More on The C.A.R.E. Session

I gave a brief summary of this project in the article I recently wrote about Michael Stanley, but let’s look a little more closely at Ben’s involvement in the C.A.R.E. Session, shall we?

First we’ll add a few more deets about the undertaking and its background.

The single “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” released at the end of 1984 by the one-off UK ‘supergroup’ Band Aid, was a big hit: a heartfelt, no holds-barred ballad to bring awareness of the famine going on at that time in Ethiopia. Bob Geldof (the leader of The Boomtown Rats and a political activist) was deeply moved by the plight, and led the charge to raise money to provide relief for Africa. He wrote the song and solicited the voices of his friends, who happened to be the poppiest of the pop artists of the day, and who all donated their time to the cause. I’m sure many of you will remember this groundbreaking song and its ‘who’s who of 80s music’ video.

The project sort of became “the charity single heard ’round the world,” as the reverberations bounced from continent to continent. Sales of the record far exceeded Geldof’s expectations, and it spurred a chain reaction of artists wanting to do their part to assuage the hunger crises around the world. In fact, it inspired a whole movement by groups of artists taking to vinyl to raise money; it was a bit of an 80s phenomenon.

In Cleveland, Ohio, it was radio executive John Gorman and media personality Denny Sanders, two beloved local icons, who caught the vision and decided to rally their town for the cause. Gorman does a great job of telling the story of the project’s inception in his own words on his blog, so I’ll let you read that, and I’ll just record the statistical particulars here:

  • C.A.R.E. stands for Cleveland Artists Recording for Ethiopia.
  • The Session — the actual recording of the song and video — took place through the week of April 15 to April 26, 1985, at Beachwood Studios in Beachwood, Ohio. The studio time and tape was all donated, thanks to Keith Voigt and EDR Entertainment.
  • The song was called “The Eyes Of The Children,” and was written by Michael Stanley with Mark Avsec, Kevin Raleigh, Bob Pelander, and Danny Powers.
  • 50% of the proceeds went to USA for Africa to combat the famine there, and 50% was given to The Hunger Task Force of the Interchurch Council and The Catholic Hunger Network for the benefit of the hungry in northeast Ohio.
  • Musicians on the project were: Tommy Dobeck (drums and percussion), Michael Gismondi (bass), Bob Pelander (piano and synthesizer), Kevin Raleigh (synthesizers), and Danny Powers (guitars).
  • Featured vocalists, as listed on the insert, were: Skip Martin (Dazz Band), Ben Orr (The Cars), Joe Vitale, Jennifer Lee, Rickie Medlocke (Blackfoot), Kenny Pettus (Dazz Band), Kevin Raleigh (MSB), Michael Stanley (MSB), Visions (Dianne Woods, Cherrelle Brown, Alecia Burton), Alex Bevan, Paul Fayrewether, Mimi Hart (The Bop-Kats), Bob Pelander & Danny Powers (MSB), and Donnie Iris.
  • Vocalists on the chorus, as listed on the insert, were: all of the above, plus Audrey Goodwin, Shari Brown, Mark Addison (Nation of One), Bill Pettijohn & Billy Sullivan (Moonlight Drive); Jim Bonfanti, Dave Smalley, Wally Bryson (former members of The Raspberries), Tom & Frank Amato (Beau Coup), Mary Martin, Mark Avsec (Donnie Iris & The Cruisers), Billy Buckholtz & Steve Jochum (Wild Horses), You-Turn (Archie, Norris, Kenneth, Kevin, and David Bell), Dave Smeltz (I-Tal), Dennis Chandler, and Ellie Nore.
  • The song premiered on the airwaves on June 26, 1985, but the vinyl wasn’t released for purchase until late November. Delays with USA for Africa caused the pressings to collect dust in a warehouse for several months. Gorman joked that the record would make history as a disc that became an oldie before its release.
  • I’m not sure how financially successful the endeavor ended up being overall, in terms of the amount donated to charity. Having the records held up would’ve really hurt sales, I’m sure.

There are so many factors that made this project a good fit for Benjamin. Of course, he grew up in Cleveland, and had friends and family there that he loved. And in his teen years, he enjoyed some local celebrity as the leader of The Grasshoppers, a popular band who had a couple of hit records and appeared frequently on The Upbeat Show in 1965. He made a lot of connections with the up-and-coming musicians of those days, as well as with the local industry professionals. After he moved to Boston and made it big, he was never stingy with his celebrity status or his musical talent, He seemed immensely proud of his hometown, and it sounds like there wasn’t a bit of hesitation when he said ‘yes.’

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My stash from Matthew Fuller.

Here’s how I got my copy of the record: I went to Cleveland in April of 2018 to see The Cars get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. During that weekend one of the thrills was getting to go see Moving In Stereo, a Cars cover band, play live (who freaking ROCKED, by the way). I had interviewed the band members and wrote an article about them the year before, and now I was about to meet them in person! Oh man, they were so good to me. They gave me two tickets to see the show — Joe Milliken was my concert buddy — and afterwards, they invited us to hang out in the bar for a drink. While we were chatting, Matthew Fuller, the bass player and ‘Ben of the band,’ gave me a surprise: a box of Cars’-related goodies he had collected for me. I was jacked! And in that stash was the C.A.R.E. Session album in great condition — I still can’t get over it. What a treasure!

After listening to both sides of the album, I’ve discovered that there are three different edits of the song. Here’s the first: the official video. You can hear Ben sing two lines: “you’ve heard it all before” at 0:23 (big thanks to Laurie H. for pointing that out!), and “across the ocean, across the highway” at 0:58. He looks so handsome! I wonder what he’s holding in his hand? It almost looks like car keys, and it seems like he’s signaling someone to turn the levels of something up? After the song, don’t miss that adorable little snippet of the ‘making of’ interview with Ben.

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Maybe Ben?

Interesting… Ben makes it sound like he was already in Cleveland working on his album when Kid Leo (a DJ at Cleveland’s WMMS station) called him? Oh, and I think there’s a Ben sighting in the big group sing-along, too. If you look closely at the video between 2:34 and 2:36. there’s a guy in the back row on the right that has a profile similar to Ben’s. And if you look around 2:25ish, you can see the same man behind a singer that is wearing a red shirt with white on the sleeves, and it certainly looks like Ben from that angle, too.

Anyhoo… the second version of the song is found on Side One of the record. I went ahead and digitized it (the sound quality is a bit stinky, though; sorry!). This track is about a minute longer than the video, and includes a second verse and a repeat of the bridge that were omitted in the video edit. Happily, this gives us two more Ben lines! I made my own video for this, and I used scans of the cover art from the album and the sleeve for the slideshow. I’ll add those images here so we can fixate on them… er… see them better. Probably a little overkill, but oh well.

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Front cover
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Ben cropped from the front cover
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Ben, cropped and rotated
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The insert
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Ben cropped from the insert
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Other side of the insert
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Back cover

Here’s the video I made:

You can hear Benjamin at 0:24 (“you’ve heard it all before”), at 0:59 (“across the ocean, across the highway”), at 2:00 (“that this will all go away”), and at 2:35 (“across the ocean, across the highway”). He’s sounds ah-mazing, as always!

The third and final version of the song is Side Two of the record, and it is noted as the ‘long version.’ The name fits. It has an additional two-plus minutes of music and chorus repetition, and goes out with a wacky sputter.  I found an upload of it on YouTube, if you want to check it out.

Also, here is a video that includes the full interview that Ben was in, along with other media coverage of the project. Nothing new of Benjamin himself here, but several segments with the late Michael Stanley, and you can get a good feel for the heart of it all.

Just for kicks, and for the sake of my little completist heart, I’m including the lyrics of the full song here. I’ll emphasize the lines that Benjamin sings.

“The Eyes Of The Children” by Michael Stanley, Mark Avsec, Kevin, Raleigh, Bob Pelander, and Danny Powers

It's not such a strange situation
You've heard it all before
Someone needs a helping hand

And even the best of intentions
Sometimes they just aren't enough
So now is the hour to do all you can

Someone's crying alone in the night
Across the ocean, across the highway
There but for the grace of God go you and I

And the eyes of the children don't see black or white
There's no politics, no nations on a cold and hungry night
The promises and visions are only just a start
But it's the eyes of the children that keep the fire burning
Keep the fire burning in our hearts

There is no use in pretending 
That this will all go away
If somebody somewhere won't take a stand

And how much time would it take you
How much pain could you ease
And how many lives do we hold in our hands

Someone's crying alone in the night
Across the ocean, across the highway
There but for the grace of God go you and I

And the eyes of the children don't see black or white
There's no politics, no nations on a cold and hungry night
The promises and visions are only just a start
But it's the eyes of the children that keep the fire burning
Keep the fire burning in our hearts

And if you stop and think about it
Most of us have got it good
And if we try and find the answer
Well you know someday we might
Gotta try and make a difference
Gotta try and put things right

And the eyes of the children, they don't see black or white
There's no politics, no nations on a cold, cold and hungry night
The promises and visions are only just a start
But it's the eyes of the children that keep the fire burning
Keep the fire burning in our hearts

Let’s see… anything else? Oh yes, I think I mentioned this in a recent post. I discovered that this snapshot below of Benjamin with his good friend David Spero (another Cleveland legend in the music biz) was taken while Ben was in town working on this project. It was originally published in Joe Milliken’s book Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars. It’s a perfect way to end this article. ❤

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David Spero and Ben Orr, 1985. Photo by Bob Ferrell. Retrieved from Facebook.

In other words:

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David Spero and Ben Orr. Photo by Bob Ferrell. Originally printed in the book Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars; retrieved from the book’s Facebook page.

“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:

The Gifts of “Let’s Go”

The Gifts of “Let’s Go”

(Header photo courtesy of Natalie Gaber)

I’m groggy, lying in my bed Sunday morning. I have to check out of my hotel in half an hour but I don’t want to start a new day. How could Saturday night have flown by so quickly? Images keep flooding my mind, little snippets of conversations to replay, impressions to sort and kind words to tuck away in my heart… elements of a gift. And Ben… so much Ben in the air!

If I could just turn back the clock and experience the night of January 12 all over again.

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Photo courtesy of Joe Milliken.

Admittedly, I almost get off on the wrong foot. I take a few wrong turns trying to get to the venue and I’m about 15 minutes late; it is a relief to finally see the shining logo of the Music Box Supper Club beckoning me in the dusk. I whisper, “Okay Ben, here we go,” as I give a little tug on my memorial pendant.

From the minute I pull into the valet lot my mind is going over the to-do list: scope out the concert hall, find the production team, preview the slideshow, time cues, guest list adjustments… Heading up the stairs and ah, there’s Joe! Yay, Neil and Diane are here! Hugs all around. Wait, where is David Spero? On his way? Got it.

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Joe, Donna, Lars, and Matt. Photo courtesy of Matt Fuller.

The guys from Moving In Stereo are here, too! I make sure to give Matt Fuller, the bassist and co-vocalist for the band, an extra-tight hug. I am so grateful for all he did to connect us with Colleen, the owner of the venue, and to secure the gig for tonight. He’s been on board since the first hint of the event and was invaluable in my planning. I am introduced to drummer Bryan Beyer and keyboardist Joshua Hartman who are both filling in tonight. Noah Patera is unable to be here on his drums, but it turns out that Lars Altvater’s prior commitment has been cancelled. Rather than pull Josh off the keys, though, Lars chooses to spend the evening taking photographs and mingling. Like the other members of the band, Lars is the definition of class and professionalism. Rhythm guitarist and co-vocalist Danny Ayala and lead guitarist Bob Heazlit greet us with huge smiles and hearty hugs, too. I am so happy to see these talented men again!

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Photo courtesy of Joe Milliken.

Leaving the band to finish their dinners, Joe and I go check out the concert hall. The space is terrific: a nice-sized stage with plenty of room for the video to be shown on both the left and right of it. Tables fan out into the large seating area, and a well-equipped bar is conveniently off to the right. The servers are bustling around getting ready for their night as we preview the video setup — it’s excellent!

Ah, here’s David Spero. Okay, up on the stage, figuring out logistics. I see people are starting to trickle in. Do I know them? Are they from the Fanorama? But I don’t want to be awkward and stare, and oh yes, I need to grab drinks for Joe and David, find a portable mike for the Q&A session, and figure out where the Mac’s Backs Books rep is going to set up — oh hey, she’s here and has it all under control. I should have known. Suzanne from Mac’s Backs Books has these events down to a science and is a joy to work with. Perfect!

Before I know it the place is filling up. I’m so giddy to greet my beloved friends and to make connections with others I’ve only known in text. Lots of hugs and happiness everywhere; the place is crackling with energy. And it’s already time to pull Joe from the foyer where he’s been signing books and get him to his position on the stage. But first… the green room. We need to refocus. I give Joe a minute of quiet to breathe, to settle down and plant his feet. We both need it, actually.

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Photo by Michael Kenny.

Now I cue the production guys, the house lights go down, and David Spero welcomes the guests. The video plays off perfectly and Ben’s presence fills the room. We see him grow from infant to teen to rock star, moving through the success and difficulty in his life, his unmistakable charisma intact. I can’t help but seek out the faces of those who knew Ben best to catch their reactions; my heart swells as I see their approval and happiness. I feel like creating this tribute with photos and music is one of the gifts I offer for the event and I am thankful it seems well received.

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David Spero and Joe. Photo courtesy of Becky Broderick.

People continue to arrive as David introduces Joe and the two begin their talk like old buddies. All eyes are on them. The first of two of ‘the most beautiful moments of the night’ happens when David asks Ben’s former bandmates to stand and be recognized. A handful of men rise from around the room, and the crowd answers with hearty applause. Joe makes sure to mention Chris Kamburoff (Mixed Emotions) by name, who couldn’t be here because of health issues, and encourages Chris’s son, Ashton, to stand in his father’s place. More applause… and tears, too. Precious.

We take a few questions from the audience but the time has evaporated and I give David Spero the ‘five minutes’ signal. He wraps it up like a pro, and it’s time for me to escort Joe back out to the foyer. As we wind our way through the crowd people are shaking Joe’s hand, clapping him on the back, congratulating him. His smile is huge. Moving In Stereo is taking command of the stage and the slideshow is playing again for those who missed it as we make our way out to the table, where a line of people are already waiting for a signature.

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Moving In Stereo takes the stage. Photo courtesy of Linda Strong Beyer

I wish I could be in two places at once, both sitting beside Joe hearing all of the amazing Benjamin stories people are sharing with him as he signs their books and poses for pictures, and simultaneously rocking out near the stage to the pulsing sounds of the greatest Cars tribute band ever. Instead I go back and forth between Joe in the foyer and the guests in the concert hall, trying to greet everyone without being a creeper… I just want to hug each one and tell them how grateful I am that they came and that they have made my night so special just by showing up.

Throughout the evening I witness so many ways that this show has brought people together. I overhear happy exclamations of, “Hey man! It’s so great to see you again!”, observe pockets of social media friends meeting and hugging, am asked to take group photos of tablemates. Two Cleveland radio legends carve out time for a chat and an interview together. Fans stop me to ask about my Benjamin Orr t-shirt, and I am able to lead them right to the artist in the audience. The grandson of one of Ben’s early friends is a fledgling guitar player, and after the show I take him to meet the members of Moving In Stereo, where they talk about Les Pauls and check out the view from the stage. And I have the privilege of meeting people who read my blog or listen to the podcast and hear their words of encouragement. It is all so dear to me!

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Me with Joe Kurilec of the Mixed Emotions. Photo courtesy of Joe Milliken.

I am also fortunate to encounter people who are important bricks in the tower of Cleveland rock history: Harry Harwat, Dante Rossi, Wayne Weston, Joe Kurilec, John Gardina, David Spero… ordinary looking people that you might pass on the street, but who played such foundational roles in Benjamin’s success, and I know that this night is also for them; it is about their legacy, too. I’m honored to have them sign my copy of the book.

And the band… THE BAND! I catch snippets of songs as I’m moving about, enjoying my favorites like “Let’s Go,” “Gimme Some Slack,” and “It’s All I Can Do.”  From time to time I stop at the table where my dear friends Kurt, Nat, and Dave are, and we look at each other and gush, “these guys ROCK!” but I don’t really get a chance to focus on the show until a bit later when Joe has a break in the autograph action and he’s able to come join the party. We rock out to “Good Times Roll” and “Just What I Needed” and people are dancing and singing along and the room is packed… it’s so awesome! Even with two stand-ins the music is so tight and true and my adrenaline soars even higher.

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John Gardina plays “Drive.” Photo courtesy of Becky Broderick.

Toward the end of the band’s hour-and-a-half set, the second of ‘the two most beautiful moments of the night’ takes place. One of Ben’s former bandmates, Mixed Emotions bassist John “Johnny Joe” Gardina, has come to the event. It takes some persuading, but he is finally convinced to join Moving In Stereo onstage for an encore performance of “Drive.” It’s so touching to see the smile on the face of this talented and humble man as he picks out the bassline to one of the most memorable songs Benjamin Orr ever sang. The way he stands toward the back like Ben used to, and how he adds his own flair to the melody, and shyly accepts the cheers of the crowd… All these little things reflect how much Johnny Joe loves and honors Ben.  It is both tender and badass at once, and a highly fitting way to end the night.

Now maybe you already know this about me: I’m not a professional publicist. I am a homeschooling mom with four kids and I’m a bit of an organizational freak, so while I know how to boss people around and get things done, I’ve never put together a shindig this big. Joe took quite a gamble, placing the responsibility of this event in my hands. And I know this night is not about me, not in the slightest. But I gotta tell you, as I look around at about 300 people partying over Ben and the book, I feel pretty proud of myself. No catastrophes, no resorting to Plan Bs, no disappointments, and Joe is rosy-cheeked with happiness. A definite success.

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Me with author Deanna Adams. Photo courtesy of Joe Milliken.

The cherry on top? One of my writing heroes, accomplished Cleveland author Deanna Adams, is in attendance, and when I meet her she praises me loudly for all the work I’ve done promoting Let’s Go!, and she announces that she wants me to be the public relations coordinator for her next book. I won’t hold her to that second part of it, but I take it as a very sweet and meaningful compliment, and I feel it deeply.

The lights come up but the connections continue. More introductions are made, hellos and goodbyes, group photos. My voice is a bit hoarse, but I can’t stop smiling. It’s all been so lovely! As Joe and I prepared for this night, I kept telling him, “Don’t be nervous. These people just want to party with you. You’ve already given them your gift.” And now I realize, as I run my fingers over my Benjamin Orr memorial pendant (as I’ve done so often this evening), that this party itself was full of gifts, too, that every attendee generously gave to us.