* Benjamin; it was Someone trying to push a rock star peg into a cheesy hole. It was Someone trying to make my man into something he wasn’t.

But I will say this for him, he was a gamer. However uncomfortable he may have been he pushed through and made it happen; made Someone’s dream come true. And yes, I’m definitely convinced that this was NOT his idea… because he just looks SO wrong.

2Hot2StopSet

I read an article from The Boston Herald, dated January 24, 1987, about the making of the 2H2S video. Most of the column inches are spent talking about the complex state-of-the-art lighting used for the ‘futuristic’ backdrop on the set. There is one quote from Benjamin; he says this: “My only idea was to have the video have something to do with outer space. That’s what seems to capture attention the most these days, so I wanted to see if we could go out there for a while — or at least fool the camera into thinking we had.”

My darling, nerdy, love-of-my-life, I wish you had been a just little more opinionated as to how this was all going to play out…

Not sure I can really find my usual little tidbits to gush about. Certainly that smile at 3:30 melts my heart. I know we all adore Benjamin, and I accept that not everyone feels the same way about the 2H2S video as I do, so I’ll let you watch and add your own heartthrob moments in the comments. Maybe you can point out something wonderful that I missed.

Vive la France!

On November 27, 1978, The Cars performed at the Theatre de l’Empire in Paris, France. At the time of this performance, their debut album had only been ‘out there’ for about 6 months. They were (relatively) young and hungry to make their mark, but polished and professional; they had been working the stage for years to get where they were. The show they played for a difficult audience in the UK was less than a week behind them, and one might expect that the band would be defensive, cautious, or exuding tension, but the very opposite attitudes were evident. The Cars were confident in their sound, their style, and in one another. They played with class and expertise and that incredible synergy that would continue to be their trademark through the years.

franceAs to the actual preservation of this event, my research so far has turned up only sketchy details. I believe the concert was aired on a French program called Chorus on December 3, 1978. This television series was hosted by Antoine de Caunes, and was evidently France’s version of rock music television, giving venue to many of the up-and-coming new wave and post-punk bands of the day.

The Cars played a total of seven songs: Good Times Roll, Bye Bye Love, My Best Friend’s Girl, Moving In Stereo, All Mixed Up, You’re All I’ve Got Tonight, and Just What I Needed.

Apparently in 2010 a 3-DVD boxed set of the show Chorus was released including footage of bands from 1978-1981, but according to the track listings, The Cars are not included in the set. Rumor has it that when the socialist government took over in 1981 de Caunes arrived in his office one day only to realize his whole collection of complete, unedited gigs on Beta tapes that had been in his office had been thrown out. If that’s true, there may not be an official recording of The Cars’ entire show left.

A scouring of the ina.fr website (France’s official audiovisual archives) yields little additional information but a smidge of hope… There is a short ‘teaser’ segment video, about 1 minute long, that allows us to see the beginning of the concert (a portion of “Good Times Roll”). The website also offers a video available for download for about $2, but from the description it seems that it is only the first three songs of the concert, and appears to be about 12 minutes long. I’m having a time trying to translate the French and navigate the website to purchase this but I’m not sure if they sell to the United States. I have sent a message to their staff; hopefully I can get my hands on it.

There are also four ‘audio only’ fan videos from the show on youtube: “Moving In Stereo”, “All Mixed Up”, “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” and “Just What I Needed.” A quick search of ‘the cars france audio’ will pull them up for you. The sound quality is a little muffled but worth hearing, and the videos are hugely appealing, visually.

In the meantime, there is currently ONE youtube video segment** of them on the stage in France: the footage of them playing “Bye Bye Love.” And oh, what yummy footage it is!

The stage is wide and spacious, the atmosphere is reserved, and the lfrance4ighting is soft and clear. The boys are all dressed up in classy rock-and-roll attire. The audio starts out a little muted but you can tell the band is perfectly tuned in to each other and ready to rock. After the initial camera work barely catches the epic bass riff at the beginning, the second cameraman is generous with his profile shot of Benjamin singing through the first verse and bridge before retreating to take in the whole front lineup of the band during the chorus.

The real visual triumph here starts during the second verse, when the production team has the presence of mind (and the space!) to scootch around the left side of the stage and around to the back, where we are given the rare treat of getting to see David in action with his drums. I love this! I always wish we had more footage of him doing his thing. (Side note: this clip inspired my 10yo’s nickname for David: he calls him ‘Baby Clothes.’ Hahaha!)

Not only do we get to enjoy David’s talents, but almost immediately afterward we’re able to watch Greg banging out his synth solo in its entirety, with a nice slow pan of the camera and great lighting. I get such a kick out of watching him work those keys; he’s such an incredible musician!

The camera work kind of falls apart a bit after that… There’s some nice close-up attention on Benjamin again but when it comes time for Elliot’s solo, which we can clearly see he is ready to absolutely burn the place down with, the cameraman is instead focusing on Ric, who manages a smile before he seems to realize he’s not the one who should be in the spotlight at the moment. Benjamin brings the show back around, though, when he zeroes in on Elliot for their traditional “Bye Bye Love” connection. Incredible way to end the song!

Some mini-delights of the video that you may or may not have noticed on your own…

  1. I’d bet a case of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups that Greg is wearing Benjamin’s tie from the Rock Goes to College concert. I am *so* adding that to my ‘twinsies’ article.
  2. Looks like you can see the guys’ set lists on stage: one on the floor by Benjamin’s effect pedals, one on the amp stack behind Elliot, one on Ric’s side of the drum riser, and one taped to the top left of Greg’s keyboards. Kind of cool.
  3. I love that Benjamin is wearing a little black Cars pin on the left side of his vest (the same vest from RGTC, by the way (thanks for noticing, Jen!)). I wish I could see clearly the pin on his right. I noticed that Elliot is wearing two very similar pins to Benjamin’s on his shirt… another ‘twinsies’ moment? If only I knew.

WARNING: It’s all about the Benj from here on out! LOL

I know that the lyrics “electric angel rock and roller” might very well refer to Maxanne Sartori (the Boston DJ who helped launch The Cars), but to me those words will always call up the image of Benjamin in this performance. Dressed in black from head to toe (with the exception of that sexy burgundy choker); his blonde hair perfectly styled and shining; that gorgeous red Vox hanging off his manly frame, and that face that I can never resist, he is the epitome of the beautiful rock star. Sheer perfection.

I will let you find your own delicious moments to squeal over in this video — there are plenty! —  but I can’t resist pointing out a few of my favorites. As always, the energy between Benjamin and Elliot sparks from the beginning and includes that adorable smile exchange at 2:02 and their intense (but slightly out of focus) ending. When he’s not rocking it up with EE, Benjamin is making me crazy with his sensual facial expressions. Catch him at 2:41, the unmistakable appeal of 2:56, and the ‘hard to get’ attitude at 3:05. And that mouth at 3:12! Okay, okay, I’ll stop now.

Watch it for yourself and tell me your thoughts.

 

**UPDATE 7/13/16: Buntastic uploaded the 3-song set from ina.fr to youtube!!! Wahoo!

 

 

Thank God it’s free! (Rock Goes to College)

rgtc-1If you’ve found this blog on your own it’s probably because you did a search. And if you did a search it’s probably because you are crazy about The Cars, and if you are crazy about The Cars you have, in all likelihood, seen their iconic performance on Rock Goes to College. If somehow you missed it, get ready for the best rock-and-roll half hour of your life!

“Rock Goes to College (RGTC) was a BBC series that ran between 1978 and 1981 on British television. A variety of up-coming rock oriented bands were showcased live from small venues and broadcast simultaneously on television and radio during a 40-50 minute live performance. The venues were small university, polytechnic or college halls holding a few thousand people; often tickets were given to the Students’ Union to distribute for free. The bands chosen were also, in some cases, bands which did not have a mainstream following at that time although many went on to be very successful. A BBC DJ would also be present to introduce the band for the television audience.” (Wikipedia)

On November 22, 1978, in the throes of promoting their self-titled debut album, The Cars played at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. The episode was aired on RGTC on January 13, 1979.

The Cars did not have a good experience in the UK. Apparently there was some controversy about the promotion of The Cars’ picture disc for “My Best Friend’s Girl” which took a hit on the band’s potential popularity. Music critics slammed them, and Ric had a shoulder bag (including a lyrics/poetry book) stolen during their visit. Ironically, the single MyBFG  peaked at number 3 on the UK charts, so at least they had that to soothe them. The Cars did not play in England again, though they did do record signings and promotional appearances from time to time, and later recorded their album, Heartbeat City, in London.*

In spite of being ‘officially’ less than two years old, the seasoned professionalism of this band is evident all throughout the video. Though the reception from the English audience was lukewarm at best, and some of their behavior was downright rude, The Cars rocked on and did what they were created to do: deliver a blistering show purely for the love of it.

Let me detail some of the garbage they had to put up with:

During the first verse of “Bye Bye Love,” some putz in the audience throws what appears to be a drink onto the stage. Benjamin’s face turns to stone, and the increased intensity of his vocals gives away the instant anger he feels. You are left with no doubt of his emotions when he mouths the words, “I’m going to get you” after the first verse. And through all that drama, our darling Benjamin doesn’t miss a note; in fact if anything his performance gets even hotter as he channels all that justified frustration into the song. You can see his demeanor change during the bridge to the third chorus and he flashes a smug little smile… Personally, I like to speculate that the jackass was removed from the audience at that point as you can see (what I interpret to be) triumph in Benjamin’s beautiful eyes as he follows him out.

Unfortunately all the jerks in the audience aren’t gone, because just before the beginning of “Don’t Cha Stop” you can hear an idiot in the crowd shout out, “Thank God it’s free!” (a sentiment I agree with, but for different reasons!). And still, the band is not deterred. Elliot lays into his smoking intro like nobody’s business, and he and Benjamin spend most of the song playing off each other’s rock and roll energy. It’s fabulous.

Elliot’s shirt is clearly wet in more than the ‘sweaty’ way – more drinks being thrown? Speculation, of course. The crowd is slow to respond between songs, wide camera sweeps show general inattention and milling around, and the chattering during the emcee’s intro reflects obvious disinterest. There are a few audio and camera issues that might leave you shaking your head, too. And yet, in spite of all this, The Cars play such a tight and exciting set; it leaves my heart pounding with the thrill. They rise above it all and it’s ALL about THEM. Glorious.

I am so grateful to be able to have access to this piece of Cars history — so yes, “thank God it’s free!” I’ve watched it a zillion times. I have SO much gushing to do about Benjamin; his charisma and appeal in this concert are off.the.chain. For the sake of time, however, I’m going to save all of those observations for later posts… So yeah, you’ve got that to look forward to. Hahaha! (You’re welcome!)

Okay, enough details, right? Are you ready to indulge? First off here is the official set list:

  1.  Just What I Needed
  2. Good Times Roll
  3. I’m in Touch with Your World
  4. My Best Friend’s Girl
  5. Moving In Stereo
  6. All Mixed Up
  7. Night Spots
  8. Bye Bye Love
  9. Don’t Cha Stop
  10. You’re All I’ve Got Tonight

And here we go; here’s the link to the video:

 

In addition to the set list above, there is footage of two more songs The Cars played during the show as an encore that didn’t air on the broadcast: “Candy-O” and “Hotel Queenie.” I’m adding links to those, too. Enjoy!

 

*Sources: the final interview included on The Cars Live — Musikladen 1979 DVD, released 10/2000; the article “The Cars Spin Home,” The Globe, December 1978; and Wikipedia