“At the beginning all we wanted was a record contract. It was just what every new group was hoping to get. We just wanted that record contract so that we could put our music out — so that Ric could put his music out. It was real basic.” — The Cars by Peter Goddard and Philip Kamin, 1986
On the reasoning behind the band name: “Who can forget the day he got his driver’s license? Or his first car, or his first drive-in? If I hadn’t had a car, I wouldn’t have driven over from Parma Heights to Fairview Park to go shopping, and I wouldn’t have met my future wife — Kris King from Bay Village. She’s a curly-haired strawberry blonde. Gorgeous!” — “The Cars take off fast in the record derby,” The Plain Dealer, June 9, 1978.
The discovery of “Looking To See You” from The Cars’ April, 1977, show at The Rat brought to my mind again that the band had a whole cache of great songs that they could have cobbled together into another record. I’m not saying that I wish the debut album was any different — for heaven’s sake, it’s perfection! — but it would have been cool to somehow have my cake and eat it too. They could have done a “lost tracks” compilation, or “road to the record deal,” that kind of thing, don’t you think?
Anyway, that got me pondering which songs I would put on an additional album if I had a say, and in what order. I noodled out my choices, but I want to hear yours! So let’s play a little game: Let’s make a record! All you have to do is:
Look through the list of songs I compiled below. I think I’ve got all of the ones played by The Cars at some point in their career that did not end up on one of the seven studio albums. I’ve added YouTube links in case you need to revisit some of the tunes, and I included the dates in case… well, just because, I guess. Please let me know if I missed a song! (Also, you’re welcome to specify other versions of a song title if you have a favorite; I just grabbed one for each.)
From that list, choose no more than 11 titles that you would include on a whole ‘new’ Cars record. (I capped it at 11 because that is the highest number of tracks on any one of their original studio albums.) You can decide if you want to group them by a time period, or a specific style, or if you want to make a concept album using the songs to tell the story. Or you could compile a ‘greatest hits’-type group, or focus on one of the band members. There are tons of possibilities.
Now make your track list. Think carefully about sequencing. What song would really be a great opener to set the tone for the album? How about a great finisher? Don’t forget to split the list into Side A and Side B — remember, we’re playing with vinyl here!
Brainstorm a title for your record.
For extra bonus points, make a YouTube playlist to share with us!
Overachievers can even go the Robinson route and create some album art. What colors and images would you use? How about photographs? Fonts? Sleeves? Liner notes??? The sky’s the limit! [You can work with any format, but if you’d like to monkey around with graphics, try exploring Canva. It’s free and very user friendly.]
Share! Submit your track list (and/or your YouTube playlist, album art, liner notes, etc.) by posting in the comments below, sharing on Facebook, or by sending me an email through the blog if you don’t want to throw it all out there. 😉
Then… let’s see… should we put everyone’s records up for a vote? I say YES! I’ll gather everyone’s ideas and then organize a little poll here and on social media. I’ll keep all the entries anonymous to avoid personal popularity votes; every record will stand on its own merits. Ooo, I can even have several categories, like Best Track List, Best Cover Art, Best Overall Album, that kind of thing… Oh man, I’m already getting carried away, I can tell.
I’m cooling my jets now, but let’s set a deadline of April 15 for entries if you want to be part of a vote. I’ll see if there’s enough interest in going further. Regardless of if we end up doing that part of it, I really want to hear everyone’s ideas! You can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. It’s your record!
All of Cleveland was thrown into mourning with the recent death of local icon Michael Stanley. He passed away on March 5, 2021, after a seven-month battle with lung cancer.
As a relentless rocker and a longstanding popular radio DJ, Stanley embodied all the dreams and passions of the people in his beloved hometown. He loved them, and they loved him. Author and music critic Holly Gleason wrote of Michael on variety.com, “He’d been produced by the biggest rock producers of the day in Don Gehman, Mutt Lange and Bill Szymczyk … and toured with the Eagles, REO Speedwagon, Fleetwood Mac. Living the rarest air of rock ‘n’ roll without ever forgetting the folks in Cleveland, he was ours.”
I’m afraid I am not well-versed on Michael’s extensive discography, but I definitely know his name. In fact, I had really hoped to meet him when I was in Cleveland in 2019 with Joe Milliken promoting Let’s Go!, but it didn’t work out. The familiarity for me came through Michael’s connection to Benjamin Orr. Born only 6 months apart, it seems like the two had the potential to be pretty deep friends. They had so much in common: they were both hardworking musicians, native sons of Cleveland; kindhearted, loyal, and generous with their time and talent. It’s no surprise, then, that they collaborated on some very cool projects for their hometown.
The first one that I know of is the Cleveland C.A.R.E. project. Inspired by the groundbreaking record “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” released at the end of 1984, radio executive John Gorman and media personality Denny Sanders (both legends in Cleveland) secured a roster of dozens of all-star Cleveland artists to create their own charity single. In addition to supporting the efforts to wipe out famine in Ethiopia, profits from the project would benefit the local food banks, too. They tapped Michael Stanley to write a song suited to all those voices, booked nearly two weeks of studio time in April of 1985, and hit the record stores in November with “The Eyes Of The Children.” Benjamin shows up in the music video at 0:58, with Michael right after him. This video also has an interview segment featuring Ben starting at 3:33.
From what I understand, sometime between 1987 and 1991, while Michael was co-hosting Cleveland’s evening program PM Magazine (later called Cleveland Tonight), Michael interviewed Ben. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the footage of that will surface for us to enjoy.
Michael and Ben crossed paths again for another Cleveland project some years later. The city’s football team, the Cleveland Browns, went dormant for a few years in the late 90s. When they were ready to get back in the game (literally) in 1998, Michael wrote “Here We Go Again” to celebrate their return, and recruited a pile of big names to perform on the recording and appear in the video for it. In the clip below, the first singer’s face we see is Michael’s, and he’s rocking the stage starting at 2:57. Of course, Ben, who seems to have been a devoted fan, was right there in the thick of it. You can see him in the music video at 2:43, 2:53, and 4:15.
When Benjamin passed away on October 3, 2000, Michael felt the loss. The very next night, during his concert at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on October 4, Michael paid tribute to Ben by sharing some fond memories, and then he dedicated a poignant acoustic ballad to him. Thanks to MS fan and historian Dave Wade, we have the honor of seeing this touching moment. You may want to grab a Kleenex.
Only a few short weeks later, on November 10, 2000, Michael would emcee Ben’s memorial celebration at the Hall, opening and closing the service for the family.
I like to think that Ben and Michael formed a solid friendship, bonding over music, the highs and the lows of the business, and over their mutual love and loyalty for Cleveland. I hope, too, that they are now rocking together in heaven.
Cleveland City Council has declared March 25th as Michael Stanley Day on what would have been his 73rd birthday. Sending a hug out to all of my grieving Cleveland friends. ❤
“Benny called me one day to tell me that he had a new band called The Cars and he was now calling himself Ben Orr. Because of our friendship, I played their record. What I didn’t realize was that this was a Hall-of-Fame-caliber band that would change the world. Whenever he came to town, he would come in for an interview on my radio show and we always found time to share a meal or two. I always got to eat. Benny basically just signed autographs and had his picture taken.
“In many ways, he never left Cleveland, returning to sing on local records to raise money for different causes, always giving a shout-out to his hometown and never forgetting where he came from.” — David Spero, artist manager, former Cleveland DJ, and former associate producer of Upbeat!, Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars, by Joe Milliken
Interesting note: This photo of David and Ben was taken in April, 1985, when Ben was in Cleveland during the C.A.R.E.S. Sessions to record “Eyes of the Children.” Click on the footage below to catch a bit of his involvement in that project:
“I will tell you that he was such a champ, and he’s forever my hero because he always got up on that stage, and he was feeling really bad… Everybody helped to make sure that Ben was comfortable and had what he needed. It was an awful, stressful time. And it was a very sad time. And yet, personally, that was the most loving relationship I ever had — and not just between me and Ben, but between Ben and I and those wonderful guys and their wonderful wives. You just felt the charge of love in my house…
“Once Ben was sick, everybody knew the time was short so nobody wanted to miss a moment, and we didn’t. One year… it felt like a lifetime. I didn’t need to really know more about Ben than I did because the time was so precious and condensed, and… he was just a great man… an unbelievably talented, wonderful man.”
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
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. ❤
On Ben joining The Mixed Emotions: “When he first showed up to our rehearsal I was really impressed. I said to myself, ‘Now here’s someone who has got it all. The musical talent, good looks, and the personality.’ Well, he was cool with the band and joined right then and there.” — Chris Kamburoff, former Mixed Emotions band mate, Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars by Joe Milliken