In other words:

“So, first day, I remember Ben coming to my house. Somebody picked him up at the airport, and I opened the door and there’s Benjamin Orr in all his glory and his … whatever… and I said, ‘God,’ I said, ‘you’re Ben Orr!’ and he goes, ‘So I’ve been told, pardner.’ He was a character (laughing).” — Jeff Carlisi, guitarist for 38 Special and Ben’s Big People bandmate; interview with Craig Garber and Everyone Loves Guitar, November 26, 2020 (at about 8:44)

Quoting Benjamin

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

QuotingB

Five years and counting

5One 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.


All-time blog stats as of December 31, 2021:

Total posts (including this one): 488

Total views: 375,761

Total visitors: 122,846

Number of countries reached: 157

Total comments: 2,791

Top three “most viewed” posts:

  1. Thank God it’s free! (Rock Goes To College): 4,855 views
  2. In Other Words (Glen Burtnik): 4,780
  3. Behind the Scenes at Viele’s Planet: 4,598

Top three interview articles:

  1. Leo Yorkell: “Play ball, Ben!”: 2,574 views
  2. Joe Milliken: Signature move: 2,088 views
  3. AJ Wachtel: Friend first, fan second: 1,845 views

The post with the fewest views: Let’s Go (VH-1 Classic): 58

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!

Lyrics: “Everything You Say”

Lyrics: “Everything You Say” by The Cars

They can’t stop you in the night

Twirling wildly in the light

But I know honey, it won’t take long

It feels like it’s one on one on one

There must have been a dream in you

A stick and fall and follow through

But I know honey, it won’t take long

Feels like it’s much too strong, too strong

And then you tell me that you can’t go on

And you think you’re losing sight

Don’t you worry, you can’t go wrong inside

Everything you say, oh it leaves me full of shine

Everything you say, well it crosses up my mind

Everything you say

Well and you could twist a little while

Lie there falling for a smile

But I know honey, you won’t give in

Feels like when you begin you’re in

But then you tell me that you can’t resist

When something happens that you like

You wanna know that you’ve been kissed goodnight

Everything you say (everything you say) just leaves me full of shine

Everything you say (everything you say) well it crosses up my mind

Everything you say

Well you know it’s not for real

But I know honey, for one long time

It feels like you’re endlessly entwined

But I know it’s what you did

You can’t be in a broken binge

Well take my heart, it’s only tin

Well, you got me goin’

Everything you say (everything you say), well it leaves me full of shine

Everything you say (everything you say), just crosses up my mind

Everything you say (everything you say) and everything you do

Everything you say (everything you say) makes me want to be with you

That’s everything you say (everything you say)

Studio version:

Live version (because it’s glorious, and sounds better to me than the original):

The Rat, June 1977: Take Me Now!

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”
  • “Cool Fool”
  • “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. 

Benjamin Orr by Robert Post, 1977
Benjamin Orr by Robert Post, 1977

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.

Cinders and ashes at the Metro, 1982

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!


NERD NOTES

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 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.

One more blip of that benefit, confirming that the purpose was to financially support NY Rocker, appeared just a couple of days later:

Inkedconfirming benefit concert for the New York Rocker magazine The_Boston_Globe_Sun__Dec_12__1982_ cropped_LI marked
The Boston Globe ~ December 12, 1982

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?

 

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:

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:

In other words:

“[Ben] was not [an introvert]… I like to think more of Ben as, he spoke when he had something to say, which sometimes comes off as being shy or aloof… I’m not so sure, and I guess technically you could say that somebody can walk onstage and perform like he did and still be an introvert; maybe that’s their release. But I saw when Ben was sick, and we were touring and he was battling his cancer, and he would spend time talking to people who had either battled cancer themselves, were just curious, were going through some other trauma in their life, and Ben would take enormous amounts of time being very candid with these folks and talking to them. That’s not an introvert. An introvert runs and hides…

“He was a bit of a quiet person [but] he was very forthcoming with people, loved the human contact… The only thing that would maybe have given you the impression that he was an introvert was that he wasn’t a man of many words, but when he said something it meant something.” — Jeff Carlisi, guitarist for 38 Special and Ben’s Big People bandmate; interview on Madame Perry’s Salon, January 27, 2020 (at about 8:20)

Quoting Benjamin

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

QuotingB

Lyrics: “Double Trouble”

“Double Trouble” by The Cars

They got a line on you, little bit of trouble, too

You’ve got some jets inside, cherry lips and delirious eyes

You get in trouble and it keeps you down

Double trouble

You get in trouble when you come to town

Double trouble, oh yeah

They better chain your hands; spread some evil, pick and pan

You sure got some jets inside but you gotta live with those empty eyes

You get in trouble and it keeps you down

Double trouble

You get in trouble when you come to town

Double trouble, oh yeah

You got some jets inside

Yeah, broken promises, broken pride

You get in trouble and it keeps you down

Double trouble

You get in trouble when you come to town

Double trouble, oh yeah

It reminds me of him.

ben-with-fans“Do you get that a lot? No one ever tries to pick me up.”

“I don’t believe that. To answer your question, it happens occasionally. I’m not often alone when I’m out so I think that limits it to the most brave. They don’t want me, though.”

“What do you mean?”

“They’re attracted to the concept of me, but it’s a fantasy they’ve built. It doesn’t matter if they’re know who I am or not. It’s this.” He waves his hand at his face, then shrugs. “The fame helps. At least she didn’t recognize me. That would be a mess.”

I peer into his glass. “Did you get the ‘massive ego’ IPA?”

“I got the ‘realistic’ lager. My looks are an asset, fully monetized.”

I know he’s right. It’s Sam’s public persona, and the same is what Fong Lee said that first day about her fans. What kind of pressure does that create? To be on a pedestal that you never built, and that is a by-product of doing a job to the best of your abilities?

— Lily Chu, The Stand-In

In other words:

“We were all obviously devastated for Ben, but we learned a lot of lessons that last summer. He’d already been diagnosed, and check this out. The doctor says you got three or four months, and we’re not knowing what to say, let alone how to ask the question, and finally it’s kind of like, ‘well…’ Before we could say anything, Ben said, ‘Well, start booking as many gigs as possible. I’m going out the way I came in, doing what I love.’ And it was so inspirational.” — Jeff Carlisi, guitarist for 38 Special and Ben’s Big People bandmate; interview with Craig Garber and Everyone Loves Guitar, November 26, 2020 (at about 14:10)