Let’s Make A Record: The Vinyl Voting!

A couple of weeks ago I put out a call for fans to create their own ‘new’ Cars album using only the songs the band recorded but that didn’t make it on one of the original six studio albums. I’m so happy that people responded! It’s been really fun to go through everyone’s playlists, to see the cool artwork, and to hear of the creative titles you’ve all come up with.

I do apologize for taking so long to get my butt in gear and post the submissions. Things have been a bit rough around here. Plus, I wanted to find a way to ‘display’ all of the albums in a consistent format, and I needed to figure out how to set up a friendly way to vote. I think I’ve got it. 

So here’s what I’ve decided to do. I created a graphic for each of the entries, keeping them anonymous by leaving the contributor’s name off. I included artwork (if it was submitted), along with the album title, track list, and any other extra notes that came with it. If the person created a playlist for his or her album, I’ve added it underneath that entry.

Let’s check out the submissions:

#01 Abandoned Cars

Playlist for Entry#01: Click here.

#02 Breakaway

#03 Cool Fool

#04 Detour

Playlist for Entry #04: Click here.

#05 The Edge

#06 Hybrids

#07 Ignition

#08 Impound Lot

#09 In Deep

Playlist for Entry #09: Click here.

#10 The Novelty Knock

#11 Sharp Subtle Flavor

#12 Sleepy Wasted Afternoon

Playlist for Entry #12: Click here.

#13 Untitled

#14 You Can Have 'Em

#15 You Got It

Playlist for Entry #15: Click here.

Now let’s get to the voting!

I chose four categories:

  • Best Album Title
  • Best Track List
  • Best Cover Art
  • Most Likely to Become a Bootleg

I wasn’t sure exactly where to go to do a quick free survey, but I think this one does the trick. Click on the link below and another window should pop open with the poll. This will enable you to toggle back and forth between the two screens if you need to. Unfortunately, it does not let you go backwards, so be careful to answer each question as it comes up. (That’s on me — I didn’t want to spend the $15 for that option. Haha!) In light of that flaw, my encouragement would be to spend some time exploring each album and take notes on your winning choices. This should hopefully eliminate any frustrations.

CAST YOUR VOTE HERE!

Just for kicks, I did a quick tally of how often each song was chosen. And, of course, I had to make a graph of it.

Most Chosen Songs graph

It’s no surprise to me that “Take What You Want” led the selection. It’s such an iconic jam! I was surprised that “Midnight Dancer” placed so high because it seems like no one ever posts that song in the Facebook groups. I didn’t expect it to have that much traction, I guess. 

I wish I had time to do more analysis from different angles, like what song was the most common album opener? The most popular closer? What percentage shunned the ballads? How many choices were Ben vocals and how many for Ric? Not hard stuff to noodle out, but I just can’t do it right now. If anyone else wants to take a crack at it, I’d love to hear more stats! 

Okay, so go ahead and scout out the albums, cast your votes, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments here or on Facebook. I’ll leave the poll open until Friday, May 7, and I’ll shoot to have the results published sometime during the next week. Oh, and I’ll try to figure out some cool Cars prizes to mail out to the participants and the winners. Can’t wait to see how it all shakes out!  

Let’s make a record!

Songs That Didn't Make It To Vinyl 5The 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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. Brainstorm a title for your record.
  5. For extra bonus points, make a YouTube playlist to share with us!
  6. 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.]
  7. 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!

Okay, here’s the list of titles (with links):

Here’s a playlist of all of the songs together in the same order, if that’s easier:

Aaaaand…. GO!

Quoting Benjamin

Ben played all the instruments on his demos for The Lace. When asked why he chose a band when it came time to record the album: “It’s much easier to sit back and watch it be done. I play a lot of instruments, but I don’t play them well. I get through them. The only thing I’m efficient at is drums.” — from “Benjamin Orr: The Cars’ Mr. Casual Steps Out” by Rob Tannenbaum, Musician Magazine, March 1987

waiting1

Review: Shake It Up Expanded Edition

As Rhino Records continued to release The Cars’ catalog with bonus material, so continued my little writing series for Standing Room Only. Here is part four of six: my review of The Cars’ Shake It Up Expanded Edition. (I actually wrote the majority of this review on the plane to Cleveland, on my way to see The Cars get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! 🤓🤘)


Rhino Records has done it again. Coinciding with The Cars’ 2018 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and paving the way for the celebration of the 40th anniversary of their debut album, Rhino has released expanded editions of Shake it Up (1981) and Heartbeat City (1984), The Cars’ fourth and fifth albums, respectively. Of course, you may recall that expanded editions of Candy-O and Panorama were released last summer, causing quite a stir in the “Fanorama,” and these March 30, 2018, offerings have generated their own buzz, as well.

Do you remember how in my review of Panorama I used the illustration of a capital letter Y to show the progression of The Cars’ sound? And how I said that Panorama represented a veering off into the left fork of the letter? Well, with Shake it Up (SIU) we definitely hear the band heading back to center and then taking a U turn up in the opposite direction. No more snarky jabs and swaggering strut; SIU sounds more like a dance set at the junior high… which is where it may have been played most often.

This album was produced by Roy Thomas Baker (his fourth and last collaboration with The Cars), and it was recorded in The Cars’ own studio in Boston, Syncro Sound. Critics and fans alike loved it, and the album hit number nine on the Billboard Pop Albums chart, while the title track became the first of the band’s singles to break the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number four. Clearly this perky, light-hearted sound gratified the mainstream listeners of the day.

SIU1

Though it has grown on me over time, it took a bit for me to warm up to SIU. Never doubting Greg Hawkes’ limitless keyboarding wizardry, this album is a little less rock and a little more new wave, and I miss the edge of the once-prominent Elliot Easton guitar riffs and the deep drumming of David Robinson that have been largely replaced by a focus on the synthesizer and drum machines (I get it – it was the 80s, after all!). Still, I love all things Cars, and this album has many terrific gems to keep the toes tapping.

Of course, the purpose of this review isn’t to scrutinize the original offering, but to examine the features of this new expanded edition.

Staying consistent with Rhino’s earlier reissues, the Shake It Up vinyl is packaged in a beautiful gatefold album. The original 1981 elements are all there: the front and back cover art, as well as the record sleeve with the lyrics and ‘spraying shaker’ image. The visuals are then bumped up a notch with the addition of a hunky photo of the band, ultra-cool individual shots of each member, a risqué circular graphic, and revealing liner notes written by David Fricke and David Robinson. Scrumptious!

Rhino did detour a little when it came to the vinyl itself. No badass etching on the fourth side as seen on their 2017 releases (Panorama, Candy-O and Live at The Agora); they went with a limited edition colored vinyl instead. SIU came out in a nice bright red.

As with the previous releases, Rhino (and presumably, singer/songwriter Ric Ocasek) dove deep for the eight bonus tracks. The result is a very fun, eclectic auditory smorgasbord that includes a demo, a remix, several early versions of SIU tunes, and a previously unreleased song featuring bassist Benjamin Orr on vocals. The variety of sensations that the listener may experience here could be worth the price of adding this to your vinyl stack.

Three tasty tracks stand out to me.  First is the rough cut of Benjamin Orr and Ric Ocasek goofing their way through the early demo of “Shake It Up.” I literally laughed out loud the first time I listened to it. I have never heard anything from The Cars that sounds so much like an after-hours party as this recording! Then there is “Take It On The Run,” featuring some fabulous Greg-ness putting a kooky jungle spin on the mystical “A Dream Away.” Finally, we are treated to a lusty vocal performance from Ben on the edgy “Midnight Dancer,” a song that clearly didn’t fit in with the rest of SIU but definitely needed to be released to the world. It is a memorable way to close out the album.

This new expanded edition from Rhino Records is available digitally and on CD, as well as the vinyl product reviewed here. Though the bonus tracks have been released online, I highly recommend putting out the money for this package – you won’t regret it. I’ll cover the new version of Heartbeat City in my next review and we’ll see what other delights Rhino has served up. Stay tuned!

Lyrics: Midnight Dancer

Midnight Dancer by The Cars (written by Ric Ocasek ©1983)

You come out like a dancer who’s been leaping for her life

You’re tired of open-end romancers who never reach the perfect height… that’s right

 

You fall out like a window dresser in your sure-to-shade attire

And with a touch of grace and splendor and a vision from afar

 

Midnight dancer, keep on dancing through the night

Midnight dancer, keep on dancing til it’s tight, alright

Midnight dancer

 

You fall out like a beauty who’s been born to catch the eye

When you spin and cause commotion you can laugh away and fly… fly

 

Midnight dancer, keep on dancing through the night

Midnight dancer, keep on dancing til it’s tight

Well midnight dancer, midnight dancer

Midnight dancer, midnight dancer

Midnight dancer, midnight dancer

Midnight dancer…

Shooting for You

Two amazing things happened for me last week:

The first is that I got to meet one of my dear “Cars world” friends in real life, the beautiful Lori J., and it was wonderful! Even sweeter in person than over the internet, there wasn’t nearly enough time for me to get my fill of her. I am forever grateful for her kickstarting my family vacation up into Canada, and I am looking forward to planning future get-togethers with her.

And the second? While I was in Canada, Rhino Records released the audio file for “Shooting for You.”

Just so you know, I don’t have any big insights on this release; I’ll summarize what information is already out there, but this article is mainly just going to be me, processing my feelings about the ‘new’ song.

DSCN1778.JPG
Painted by Mr. SPJ

While this track is being included as one of the bonus features on the upcoming Panorama expanded reissue (to be out July 28, 2017), evidence shows that it was actually originally recorded as a possible piece of Heartbeat City. Elliot Easton has affirmed that the track is an unfinished outtake, not a complete product. It was, of course, written by Ric Ocasek, and copyrighted in 1983.

Like I said, I was in Canada when this hit the ‘net, and only checking in here and there since I was on a family vacation. I was touched at how many of my dear Cars friends made sure I got the link when the track was released to the public. I confess, I didn’t listen to it right away. I just couldn’t. Knowing that Benjamin was on vocals – that I was going to be hearing something from him I had never heard before – I knew I needed to be in the right atmosphere and right frame of mind to experience it for the first time. That may sound a little dramatic… but there it is.

The Monday after we returned home I had a meeting an hour away, and I decided that being alone in my car was the perfect place to indulge. I’ll admit, I got a little emotional the first time through. It made me miss him so much; sort of brought to the surface those strong feelings of loss that I keep tucked away most of the time. I switched off the stereo and took a little quiet break after that first listen, just to let it sink in.

Once I got myself settled, I played to it repeatedly as the miles slipped away. Several things stood out to me.

  1. Of course, I love his entire vocal, but the way Benjamin says, “I’ll be shooting for you, I’ll be shooting for you tonight” is just addictive. I think it’s especially the ‘tonight…’ his inflection… it makes me crazy.
  2. Also, Benjamin’s voice called to mind The Cars’ cover of “Funtime,” mainly because of the line “you don’t need no self-control.” I like that.
  3. You know how there are two versions of “Night Spots?” The earlier demo of that song is kind of like this one; with some of the parts missing (compared to the album version) and how it has sort of an edgy, raw feeling to it. I like that, too.
  4. Greg sounds like he’s experimenting with lots of different synth possibilities. It’s kind of fun. He does that one little riff that reminds me of Saturday morning cartoons when there would be some storyline having to do with the orient — that just seems SO Greg! Haha!
  5. No guitar solo from Elliot. A little article was posted about it on the web, and when asked about it Elliot explained, “Honestly, I just think it’s an unfinished song, and we never got around to putting a solo on there. I don’t recall any particularly nefarious reason other than that!” So there you go.

Before I continue, if you haven’t heard the song yet, here is the link to it. Lyrics are here. Take your time.

This song was later given to Alan Vega, and he released it on his 1985 solo album, Just a Million Dreams (produced by Ric Ocasek). It gives a good idea of what Ric’s vision for the song might have been, though I’m still so curious as to how our five guys would have worked out a final version to make it entirely their own, had they finished it together.

After saturating myself in The Cars’ track, I switched over to the Alan Vega recording and listened to it a couple of times. His version is obviously fleshed out and polished, highlighting the rough state of the original. It includes different lyrics, a guitar solo, prominent background vocals, and more focused synthesizer work. I liked it, which surprised me, since I only associate Alan Vega with his work with Suicide (which I don’t care for). Here’s the link for his:

Of course, I prefer The Cars. I have had Benjamin’s voice in my head all week, telling me to ‘simmer down,’ and reminding me that I ‘don’t need no self-control.’ My man.

I am looking forward to hearing the other two previously unissued tracks coming out at the end of July: “The Edge” and “Be My Baby.” I’ve got both the CD and the vinyl Panorama products ordered; we’ll see how long it takes me to actually be stable enough to experience them. Haha!

I’d love to hear your opinion of the new release. Comment below, or find me on twitter (@sweetpurplejune) or on my Facebook page and let me know your thoughts.

Lyrics: Shooting for You

Shooting for You by The Cars (written by Ric Ocasek, ©1983)

Simmer down, I got the shakes

When you touch me something breaks

You gotta let me know

You let me know you’re dangerous

 

I’ve seen ‘em all, I’ve seen ‘em twice

You left them all in paradise

You gotta let me know

You let me know that you’re dangerous

 

I’ll be shooting for you, I’ll be shooting for you tonight

I’ll be shooting for you, I’ll be shooting for you tonight

 

You don’t need no backdoor heart

Someday I’m gonna get real smart

You gotta let me know

You gotta let me know you’re dangerous

 

I’ll be shooting for you, I’ll be shooting for you tonight

I’ll be shooting for you, I’ll be shooting for you tonight

 

You don’t need no self-control

Put you in a pigeon hole

You gotta let me know

C’mon let me know that you’re dangerous

Lyrics: Dream Trader

Dream Trader by Milkwood/Cap’n Swing

There was a man from Maryland who said he could not feel

He had a hard time telling just what was real

To lie beneath the frozen sky searching for a sign

The clouds, they billowed gracefully in strange design (like crystal line, yeah)

 

And as he watched them wane, drifting off to sleep

To dream of sailing ships on down in the Chesapeake

He might have stayed there all day feeling so fine just chugging wine

So fine just chugging wine

So fine just chugging wine

 

They found him in the morning, he was facedown beside a stream

He never did awaken, oh no, from that dream

From that dream, from that dream

Lyrics: City Lights (needs help!)

There is nothing like getting to the last mile of a tough 10-mile run and having this song hit my ears — I love it! It’s one of my favorites from Cap’n Swing. But those lyrics? HELP! This has been the hardest song for me to translate (which is why I saved it for last – haha!). It’s even worse because you think you hear things but it doesn’t make sense, and because Ric is Ric you can’t even say, “He would never write that…” He would write anything! Haha! So yes, I need help. Please feel free to take a listen and let me know what you hear. And please, don’t miss Benjamin’s amazing background vocals on the  third and fourth verses… oh my!

City Lights by Cap’n Swing

City lights, swinging scenes and money machines

Well, they’ll drain you from the pain

Yeah, oh, I’m singing at the Sea Stars on the slippery boulevard

You see there’s something wrong, there’s always something wrong

You do see there’s something wrong, (that’s right) there’s always something wrong

 

Huge arms???

Well I was given the come on, and I was paid with dead lights

And I was feeling like dynamite

I was pulling a look tonight

I can’t see my reflection, I can’t hear your rejection, I can’t feel your reception, I can’t hear your rejection

For one thing, there’s always something wrong, I gotta fix it up;  there’s always something wrong, I gotta fix it, fix this.

 

You had to frown at the picture

You had a telephone romance

You had a suit that was made of stone

And you had it coming in love pants

You had it tucked in a black box you pulled it out for your sister

You hear the dial, it went vroom vroom

You closed your eyes and you kissed her

 

You better open your crystal eyes, you better open your crystal eyes

You better open your crystal eyes, you better open your crystal eyes

 

Well I was dancing on sunsets and you golden girls with your shirts wet

Rockabilly, I’ll take chain

We were just sitting around in the silver rain

The war, it was crashing on TV

And television at CB’s

And I said, everybody was so high, everybody was so high, everybody was so high, everybody was so high

 

You say you want to get out of here

With your big fingers and ginger peel (??? appeal)

I think those kids would pop a tear

Everything ain’t too clear

 

I said, you know there’s not much I’m willing to think

??

I don’t know how you feelin’ but

I know you feel so… so fine

 

Superior contributors to the lifespan of etheria

Some mutants, they work… ???

???????????

 

You better open your crystal eyes, you better open your crystal eyes

You better open your crystal eyes, you better open your crystal eyes

 

You know I just can’t hear your symphony, and I can’t look at your tragedy, I can’t sing to your harmony; I can’t even see your pornography. I can’t even relate to your artistry, that’s pretty bad

I just want to be set free

??????????

Lyrics: Indigo

Indigo by Cap’n Swing

Wake me up in the middle of the flight

Show me which way to go, oh… to indigo

Swing me up sweet purple June

Hold me like I’m a child, oh… that’s about to go wild

 

I’d like to know just where you’ve been

If you would like to try again

I’d like to slow the spin I’m in

Would you like to begin?

 

Silver Sunday tease my eyes

I am too dissatisfied, oh… with your other side

Roll me up and drop me down

Leave me back in New York town, oh… that’s where I’d like to be found

 

I’d like to know just where you’ve been

If you would like to try again

I’d like to slow the spin I’m in yeah

Would you like to begin, baby

 

Wake me up in the middle of the flight

Show me which way to go, oh

To indigo, oh

To indigo, oh

To indigo, oh

Indigo, oh

To indigo, oh

Indigo

Come Back Down

davecurry1
Graphic by @Night_Spots

I can’t recall exactly how I first learned that Cap’n Swing was the precursor to The Cars, but I distinctly remember the first time I heard a Cap’n Swing song. I was sitting in my home office, obsessing on Benjamin, when I clicked on this video (link below)… and I was blown away.

The initial music was kind of rollicking; a happy little tune, almost ‘young,’ with that peppy keyboard riff. Then Benjamin’s voice came in all seductive and lush, singing that chorus, and I was captivated. I couldn’t wait to hear what he would say next. And he started to tell a story that transported me back… back to those days of my budding awareness of the opposite sex; those early days of exploration. I felt like he was describing that one time in the sixth grade with Robert Tranberg, on the trail in the woods behind the house: those first tentative touches, clumsy attempts at figuring out what our hormones were calling us to, but everything still so innocent and confusing. It brought on that ache of longing and nostalgia and beautiful pain of those early teenage days…

And all of it was couched in this sunshiny music, his evocative vocals. I had to listen again. Now that guitar grabbed me, those simple but pushing notes that accentuated the sensuality of the song. I loved the part behind “stabbed into the thick black air…” and on to the chorus; it was so perfect. Then I got into the keyboard solo, playful and light, and it blended so perfectly into the guitar solo, which told of the heights of those confusing emotions… until Elliot brought me back down again and handed me over to Benjamin and his “yeah, yeah, yeah.” And the next lines captured the internal struggle of me as a young teen: “like a hypnotized baby… out there, trying to feel it all somehow… out there, well they really don’t care at all.”

I was hooked. HOOKED. And as you can guess I had to go on to listen to as much CS as possible and devour all of it, but “Come Back Down” will always hold a special spot inside my heart, will always speak to that young girl in me.

(I posted those wonderfully impetuous lyrics by Ric Ocasek separately; click here to read them.)

 

Lyrics: You Can Have ‘Em

You Can Have ‘Em by Cap’n Swing (aka Blue Moon Saloon, aka Sleepy Wasted Afternoon)

I believe her, she takes me uptown oh yeah

She’s a driver, she throws me in gear oh yeah

Well I could take her or I could leave her here

Sitting on a wagon, twinkling Blue Moon Saloon

Honey you can have it on a sleepy wasted afternoon

 

I adore her, she looks like a treat oh yeah

When I’m around her I get to feeling so weird

And then she tells me she can be discrete and neat

Sitting on a wagon, twinkling Blue Moon Saloon

Well, honey you can have it on a sleepy wasted afternoon

Right on…

 

I believe her, she takes me uptown oh yeah

She’s a driver, she throws me in gear oh yeah

Well I could take her or I could leave her here

Sitting on a wagon, twinkling Blue Moon Saloon

Honey you can have it on a sweetly wasted afternoon

 

Yeah sitting on a wagon, twinkling Blue Moon Saloon

Honey you can have me but you better come and get me soon