You might remember an article I wrote about Ben playing at that Riverweed Music Festival in Vermont in 1994, where he and John Kalishes joined Kevin McCarty as the Beacon Hillbillies. Well, one of the people Ben met while he was there was local musician Davey Davis. Sharing a mutual love of the outdoors and fishing, the two became fast friends. After Ben moved to the area, he and Davey spent more time together, and Ben encouraged Davey in his musical pursuits, fooling around with him in the studio and offering advice.
I’ll write more about Ben and Davey in the future, but here’s a fun little peek into the way Ben spent his time in the mid-90s.
One of Davey’s projects was a tune called “West Texas,” written by Eddie Russell. Ben got a real kick out of the song, and was game for creating a video to go with it. Davey had a buddy that was running a little restaurant, called the Seedhouse Café, in the back of the historic 1815 House in Reading, Vermont. The friend suggested they come down to film there in the bar, so Davey, Ben, John Kalishes, and a few other guys headed over and made a night of it.
So check out this video. You can see Ben at the beginning of the footage giving Davey some tips, and positioning the blue pitcher on the bar. Unfortunately, the camera didn’t catch all of the dialogue that took place, but we do get to hear a little smidgen of Ben directing. How cool is that?
Oh, and Davey told me, too, that Ben contributed a little to the lyrics. The original version of the song included the phrase, “smokin’ that dope…” but Ben suggested it be changed to “smokin’ that rope.” Lol
Check out this amazing, never-before-seen footage of Big People kicking ass at the Rockin’ the Hills festival at the Wild Rose Amphitheater in Bottineau, North Dakota! The band took the stage on Saturday, July 1, at 2:15 pm.
Ben’s health was declining and he was losing weight rapidly, but his attitude was strong and he was still jamming like a true rocker! In fact, the whole band was playing with energy and passion.
This footage was generously given to me by the band’s tour manager, Joe Dlearo, and is shared here with permission. There is more to come as we approach the 22nd anniversary of this incredible bit of Big People history, so please stay tuned.
UPDATE JUNE 26, 2022: This footage is truly awe-inspiring! Ben is doing what he loved to do, and he’s thrown his whole heart into it. And his bandmates are pure gold, rockin’ right along with him!
SO much talent on this stage! Laurie commented on YouTube: “All I know is I want a hype man like Derek by my side when I’m fighting the good fight! These guys loved and looked up to Benjamin just like we do, only they got to know him and hold him up when he needed them most.” Beautifully said!
Many of you know that the credit roll at the end of The Cars’ Unlocked DVD is broken into four boxes, with different content going simultaneously in each little area. When I first got it, I went kinda buggy trying to watch each corner exclusively, and then rewinding and backtracking to hone in on the next section.
Well, I finally decided to break the screen into each of the four parts and zoom in on the action, and then clip each one as a video segment. Once I had all four, I strung them together into this one video. I started in the upper left and then went clockwise from there. We do lose a little in clarity, but we gain in the ability to focus!
Be sure to take a peek at the video’s comment section. I made a list of many of the delicious little tidbits to be found, along with their time stamps. This should make it easy to return to our favorite spots in the future. Let me know which ones are your favorites!
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 the absence of touring: “I never get to play enough anymore. It’s pretty bad actually, really sad. I miss it a whole lot. It’s a chore to get on the road — a few of the guys don’t want to do it — but it’s business, and if you can make a living out of it, you’ve got to do it.” — “The Rewards of Rock Stardom” by Jim Sullivan, The Boston Globe, November 1, 1986
One of the things I neglected to write about during the craziness of 2021 was the fifth anniversary of this blog. I even made a graphic and everything, but then I got swept away with life again. So let’s go for it now!
May 1, 2021, marked the last time I could say, “I can count on ONE hand the number of years I’ve been writing about Benjamin.” (Not that I said that phrase a lot. Haha) I can hardly believe it. What started as an outlet for my personal obsession has grown beyond my wildest dreams, and has led me through more topsy-turvy adventures than even Bilbo Baggins could boast of.
And really, it’s the people that I’ve met over the years that have elevated this digital scribble pad to something more than just a place for me to gush.
I’ve had the privilege of interviewing family, friends, and musicians who knew Ben and who were willing to meander down memory lane with me.
Others have dug up rare photos, print media, interviews, music and videos for me, some of which had laid dormant for years and years.
Many people have been willing to “network” me, putting me in touch with contacts that have helped to fill in gaps, answer questions, and corroborate details.
Attentive music lovers have generously passed along tips that resulted in stories of cool and cute Ben encounters.
Longtime Cars fans have patiently and repeatedly allowed me to pick their brains for dates and names and obscure tidbits of the band’s history.
Encouragement from prominent musicians, including the surviving members of The Cars, has lent credibility and validity to the blog, and has given me confidence to stay the course.
Faithful readers have become true-blue friends, challenging me to go deeper, holding me accountable to the facts, and supporting me through the highs and lows of regular, everyday life.
I am sincerely grateful for every single one of you! I always get a thrill when I visit my blog dashboard and check the growing stats, evidence of your steadfast interest in Ben and The Cars. I love receiving comments and emails from new readers sharing their love for the band with me and relating the history of their fan experience. This feeling of community is one of the best things I have gained from this project.
The honeymoon isn’t anywhere near over between me and my little blog. I feel such a deep affection for what I’ve created, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done. Reading through past articles gives me satisfaction because each word represents my passion for documenting Ben’s personal and musical legacy.
I flatter myself that there is true historical value to many of the pieces I’ve written. I care about illuminating the backstory, connecting the dots, documenting the details. I revel in the research and the fact-finding (the rabbit hole is my favorite place to be!). I strive to create an accurate record, and if I’m wrong I’ll happily admit it and correct it. It is always more important to me to be accurate than it is to be ‘right.’ I’m not angling to be seen as an expert, I don’t approach the fandom as a competition, and I’m not seeking personal attention.
It’s all about Ben and The Cars for me; it always has been.
And in spite of publishing only 40 articles in 2021 (in contrast to the 160 I wrote in my first year), my devotion to writing about Benjamin and The Cars remains as steadfast as ever. I’ve got a handful of sparkly new things to share with you in the months to come, including endearing photos and personal stories of Ben, never-before-published video footage, and rare audio treasures galore. Let’s check in with the stats, and then we’ll kick off the year with something new down below.
Most visitors in one day: September 16, 2019 (the day after Ric Ocasek passed away): 1,921 visitors
Alright, welcome to 2022! Let’s check out this brand new gem that I just uploaded.
To the best of my understanding, “Are You Ready” was originally part of The Cars’ 2011 album Move Like This, and was included on a handful of very early promo copies of the record. For some reason it didn’t make the final cut (obviously), but fortunately for us, a good friend of mine who collects lots of obscure music stuff had it and was happy to pass it on to me. I’m thrilled to discover and share this rare, previously unreleased track!
My $.02: Different than any other composition by The Cars, the song works on its own level. It has sort of a lovely Motown/”My Girl” vibe to it, accentuated by David’s light touch and skippy drum fills. Greg offers a variety of delightful keyboard embellishments, and all are understated and perfectly suited to the sway. It lacks the punch of an Elliot Easton solo, though you can hear his gentle flourishes throughout. The lyrics are some of Ric’s best, and I can’t help but feel that they pave the way for the reception of this new album after the band’s 24-year absence. It’s a shame it was shelved. The whole thing is bright and lighthearted, and extremely catchy; I can’t get it out of my head.
Do you think it should have been cut from Move Like This? If not, what song would you trade it for? Personally, I would have sacrificed “Drag On Forever.” I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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:
On his feelings about The Lace: “I did the absolute best I could possibly do under the circumstances. I’m happy with what I have, but it makes me personally cringe when I don’t hear exactly [what I wanted]. Probably no one else would notice except myself and a few other people. It won’t happen like that again. It took me much too long to do this project. I wasn’t thrilled about some of the things that went on [referring to recording in England]. I’m real glad it’s over.” — “The Rewards of Rock Stardom” by Jim Sullivan, The Boston Globe, November 1, 1986