On the first time he saw Ben play: “I can remember seeing Ben’s and Ric’s names around town as another band, Cap’n Swing, but it wasn’t the same places that I was going to at the time, so I hadn’t gotten to see them play live. Then a mutual friend of mine and Ric’s, Maxanne Sartori, had mentioned them to me, and she thought they were good, so I went and saw Cap’n Swing at Paul’s Mall. They were kind of a mish-mash group of people, and when they came out, Ben was wearing these white satin karate pajamas and flip flops!
“I remember thinking, ‘What kind of look is this?’ Ben only sang and didn’t play the bass, but I did notice right away how great his voice was! The music was quirky-pop sounding, and not really coming from a hip place but a more nerdy place, so I wasn’t overly impressed.” — David Robinson, Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars by Joe Milliken, p. 70.
“There are a lot of things I’ve done in music that I’ve never really had to think about because it just came natural.” — from “Benjamin Orr: The Cars’ Mr. Casual Steps Out” by Rob Tannenbaum, Musician Magazine, March 1987
Yesterday 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! ❤
On what he was doing during the three years it took to make The Lace: “Horsing around. I went to Hawaii for two weeks and stayed for three months.” — from “Benjamin Orr: The Cars’ Mr. Casual Steps Out” by Rob Tannenbaum, Musician Magazine, March 1987
Hello friends! This weekend I am hosting a social media event on Facebook where I’ve invited friends and Ben fans to come and share music, videos, photos, and graphics to honor Ben on the 20th anniversary of his passing. I know not everybody has Facebook, so I’m creating a special page here on my blog where I’ll add the unique things I am sharing over there.
If you look to the left you should see the heading for Pages, and right underneath that there is a link for #CelebratingBenjaminOrr. That’s where everything will be. I’ll keep adding to it over the weekend as I add to the Facebook event to keep everyone in the loop as best as I can.
Feel free to share in the comments what you’re doing today to remember Ben. I’m very grateful that we can all celebrate him together in this small way. ❤
One of the most exciting articles I’ve written for my blog is the piece I did with Leo Yorkell, published on February 14, 2019. I remember my curiosity when he first contacted me through Twitter, and how fun it was to talk with him on the phone. He was so genuine and funny, and his love for Ben was unmistakable. I was thrilled with his insights into Ben’s life in the mid-90s and how he fit the puzzle pieces together of Ben’s softball-playing adventures. Then he really blew me away when he started digging around and unearthed old photos, videos, and newspaper clippings (like the one below) that had long been packed away, and generously shared them!
One of the treasures Leo had found was the video footage he shot of Ben playing in Cleveland Circle, Boston, in the summer of 1997. As part of this month’s #CelebratingBenjaminOrr tributes, we’ve uploaded Ben’s full 6-song set, uncut, including the previously unreleased performance of “Stay The Night.”
This short show is one hit after another, and is sprinkled liberally with Ben’s winning smiles. Beyond that, here are half a dozen other notable nuggets:
0:16 Ben cuts it close when mounting the stage and gets to the mic just in time for his first line, but remains unruffled even as his guitar strap refuses to cooperate.
1:45 The ORR band’s cool arrangement of “Let’s Go” has Rich Bartlett and John Kalishes trading guitar licks while Ben looks on.
The run of Ben’s facial expressions between 5:20 and 5:30 is priceless.
What a treat to catch glimpses of Edita and young Ben in the audience, and to see how even from the stage Ben adores his son. We can also see the late Dave Tedeschi at both the beginning and end of the show.
12:24 Ben acknowledges someone else in the crowd. Does he say Vinny? Maybe Vin Kalishes is there? Is it the same person Brad smiles at at 10:18 and Ben at 10:30?
At 15:20 Ben flubs the lyrics, and then tucks his arm behind his back, causing Tom to laugh. How much you wanna bet he was flipping the bird?
What else stands out to you?
Enjoy the video, and please comment below to join me in giving a grateful shout out to Leo for his role in keeping Ben’s legacy alive! ❤
So we know the story about Roy Thomas Baker driving out to see The Cars play in a snowstorm at the end of 1977, and everyone shaking hands on going to England with him to produce the first album. Well, that wasn’t the first time The Great Snowflake proved fortuitous for the band. Mother Nature gave our boys a little gift at the beginning of that year when they were just starting out.
In March of 1977, Bob Seger was riding high on the huge success of his recently released breakthrough album, Night Moves. Though it was his ninth studio album, it was the first one to catapult him into nationwide success and his first to go platinum. He had booked a show at the Music Hall in Boston for Friday, March 18, with Derringer as his opening act. [Nerd alert: Seger had not headlined in Boston before. Another first for him!]
Friday arrived and Derringer opened the show as planned, but Bob got stuck. Heavy snowfall prevented his plane from landing and he was forced to fly back to New York. Apparently Derringer had finished their set before the postponement announcement came, and, amazingly, they played another rockin’ set before the fans were sent home.
The concert was rescheduled for Monday, March 21, but Derringer was not able to play that date for some reason. I didn’t do deep research on the ‘why’ behind that because what matters is that the opener slot was left vacant. Even up to the day of the show, the replacement act had not been announced: the newspaper ad stated, “It is expected that a local band will open tonight.”
The Cars were still fairly new at that time — in terms of the combination of members, anyway. Greg had joined the band sometime in January as the fifth and final Car part (groan!), and their first live show all together was at The Rat on February 7. In Joe Milliken’s book, Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars, we learned that band manager Fred Lewis convinced music promoter Don Law to let The Cars slip onto the bill for that Seger show, though they only had a handful of gigs in the bag.
Obviously, this was a terrific stroke of luck for The Cars. Not only did it give them a chance to reach a greater audience, but it also put them on the radar of the bigger wigs in the music industry. Yay for snowstorms!
So let’s get to the actual recording. I wish it was video footage! Still, I am so grateful for this auditory treat. The person who captured the concert on tape showed up just a bit late, so we miss a smidge of the first song. The Cars’ set lasted just under 30 minutes, and included:
“Bye Bye Love” with Ric on vocals.
“I Don’t Want To,” sung by Elliot.
“Leave or Stay”
“You Can Have ‘Em,” also known as “Sleepy Wasted Afternoon.” [Sweet Ben jumping the starting gun! ❤ ]
“Don’t Cha Stop” (called “Don’t You Stop”), with a Greg synth riff in place of EE’s later solo and some slippery vocal timing on the chorus.
“Come Back Down”
I couldn’t find a written review of The Cars’ performance (I guess Bob Seger was terrific!), but the crowd sounds appreciative of the band in the audio file. I also don’t know the number of people actually in the audience, but I think the seating capacity of the Music Hall was around 3,500, which was quite a bit more than The Rat held. Haha!
A few notes:
It’s cool — and a little strange! — to experience these early incarnations of “Bye Bye Love” and “Don’t Cha Stop.”
We definitely hear a little more addressing of the crowd than Ric usually participated in during a live show.
I love the little bits of banter that Ben sneaks in, like when he mentions the ‘strange people up there in the balcony’ around 12:25.
And is that Greg that says, “Good Lord! Look at that!” right before Ben’s comment?
And speaking of Greg, listen for his badass saxophone work!
Also, don’t miss Ben’s introduction to “Come Back Down” at about 16:12.
Oh, and about “I Don’t Want To”… I think this is an original Cars’ song because of the way Ric introduced it, even though I’ve never heard of it referred to anywhere else in The Cars’ discography. I wonder who wrote it? Probably Ric, I know, but it seems like something Elliot could have penned. I’ll have to do a lyrics post for it, too, because this song is hilarious. And does anyone else feel their heart rate spike when Ben sings, “bay-be bay-be bay-be, bay-bay!” or is it just me? I think that’s my favorite part of the whole show.
Okay, your turn! Click below to listen to one of the earliest published recordings of The Cars. Enjoy!
These next four weeks are going to be pretty special for me, and for all of Benjamin Orr’s fans.
Between September 8 (Ben’s birthday) and October 4 (the day after his passing), I’ve got a variety of surprises in store to honor Ben’s legacy and to celebrate what an amazing person he was, including new photos, new video footage, and a fun give-away. Stay tuned!
Photo below: courtesy of Jeff Carlisi; shared with permission.
“Door to Door just was in a separate area. It wasn’t what the entire band envisioned it to be. It wasn’t a group effort. It turned out that way, and I felt that was wrong. Door to Door was done at Electric Lady in New York. It was already written in stone when I got there. And that’s not a way to do an album.” — from “The Cars: Shake It Up, Drive it Out,” by Steve Roeser, Goldmine, August 1, 1997