Rest in peace, Ric Ocasek.

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From Paulina, 09.16.19

Ric died on Sunday.

You probably already know that. Of course you do. It is all over every newswire; the world is in mourning.

I’m touched by the number of friends and fans that have contacted me to make sure I was aware, to see if I was okay, and to share their tears with me. Thank you for that. It is both overwhelming and comforting to be a part of so much heartbreak. There is shelter in our mutual grief, and I am grateful for the sincere connection with so many people who love the band I love.

Like many Benjamin Orr fans, when I first started learning all about Ben and researching the history of The Cars, I immediately adopted the opinion that Ric was the bad guy. I couldn’t see the necessity and beauty of his role; I only saw things in the negative: lead vocal distribution, video screen time, touring and merchandising decisions. It’s no secret that he was highly controlling (he admitted it himself more than once) and that he gained the most financially from the band’s success, and I felt that he often came across as arrogant and self-absorbed in those early interviews. I pinned everything on him: SCAN0082certainly the break-up of the band, as well as Ben’s drinking, Ben’s sadness, and Ben’s lack of commercial success in those turbulent 1990s.

It was my friend and podcast partner, Dave, who helped me unclench my fist. We’ve always shared a friendly “Team Ric vs. Team Ben” rivalry, and through many lengthy discussions he chipped away at my tunnel vision and illuminated the human side of Ric, the likeable side. My perception slowly shifted.

I acknowledged that Ric was the one who wrote the music that moved me, the lyrics that resonated. I admitted that I loved a lot of the songs Ric sang. I was reminded that he was Ben’s steadfast partner in chasing the dream, the two of them trekking from state to state in one band or another, both aware (subconsciously or not) that they needed each other to make it. Ric introduced us to David, Elliot, and Greg, too, when he finally solidified The Cars. I saw how in his later years Ric mellowed, spoke kindly of Ben and the band, and communicated his deep respect for the men with whom he made his mark. All these things softened me.

I’m not saying that Ric didn’t play a significant part in all of the ugly, he doesn’t get a ‘pass’ by any means. And I’m not claiming to know how deep his regrets may or may not have been. But I do believe that Ben and Ric made amends before Ben died. I believe that Ric’s love for Ben was sincere and deep, in spite of whatever divided them in the past. Elliot, Greg, and David all speak of Ric with the affection and loyalty that reflects the thick bonds of brotherhood they all shared. If those who were actually hurt by Ric can forgive him, how can I, an outside observer, hold a grudge?

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I’ve grown to genuinely admire and respect Ric so much over the last two years. He was intelligent, creative, talented, and he was an integral part of the band I love the most in this world. His death is a terrible blow, a sucker punch. Tears came unexpectedly; many, many tears. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I’d have to say goodbye to my rock idols someday… but not Ric. Not now.

There’s just such a finality in Ric’s death. It’s the end of an era. There is really no more Cars. There will be no more albums, no more tours. And what of the fabled vault? It’s excruciating to accept that so much history may be gone forever, too.

And so I focus on gratitude.

Thank you for all that your music gives me, Ric: the hyper, the healing, the escape. Thank you for the way you gave me Ben. Thank you for providing the platform for David and Greg and Elliot. Thank you for performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2018 so I could see The Cars live. Thank you for changing the course of music history.

I don’t know exactly how the afterlife works but I suspect (and hope) that you and Ben are reunited, rockin’ and happy. Rest in peace.

March 23, 1944 ~ September 15, 2019

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In other words:

“[Not having] Ben leaves a big hole in the band, let’s face it; he had the greatest voice and when Ric would be singing lead in a song, Ben really helped us sound better, besides his amazing lead vocals.” — Elliot Easton, Best Classic Bands, published April 12, 2018

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Episode 47: Cap’n Swing

Episode 47 headerBefore The Cars were The Cars, there was Cap’n Swing!

In case you’re not familiar with this “almost famous band,” Cap’n Swing (CS) was Ric Ocasek’s musical effort just prior to The Cars. To read more about them on this blog, Dave created a handy link that will pull up all content with the Cap’n Swing tag. Go to tinyurl.com/capnswing. Easy peasy!

The episode starts off a little fuzzy, but it doesn’t take long for our hosts to get into the ‘swing’ of things (see what I did there??? Haha!). Donna runs down the cool history of CS and Dave recounts how the demos made their way to the ears of the Fanorama. At the time the audios surfaced many people assumed that CS was made up of the same five guys as The Cars; it wasn’t until more information was shared through social media that people were introduced to Todd Roberto, Danny (Schliftman) Louis, and Glenn Evans. Dave had compiled the songs into what he called the “Jezebel” album and made a very cool CD cover to go with it. Back in the day, the music was shared around through the mail before the songs hit the internet.

While the band wasn’t perfect, there is SO much to love about Cap’n Swing! Using their own favorite tracks as springboards, Dave and Donna take some time to discuss the differences and the similarities between the styles of Cap’n Swing and The Cars, and how that can be attributed to the difference in the two bands’ very talented lineups.  They also touch on several songs that have two versions, one sung by Ben and one sung by Ric. And don’t miss their speculation on the true meaning behind “Magic Pants.” It’ll make you want to flow-oh…

Knock knock.jpgJust a warning… There are a few little digressions in this episode, like:

  1. Why do women wear slips?
  2. Did Ben have hobbit feet?
  3. Cartoon Ric and Cartoon Ben: the day that Dave started to appreciate “Magic Pants”
  4. Donna’s impression of the Cowardly Lion
  5. How much would you pay for a Cap’n Swing CD?
  6. Rico’s tips for staying warm during this extra-cold winter

Aaaaand… Donna ends the show with a hilarious Cars joke (thanks to IO). Is it the first in the Fanorama?

Now 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. You can also email us at nightthoughtspodcast@gmail.com. Let us know your thoughts — we’d love to hear from you!

2019… What more could there be?

2019… What more could there be?

Two thousand eighteen has been SO good to Cars fans! Can you believe these delights?

The band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ♥ The Cars playing together again live ♥ new interviews and memories shared by all four of the guys ♥ the release of two more expanded editions with their yummy bonus material ♥ vintage audio unearthed from The Grasshoppers, Mixed Emotions, Richard and The Rabbits and Cap’n Swing ♥ the publication of Joe Milliken’s biography of Benjamin Orr ♥ a whole crop of unique photos surfacing from fans and rock photographers…

WOW! It just seems like the whole year has been a big pile of gifts for us to unwrap, one at a time!

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And then for me, on a personal level, there is this whole other layer… a thick flannel blanket of memories I keep wrapping around myself:

Being invited to partner with Joe on the publication of his book ♥ driving into Cleveland for the first time ♥ bawling my eyes out after the induction ceremony ♥ David Robinson’s warm hands holding mine ♥ getting to hug SO many Fanorama friends (without using emojis!) ♥  having Greg Hawkes call my house in preparation for our podcast ♥ the shock of seeing my writing on big-screen display at the Rock Hall’s Foster Theater ♥ connecting with all of the wonderful people I’ve met this year ♥ finally getting to view Turbocharge ♥ being published in Rock Cellar Magazine

You guys, I feel like the list might never end. I’m so unbelievably grateful!

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After all that … is there anything left? Can anything possibly compare to 2018: The Year of The Cars?

To be honest, in some ways I do think these past twelve months were the pinnacle. I believe the curtain has closed with a gentle swoosh on our boys. I mean, I have to face the fact that there will likely be no new material from The Cars, and probably not from Ric as a solo artist, either. And no more live performances as a group. Though I am disappointed, I am not shaking my fist at the sky… I mean, these guys had a great run. A GREAT run! How can I begrudge them riding off into the sunset after all they’ve done?

However, they still leave their legacy for us and the generations to come, and I do believe there is still more to be revealed.

So what hope do we have for excitement in 2019?

Some sure things:

  1. We know we will still have the joy of hearing Elliot play. His current band, The Empty Hearts, is working on a second album, and I am optimistic that it will be released in the coming months. Always a busy man, Elliot seems to show up on a variety of stages, playing charity shows and jamming with friends. He also mentioned that he will be starting up a Youtube channel  in the coming months. How cool is that?
  2. Greg, too, continues to delight us with his musical talents. He has been having a blast touring with Todd Rundgren during the last year, and will continue to play with him through the months of 2019 as Todd embarks on an author event/concert series to promote his new book, The Individualist – Digressions, Dreams & Dissertations. I believe that Greg will record another episode of Night Thoughts, too. Can’t wait!

Fingers crossed for:

  1. Expanded editions of Door to Door  and  Move Like This. The odds are not in my favor on that, I know. The general feeling is that the band has exhausted its store of extras, but I can’t help but hope that when Ric takes a break from his art he’ll go through that vault one more time and turn up some goodies for us.
  2. And when he does sort through his stuff…  perhaps he’ll also turn up some old videos of live performances and interviews, audio recordings of the same, or a photo album he wants to share, or even just memorabilia he’d be willing to display on social media. I always want more of that kind of stuff! Or course, it’s not only on Ric. We are discovering all sorts of things floating around that fans and people ‘in the biz’ are digging up, and I am optimistic that we’ll be treated to more of that along the way.
  3. Joe has been kicking around the idea of doing a companion book to share more of the pictures Ben’s friends and family so generously gave him — and he’s had lots of encouragement!  It’s probably not feasible for that to be a done deal in the next twelve months with Let’s Go! still on its honeymoon, but I would love to at least hear that it’s an ‘official’ project.
  4. On that subject… With Let’s Go!  on bookshelves now, I can’t help but wonder if any of the other guys will be inspired to have their stories penned and published? That would be amazing. And if I may say so… I do have some experience in that field now, you know… so uh… call me? Hahaha! Wouldn’t I just DIE?

On my own agenda?

  1. “It’s my party, have some fun!” Okay, so it’s not technically MY party, but I am so excited for the upcoming book events for Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars! Being involved in the organization and promotion means I have the perfect excuse to attend them. I’ll be leaving for Cleveland in less than two weeks (hooray!), and I’m looking forward to Boston a little later on. Woot woot!
  2. Sunshine and Rainbows galore! NiGHT THOUGHTS: The Cars Podcast is still going strong (45 episodes in the can!) and Dave and I are eagerly looking forward to what 2019 holds for us. We have some exciting special guests coming up, a whole pile of topics, and more goofy shenanigans, guaranteed. Who knows how long we will continue this little hobby, but we’re having a blast!
  3. Typing Frog GIF - Muppet KermitTheFrog Type GIFsWriting, writing, and more writing!  With my book responsibilities winding down I anticipate being able to turn my focus back to my own little scribblings. This blog is definitely in need of attention! Haha!  I have many drafts in various stages of completion (including a Standing Room Only article that I promised Joe back in March – yikes!) and a whole list of research ideas collecting dust. Outside of that, I have been offered some more freelance work from a publisher who hired me for a piece earlier this year, and I am eager to take him up on it.

All in all, I am convinced that the next 365 days will be filled with fun and frolic in the Cars world, and I can hardly wait to share it all with you! What about you? What kinds of happy things are YOU anticipating in 2019? Comment below or find me on Facebook!

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!

In other words:

eerrhof.jpg“Benjamin. He would have loved this night, right here, in his hometown of Cleveland, this city that was so proud of him. His beautiful voice, solid bass playing and good humor was such a huge part of the band’s success. Not a bad-looking guy either!” — Elliot Easton, in his acceptance speech during The Cars’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, April 14, 2018