Episode 38: Album Dissections: Shake It Up

EP38“Dance all night… go go go!”

It’s time for Dave and Donna to pull apart The Cars’ fourth album, Shake it Up. Loved by many and a big success for the band (the title track became their first Top 10 single), this album also represents a departure from the heavier ‘rock’ emphasis of their earlier music — at least, as far as Donna is concerned. The two take a close look at the shifts and nuances that moved The Cars into a new realm of creativity.

There is SO much packed into this episode! Things you never knew about Alberto Vargas’ early career, insights into the odd recording style at Syncro Sound, and Dave’s attempt to answer the “slug” lyric challenge (which is always on the table, by the way). They also wind their way around the ins and outs of the background vocals and the little ‘sneak peek’ threads of Heartbeat City woven through this album.

And then the questions…

  1. Do the underwater sounds of “Since You’re Gone” make for a good album opener?
  2. Would Ben have handled “A Dream Away” better than Ric?
  3. Should “A Dream Away” have meshed with “It Could Be Love”?
  4. What was Benjamin’s true comfort zone during their Friday’s performance of “Think It Over”?
  5. Does anyone have a ‘shaker pin’ available for a reasonable price???

And that’s not even all of it! Tune in to find out how in the world they get to talking about Ben in a leather rabbit suit, recommendations for Dante Tomaselli’s doorbell, line dancing to “Victim of Love,” and Donna pressuring Dave to get a full sleeve of tattoos. Lots of fun and frolic to be found in this episode!

Don’t forget… Find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @TheCarsPodcast  (individually we’re @night_spots  and  @sweetpurplejune ), and subscribe to our audio outlets! You can listen by clicking the Youtube link below, or visit us on iTunes or Soundcloud. Wherever you connect, be sure to subscribe, share and comment. Let us know your thoughts — we’d love to hear from you!

Grab your headphones and dive into Episode 38 — don’t let nothing get in your way!

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Episode 36: Album Dissections: Panorama

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The non-scientific studies continue as Dave and Donna tackle their third album dissection. Considered by some to be the ‘dark horse’ of The Cars’ varied catalog, Panorama offers an intriguing look into a band that has not only managed to stay relevant for 40 years, but to stay true to themselves, as well.

Following their usual protocol, Dave and Donna start with facts and visual observations abour the album, and then dive into the meat of it, layer by layer, investigating what the critics didn’t like about it — and if those opinions were really justified. Because really, how can you NOT love this album? Even John Lennon was a fan, and after all, this record saved ‘teenage Davy’ from a pummeling by a disgruntled ex-boyfriend (“Panorama makes peace!”). And you’ve got Benjamin laughing, Ric screaming, and video game noises before there were video games. This record has it all!

What do you think? Is David physically playing those relentless cymbals in “Panorama” or is it a drum machine? Do you think Benjamin is a natural vocal ad-libber? Is Panorama a self-centered album lyrically? How in the world did “Don’t Go To Pieces” NOT make the track list? Are Ric’s younger years reflected in “Misfit Kid?” Which song off of this album would YOU choose to be your personal ‘grand entrance’ soundtrack?

bufordThere are other shenanigans worked into this episode, too. Dave compares Donna to Buford T. Justice from Smokey and The Bandit, causing her to explain why she censors herself verbally. There’s a plug for the hilarious film Turbocharge: The Unauthorized Story of The Cars, written by David Juskow — don’t forget to like that Turbocharge Facebook page! Another great film (and just in time for Halloween!) is Dante Tomaselli’s re-released horror masterpiece, Desecration. Warning: it’s not for the faint of heart! Dave and Donna wrap up the show on a light note as two sweet friends send their thoughts to the Midnight Scroll, and Rico delights us with an inspired poem contemplating the holy depiction of the members of the band.

Now don’t forget… We want to connect with you! Find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @TheCarsPodcast  (individually we’re @night_spots  and  @sweetpurplejune ), and subscribe to our audio outlets! You can listen by clicking the Youtube link below, or visit us on iTunes or Soundcloud. Wherever you connect, be sure to subscribe, share and comment. Let us know your thoughts — email us at nightthoughtspodcast@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Enjoy!

Episode 21: Influenced by The Cars

ep21The induction into the Rock Hall is an indicator of many things, including an artist or band’s lasting impact on the world of rock and roll. Many (including myself) would cite The Cars’ obvious role in opening the window for innovation during the late 70s when rock music was nearly at a standstill, but it was more than that: the band’s influence continued to weave it’s way through the music of the generations that followed.

In this episode of the NiGHT THOUGHTS podcast, Dave and Donna highlight musical acts that have definitively pointed a finger at The Cars and said, “Yes! You influenced me!” They also throw in some notables that really exude the spirit and sound of The Cars.

Bands and songs from as early as 1981, all the way up to the end of 2017 are featured. The discussion includes: 38 Special, Collective Soul, Slash, Fountains of Wayne, Dante Tomaselli, Deathray, The Smashing Pumpkins, Sunset Valley, The Mylars, and several more.

Other elements of The Cars’ influence are unearthed as Dave reveals his own original Cars-inspired children’s album from back in the day… and also confesses to buying a One Direction song “for the sake of research” (yeah, right!). funkafterdeath

Of course, no episode of this podcast would be complete without touching on such subjects as the RRHOF tickets, whether Paulina makes meatloaf, and the unpleasantness of Axl Rose’s gout. Dave and Donna wrap up the show with the second installment of “You’re A Flick Fandango Phony” where Dave calls out the Cars-related absurdities found around the web, and they celebrate two weeks in a row of legitimate content for The Midnight Scroll (well, except for the enticing offer from Abib). Thank you SO much for your REAL emails, Carol and Elizabeth!

And now for the interactive part of this article: those all-important links! Click away, my friends.

  1. Digging on Dante Tomaselli? Check out his webpage! And here’s a link to my interview with him from last year.
  2. Also, don’t forget to check out Brett Basil’s album on CD Baby!
  3. Find us on Facebook! Join the Night Thoughts Podcast group.
  4. More of a Twitter-er? Follow Dave here, follow Donna here.
  5. Subscribe to our youtube channel, comment, and share the links. 🙂
  6. Send us an email! Contact the pod at nightthoughtspodcast@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you!
  7. Don’t miss out on cool and unique Cars merch! Treat yourself to some goodies at Tee Public.

Here’s the episode. Happy listening!

 

All graphics by @night_spots.

Episode 07: Playing favorites.

Dave and Donna are once again thrown into the world of technological frustration and delays… but it doesn’t stop us from sharing lots of laughs as we narrow down our favorite Cars choices in a variety of out-of-the-box categories.

Also, a Dante bribe update — and our first NiGHT THOUGHTS emails!

Take a listen and tell me your favorites. And don’t forget to find The Cars FANORAMA Facebook group, join us, and comment. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Click here: http://tobtr.com/10217937

UPDATE (March 14, 2018): All episodes are now available on Youtube! Listen, subscribe, and share. Check us out at bit.do/nightthoughts 

You Wear Those Eyes

1980eyesWhile working with the kind and talented Dante Tomaselli on our Fanorama article, I couldn’t help but immerse myself in this song for a bit. As you know, Panorama is my favorite Cars album, and “You Wear Those Eyes” is one of the reasons why. It was written by Ric Ocasek, produced by Roy Thomas Baker, and recorded at Cherokee Studios in 1980. It wasn’t released as a single, and because it is on an album that was generally shunned by the critics, I feel like this song never really gets the credit it deserves.

Much to my amazement, many people don’t know that Ric and Benjamin actually share the vocals on this song. Benjamin sings all of the verses, but Ric takes the bridge with “Just take your time, it’s not too late. I’ll be your mirror, you won’t hesitate.” To me it’s so obvious, but you know I’m obsessed with Benjamin’s voice.

And speaking of his voice, I love the way he performs this: that low tone, speaking the words rather than singing them. It adds the perfect mood for this sensual, pulsing song. The swaying bass melody punctured by Greg’s sci-fi sounds and riffs… and then Greg weaves that beautiful orchestral violin right behind Benjamin singing, “I’m easy to be found whenever you come down…” and later behind Ric’s vocals. Gorgeous.

So here are some tidbits I found that you may or may not know about this song…

According to setlist.com (grain of salt, I know), “You Wear Those Eyes” was only played in concert twice: once at Festival Hall in Osaka, Japan, on November 4th, 1980. Fortunately for us the audio from that is available and it is pretty great. Take a listen:

The other performance noted is from Madison Square Garden on December 4th, 1980. There is a tiny teaser of footage on The Cars’ Unlocked DVD… just a snippet (see it at 1:12 just below) where Ric is singing “just take your time” during what is obviously a Panorama concert — I wonder if it’s MSG? It makes me a little crazy to know that that footage exists but has not been released (thanks for pointing it out, Jen!). Keeping my fingers crossed for good things to come in 2017 — seeing a full Panorama concert would be ‘grand delight.’

Now here’s an obscure one you might not know… I came across a reference to “You Wear Those Eyes” in a recent novel! It is mentioned in John Shirley’s 2015 horror thriller (such a coincidence since I was working on my Dante article) Wetbones: The Authorized Edition. Now I confess, I didn’t read the book myself (a little too grisly for me), but I discovered it through Google Books. Here’s a screenshot of it:

ywte-book-reference

Of course, I’m a little annoyed that the author implies that Ric actually sings the whole song; it appears to me that someone didn’t know what they were talking about when they chose the title. But I can get over that fairly easily because, heck, The Cars were mentioned in a modern novel by a strong, relevant, award-winning author! And with a song from Panorama! Pretty cool, overall.

The liner notes for Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology tells us that the lyric “I’ll be your mirror” is a tribute to the Velvet Underground, who had a song with that title. Nice!

I’ll go ahead and post a link to the album version of this song; if at all possible, turn off the lights and put your headphones on. Oh, and if you need lyrics, click here. Enjoy!

Dante Tomaselli: Eyes That Never Blink

It is 1978. The scene opens with an eight year old boy roaming through a record store in a mall. He is drawn to the face of a beautiful woman, laughing openly and gripping a steering wheel. He recognizes this image; he has seen it before in his siblings’ album collection. He has spent a lot of time examining it front and back, inside and out. He finds it wild, mysterious, a little menacing… He buys the 8-track (his first musical purchase ever) and takes it home. It is, of course, The Cars’ self-titled debut album.

In the darkness of his room, he lies on his bed and listens to “Moving In Stereo.” The composition takes him on a “very mystical, space-like journey.” The sounds, the lyrics, the vocals, all stimulate his imagination. He is electrified… he is hooked. He can’t get enough of the intricate, melodic music; he plays the album over and over. He can’t know that those addictive sounds will blend with other strong influences in his life and set him on a course that will define his career and his ability to release his energy into the world… but they do.

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Dante Tomaselli on the set of Torture Chamber, 2012

February, 2017. Meet Dante Tomaselli: filmmaker, electronic music composer, and soundscape artist. After studying at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute and the New York School of Visual Arts, Dante went on to produce four feature films, all of which he wrote, directed, and scored on his own. He has also composed three dark ambient albums, with a fourth due to be released in 2017. (See his project list below.) Dante feels the influence of The Cars in all he creates.

“The band has a painterly style. The lyrics and sounds are usually a touch surreal, dreamlike. There is something bright and cheerful on the surface yet the core is often moody and dark. The effect is intoxicating… That’s what I try to do with all of my films and music.”

In Dante’s field, this is particularly important. He works in the realm of horror surrealism. This is not the same category as the traditional scary movie genre like “The Shining” or “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” though he was heavily influenced by such classics as a child. Instead, Dante’s films and music are more representative of the chaos and lack of logic found in one’s own nightmares; the images and emotions that overwhelm the mind in such a state of dark fear.

Because Dante has sound-color synesthesia, certain sounds produce colors and patterns that are projected right out in front of him, like a slide projector. For example, when he hears rain, he’ll see little fiber optic dots, floating specks of colored light, even if he’s indoors. When it comes to The Cars, Dante says listening to them in the dark creates different colors and shapes depending on the song. “I’m triggered by certain kinds of baritone sounds and Moog-like synthesizers. Low-toned and crispy glacial sounds… they glow. Synths are yellow, gold or white. Ric Ocasek’s voice is always dark purple and Ben Orr, royal blue.”

Most of the time, Dante is swirling in a whirlpool of pictures and sounds, which he channels into his work. “Everyone who loves music knows that pleasurable feeling of being completely swept away in a song. The Cars opened that door for me time and time again.”

Dante recalls his first exposure to the Panorama album. “I was 10 and it was 1980. I was in my sister’s room… I remember staring at the cover and back and inner sleeve, reading the bizarre lyrics in a daze. I was in love with their first two albums and was foaming at the mouth to experience Panorama. Soon it was playing on her excellent stereo and I was one of those people that never needed to warm up to Panorama… for me, everything just clicked.”

“You Wear Those Eyes” was one song that immediately jumped out at Dante.

“When I first heard it, I was shocked. ‘You Wear Those Eyes’ didn’t sound like a normal song in any way. I couldn’t believe that the beat – the electronic crashing sound – kept repeating itself over and over. It never stopped. I thought it was very bleak and cold. Yet there was an underlying warmth in Ben Orr’s rich vocal bass sounds and deep hypnotic voice. I enjoyed Elliot Easton’s churning, flickering guitar; the hallucinogenic lyrics. Greg Hawkes’ 3-D-like electronic soundscapes trapped me in a synth pop dungeon.”

For a man who is so visual, it is no surprise that “You Wear Those Eyes” would encapsulate him in such a strong, unusual visual atmosphere: “I imagine what it would look like to see eyes that never blink. I visualize a missing link. Something that’s never been seen or discovered. Very weird, disconnected imagery, no doubt.”

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From Dante’s next project… eyes that never blink?

And yet, in spite of the strangeness of these internal images, Dante is not uncomfortable with what he sees. “Ric Ocasek’s trancelike lyrics command me to just take my time. He sings, ‘it’s not too late.’ Buried deep underneath the unconventional and intoxicating atmosphere, there’s a hopeful, reassuring message.” For Dante, “You Wear Those Eyes” evokes a feeling of safety.

Dante also appreciates how Ric and the band leave it up to the listener to decipher the meaning of a song. They set up a mood… a vision… and release it into the world, much like Dante himself does.

Because his films and soundscapes are so specifically in the horror realm, you won’t find a piece in his catalogue that screams out “The Cars!” However, on his most recent project, an ambient soundscape called Witches, there is a song titled “Kundalini Serpent”. It is an instrumental but Dante says, “it does have that galloping, percolating Cars’ vibe.” Witches is set to be released this spring.

In the meantime, Dante has two horror films in development. He is working closely with a terrific seasoned writer, Michael Gingold, on the screenplays. While he enjoys all aspects of the creation process, Dante is looking forward to focusing more exclusively on the music side. “Music will always be with me, no matter what. I can be all alone. I don’t need a crew and $500,000. I created all my albums in my home recording studio.”

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Dante’s dog, Trippy

He also enjoys recharging his creative energy by watching horror films, playing with his dog, visiting the beach or the woods near his home in New Jersey, and listening to great music, including The Cars (of course), Depeche Mode, Laurie Anderson, Coil, Vince Clarke, Wendy Carlos, Jean Michel Jarre, and John Carpenter.

Dante credits The Cars on everything that he creates for himself. “I want to say thank you to The Cars over and over. It’s a humble feeling of appreciation and giving back.”

Be sure to say hello to Dante if you see him around the various Cars Facebook fan groups, and keep up with his latest projects by visiting his website here. You can also listen to his music on his Pandora channel.

Filmography:

DESECRATION (1999) Image Entertainment
HORROR (2002) Elite Entertainment
SATAN’S PLAYGROUND (2006) Anchor Bay Entertainment
TORTURE CHAMBER (2013) Cinedigm

Discography:

SCREAM IN THE DARK (2014) Elite Entertainment & MVD Audio
THE DOLL (2014) Elite Entertainment & MVD Audio
NIGHTMARE (2015) Elite Entertainment & MVD Audio

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