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!
How his relationship with Diane influenced his songwriting for The Lace: “We share a large amount of romance in this life, and you can’t help but put that into music. How can you be miserable? … It’s good for now and I hope it’s good later. There’s the cynical part — you have to maintain some portion of realism.” — “The Rewards of Rock Stardom” by Jim Sullivan, The Boston Globe, November 1, 1986
On October 26, 1978, The Cars opened for Cheap Trick at the Selland Arena in Fresno, California. From the looks of this newspaper article in the Fresno Bee on October 20, it was a highly anticipated appearance.
What a treat to know that we can still experience that show!
First, the video. You’ve probably seen this before. Sometime at the end of 2018 (I think Octoberish?) this partial footage was shared on YouTube by Fresno Media Restoration (FMR). By the end of 2020 it had disappeared, but luckily, fan Gwyneth Jeffer had the foresight to save it before it was gone. She passed it on to me a while ago to upload it to my YouTube channel and I’m just now getting around to it — yay!
FMR had published the footage in two parts, but I’ve taken the liberty to combine them here in the order of the set. It’s just over 20 minutes long all together, which is about half of the full show. The video shows, to varying degrees, seven of the ten songs of the night. Here’s what they’ve got:
00:47 “Good Times Roll”
04:26 “Since I Held You”
07:57 “Candy-O” (incomplete)
09:48 “My Best Friend’s Girl” (incomplete)
13:41 “Bye Bye Love” (incomplete)
17:23 “Just What I Needed”
21:00 “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” (incomplete)
Take a look:
The guys are so tiny and the lighting is a struggle, and watching it makes me feel like I couldn’t afford a ticket so I had to sneak peeks through a missing board in the fence. Haha! Any view of them live is so great, though. We can find lots of things to gush about!
Ric’s cool as a cucumber, as always.
It’s an absolute treat to get a nice long look at David playing drums, and…
…Ben’s gorgeous in all red and his little black boots! Did you see (at about 11:30) when he moved off to the side to let Elliot have the spotlight during “My Best Friend’s Girl?” I love when he does that!
Elliot deserves having all eyes on him during that epic solo. They catch him during “Just What I Needed,” too, and I’m so glad — EE’s energy is hitting the ceiling!
We don’t get to see enough of Greg, but there’s a great moment of him in the spotlight during “Bye Bye Love.”
Let’s just focus on Ben here for another minute. He drives me crazy with his little head tosses, those badass rock star poses, and all that 1978 pout. He’s such a natural up there, addressing every corner of the audience, bold and upfront when he chooses to be. He sounds freaking amazing, too. And while Elliot’s energy is obvious in the way he jams his way through the songs, Ben simply exudes it, just standing there. It’s mesmerizing. I think my very favorite little part is at 20:30, when he pulls a stork pose at the end of JWIN. Dude’s on FIRE.
I’ve been wondering why the footage is interrupted by picture fills and dropouts. At first I thought maybe large portions of the original tape were damaged and that’s the best FMR could do to make it whole. Definitely possible, but now I’ve come up with a different little theory.
Friend and fan Jon Mortas mentioned on Facebook that the video was shot with a super 8 camera, and I figure this may account for the frequent intermissions of still photos with the live action. I am NO camera techie, but from what I understand from my cursory research, super 8 film spools could only hold 3 to 5 minutes of footage at a time, so the camera operator would have to stop filming, swap out the cartridge, and then resume recording, accounting for some loss of live footage. There’s a good chance that that is the case here, and that FMR added in still photos (or screenshots) to fill in the gaps so the audio track could continue uninterrupted. This is all just my speculation, of course.
Happily, the rest of the show is not lost to us — at least, not to our ears. I’ve uploaded the full audio recording to my channel for our listening pleasure. Here’s the complete set list:
01:08“Good Times Roll”
04:50 “Moving In Stereo”
10:30 “Since I Held You”
17:00 “My Best Friend’s Girl”
25:45 “Bye Bye Love”
30:20 “Don’t Cha Stop”
33:56 “Just What I Needed”
38:15 “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” (encore)
It’s so great how clear Elliot’s guitar comes through. I think that’s actually my favorite part. And I love the little bits of chatter, but I can’t always tell who says what. I mean, I’m pretty positive that it’s Ben that says ‘thank you’ at 21:14, but does he also say ‘Fresno?’ It sounds weird. Haha! Or at the end, who is encouraging the crowd to “wear a badge for the future?” Is that Ric??
The best is when they come out for the encore and Ben says, “Thank you down here, thank you up there!” (around 38:15). Oh, one more… I can’t make out what Ben’s saying at 33:55; sounds like the recording got clipped a little. Dang it! Oh well. In spite of that and a few other minor flaws, this is an outstanding performance! I hope that all who took the Fresno Bee’s advice would agree. ❤
How about you? What is your favorite video moment? How about the audio? Let me know in the comments below, or via YouTube or Facebook. Enjoy!
“…I wanted to play the bass and sing. There’s a special breed of people who can do something that is contra-punk. In other words, you can sing a song and strum a guitar along; it’s kind of easy. Whereas if you play the bass it’s a bit like, um, patting your head and making circles on your tummy. You’re doing something that involves two sides of your brain and not many people develop that skill, and it’s something that I was very proud of… I’ve always enjoyed having that particular skill set… I want to be the bass player who sings.”
“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)
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!
Another recording of The Cars at The Rat has surfaced, and it brings with it another rare gem!
I’m just going to jump right to the lightning bolt: they performed “Take Me Now” during the set! As we know, the demo of the song was released on the 1995 Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology, but I believe this is the first time we’ve heard this beautiful ballad played live. A few unfortunate flaws in the original tape mean that some significant sections of the song were lost, but what a treasure nonetheless, and such a clear recording! Ben’s achy vocal is layered so perfectly over Greg’s gentle keyboards and David’s faithful percussion foundation. Ah, it’s just so gorgeous! Someday… someday, I hope we can hear all of the verses. For now…
As for the full gig, the band played a total of 9 songs in about half an hour. Here’s the set list:
“Leave Or Stay”
“I Don’t Want To” (Elliot on vocals)
“I’m In Touch With Your World”
“Take Me Now” (!!)
“Come Back Down”
“See Through My Eyes”
“Looking To See You”
“You Can Have ‘Em” (aka “Sleepy Wasted Afternoon”)
Notice anything missing? The absence of “Just What I Needed” is a surprise, and leads me to think that they probably did an encore that either didn’t get caught on the tape or wasn’t released with the digitized files.
A little side note: I’m still digging to pinpoint the date of this performance, and to confirm that it is from The Rat. I’m not sure why, but something about the way the guy introduces the band at the beginning seems a little off and it kind of has me questioning the details. It seems like he’s trying to acquaint the audience with the band, but we know that The Cars had played there a bunch of times by this point. Of course, it’s not like I’ve ever even seen a show at The Rat, so what do I know? I may be totally off base, but those bits of info are puzzle pieces I’d like to have firmly in place. I’ll poke around a little more.
The show seems to get off to a rocky start. After “Leave Or Stay,” the audience is either not paying attention, or they don’t realize the song is over, because there is an awkward moment of silence before the smattering of applause. Ric seems a little grumpy when he says, “There’s a lot of fucking room up here,” possibly referring to the audience area in front of the stage. Perhaps he got even more irritated by the overly-enthusiastic fan (apparently named Roy?) that causes a ruckus during the first half of the set. Or maybe that was just me getting annoyed. Haha!
Happily, the crowd becomes more enthusiastic as the band proves its mettle. Ric, Ben, and Elliot all take turns singing lead, one right after the other, and the contrast in sound and style is obvious but certainly not unpleasant. At a minimum, it underscores just how much talent these guys had to draw from.
Whether he’s on lead vocals or singing backup, Ben weaves his way through the songs, his voice silky and smooth. He puts a more melodic spin on traditionally snarky songs like “Cool Fool” and “See Through My Eyes” than we find on other recordings (“nothin’s free, honey…” mmm). On “I’m In Touch With Your World,” Ben sings backup with an irrepressible seductive mellowness (at 13:03, for example), and his tranquil delivery of “Come Back Down” is flat out hypnotic.
And since we’re talking about “Come Back Down,” after you soak up Ben’s vocal, I highly recommend that you listen through the song a second time, and maybe a third! You can really pick up the peppy fills in David’s drumming, Ben’s swaying bass, and all of Elliot’s brilliant guitar flourishes. Oh, and Greg’s perfectly understated keyboard outro that kicks in at 19:30… So, so good!
About Elliot: he is definitely delivering the goods in this show. While I understand the band’s decision not to have him continue as a vocalist, it’s always electrifying when EE takes the mic. He rips through a flaming and growly performance of “I Don’t Want To,” the most rollicking song of the whole show. Even as he continues to be a force on backing vocals, his guitar playing never lags. He stretches out some in “Looking to See You,” then he really lays into the audience with his work on “You Can Have ‘Em.”
Greg is no slouch, either. His inventiveness and dexterity on “I’m In Touch With Your World” are moving the band closer and closer to their final studio version. “Looking To See You” really showcases his keyboard prowess, and it’s the ultimate cherry on top when he pulls out his sax on “You Can Have ‘Em.” Knowing now that it wouldn’t be long before that instrument would begin gathering dust, I just love when we are treated to him playing it in these early recordings.
All the while, David’s impeccable drumming, steady and stylish, is the essential framework of the whole show. No wonder they are screaming for more at the end!
BONUS: There’s a good bit of audience and stage chatter, which I love (did you hear Ben saying, “I’ll have that, uh… soda… anytime” at 20:50?) It always adds that real-world touch that makes you feel like you’re at one of the tables in the club. I only wish there was more! It seems like there are a few places between songs where the transition is abrupt and I wonder what’s lost. No reason to dwell on that, though, when there is so much to love about this show.
Here’s the full set — take your time! When you’re done, leave me a comment and tell me your favorite part. Enjoy! ❤
Please remember that these live audios are not to be bought or sold!
Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel and tap on the little bell to get a notification when I upload something new. Also, I’ve started keeping a playlist of the live shows in chronological order. You can check it out here.
Between the tight instrumentation, powerful vocals, and sizzling energy, this short set is a real barn-burner! Today marks the 39th anniversary of the night The Cars showed up as surprise guests at the Metro in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 7, 1982, so let’s take a closer look.
We’ll start with this one lone video:
Though I am optimistic that the band’s whole set was filmed (it had to have been, right???), this is currently the only available footage for us Cars fans. It remains on my list of concerts I hope will someday surface from someone’s basement VHS collection.
Along with this visual remnant, we have some (only 3!) photos that have circulated from that night. They were taken by Michael Grecco, and they.are.GORGEOUS. Feast your eyes!
The Cars at the Metro by Michael Grecco. December 7, 1982
Benjamin Orr at the Metro by Michael Grecco. December 7, 1982
Ric Ocasek at the Metro by Michael Grecco. December 7, 1982
This performance is generally pinned to a Toys for Tots charity gig, but I was going over my notes as I was getting ready to upload the audio of their full six-song set (link below) and I discovered that that might not be the case. Let me lay out what I’ve got for you.
Apparently there was a charity show scheduled to benefit a punk/new wave music magazine called New York Rocker. The publication was in financial straits and was trying to scratch up an infusion of cash. This clip from The Boston Globe on December 6, 1982, sets the stage:
The Boston Globe, December 6, 1982
The next we hear about it shows up here: a Boston Globe mention on December 10, 1982, where it’s revealed that The Cars were a surprise guest at the NY Rocker benefit.
The Boston Globe ~ December 10, 1982
One more blip of that benefit, confirming that the purpose was to financially support NY Rocker, appeared just a couple of days later:
Seems consistent to me. And judging by the publication covers, I could guess that that magazine would be something Ric in particular would be happy to support. In fact, it looks like The Cars themselves might have been included in at least one issue; I’ll have to see if I can track that down at some point.
As for the Toys for Tots benefit, that was a real thing, and The Cars were definitely involved… to a certain extent. They were co-sponsors of the annual Christmas party at the Metro, along with the venue and Warner Elektra Atlantic, where the only price of admission was the donation of a toy for needy children. Boston photographer Derek Szabo saved his 1982 invite and was so kind to share it with me. How cute is this?
1982 invitation front, courtesy of Derek Szabo. Shared with permission.
1982 invitation back, courtesy of Derek Szabo. Shared with permission.
The festivities included an hour-long open bar and live music, but it does not appear that The Cars were on the roster of performers. Check out this clipping from The Boston Globe, December 17, 1982:
The Boston Globe ~ December 17, 1982
Of course, it is entirely possible that The Cars did play at that party on December 22; I just haven’t been able to find anything to confirm it. If they did, I feel certain that it is different than the “Candy-O” performance footage we see above.
So let’s get back to that December 7 show. For the most part, the set list has a gritty punk vibe that seems perfectly suited to an audience of New York Rocker readers. Fortunately for us, an audience recording of the full six songs The Cars performed that night has been preserved. It’s not the greatest quality, but it’s a treasure nonetheless.
The band opens with “Out of Control,” a previously unpublished tune that would show up on Ric’s first solo album, Beatitude, apparently released at the end of the month. [A little pet peeve of mine here: another instance of Ric showcasing his solo work during a Cars show, an opportunity apparently not given to Ben or Elliot in later years. Grr!]
From there they rev things up with a raucous cover of Iggy Pop’s “Funtime,” and it sounds like all the guys are really enjoying themselves. And Elliot’s solo is blazing! EE continues to drive the show as they blast through “Take What You Want,” a concert staple that never made it to vinyl. Interestingly, I believe this gig is the last time they played it for an audience.
Now we get to “Candy-O” which, of course, sounds a bit muted compared to the more professional video capture. Still, it’s pretty great! If you recall in the footage, at the end of the song the guys are taking off their guitars and preparing to exit the stage after being on for less than 20 minutes. So now brace yourself: a member of the audience, who is apparently unsatisfied with the very short set, begins booing in protest. Booing! Loudly. And complaining that it’s a ripoff. I mean, I can understand the guy’s disappointment, but it still grates on my nerves to hear him booing my band. Ugh.
Anyway, thankfully, The Cars do return and treat the enthusiastic audience to two more energetic gems.
I love love love the dizzying version of “Let’s Go,” and again, Elliot is just on fire. The big finish comes with “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” and please, I am begging you, do NOT miss Elliot’s sassy little guitar riff at 26:46. If an attitude can be summarized in four seconds of music, there it is right there. So freaking great! I swear, there had to be cinders and ashes floating to the ground as those guys took their leave. Holy wow.
Your turn to listen in! Be sure to share your thoughts below.
UPDATE December 11, 2021: A reader pointed out to me the similarity of Elliot’s “sassy little riff” at 26:46 to the “Wake Me Up” demo at 3:08. It blew my mind! Take a listen: