Book Review: Frozen Fire

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Frozen Fire: The Story of The Cars

Written by Toby Goldstein

Photos by Ebet Roberts

Published by Contemporary Books, Inc

Copyright 1985 by Toby Goldstein

 

My quick opinion:

If you can get your hands on a copy it’s definitely worth the read, but I wouldn’t fork out a lot of money for it.

My long story:

Though I have enjoyed the music of The Cars for many years, it wasn’t until social media opened up the world of Benjamin Orr that I discovered a book had been written about the history of the band. Like all properly obsessed fans I immediately set out on a mission to gain possession of this gem, come hell or high water. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very realistic quest; the book has been out of print since its first edition and a simple search at the time revealed that if I wanted my own copy, I could expect to pay upwards of $200. Yikes! Of course, this high price made me even more desperate to get my hands on it; surely its market value was a reflection of the awesomeness of the contents and the extent of the treasures within.

As much as I tried to juggle the budget and scrape together spending money from the couch cushions, I simply could not justify buying this book. Thankfully I had one more trick up my sleeve: in my small town (population less than 2,000) we have the best little library ever, and Miss Whitney was able to get a copy of it sent through inter-library loan from another state. Imagine my giddiness! I was giggling like a fool at the check-out counter; couldn’t help myself.

As soon as I had the kids on lock-down for the night I dove in. The book is only 118 pages long and contains a generous sprinkling of photos so I figured it would be a fairly quick read, but I wanted to take my time because I was sure I would need to store up all of the fascinating details about the lives of my five favorite rock-and-rollers in the world.

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Uh… no. Reality. This book is exactly what it says it is: the story of The Cars. As in, history, plain and simple. Not “stories about The Cars”… my first disappointment. It kind of starts out like you’re going to get lots of anecdotes from the members and get to see past their stage presence, but the book soon settles into the chronological details of the evolution and success of the band.

Now let me clarify here, lest I sound ungrateful. I LOVE having the facts laid out for me, as you know. I eat that stuff up! But it was kind of like expecting caramel chocolate cheesecake and getting Ben and Jerry’s ice cream instead.

Apparently most of the information is compiled directly from the author’s interviews with the band members and, logically, Ric’s voice is the most prominent one. I’ve got no gripes with this because The Cars always were and still are *his* band (as all of the members firmly acknowledge), so it is largely his story to tell… but my expectations set me up for my second disappointment: I wanted to hear heavily from all of the band members. Okay, really, I wanted to hear specifically from Benjamin. Unfortunately he seems to be represented the least of the group (likely owing to his own reticence when being interviewed).

ebetairportThe third stumbling block for me came early in the book when the author recounted how Benjamin avoided the draft by “acting mentally ill.” This story definitely sounds hinky, particularly because there is other documentation reporting that Benjamin received an exemption for being an ‘only surviving son.’ Though this snippet is told in the book in quotes (which leads me to suspect that Benjamin may have said this but was pulling the author’s leg (entirely possible)), the fact that it is included as if it were true cast an air of suspicion over the entire text for me. Made me feel like I should take the rest with a grain of salt, especially regarding other seemingly far-fetched details (a promotion where fans got to take showers with the band members? Really???)

Still, there is a LOT of terrific stuff in these pages.

  1. Some great insights from the legendary Maxanne Sartori herself, whom we laud for her faithful support of our boys and her determined efforts in launching The Cars.
  2. The author takes us on a detailed walk through almost three decades of history and couches the years with relevant industry opinions and events.
  3. We do get a little glimpse into what was going on behind the scenes during the breaks between albums (though I find myself with even more unanswered questions!), and
  4. I noted several very cool quotes, which I plan to use in future posts.
  5. There is a generous amount of Ebet Roberts photos, some color and some black and white, which are delightful and definitely stare-worthy.
  6. The author is obviously a great fan of The Cars, and her devotion to them shines throughout the pages.
  7. One of my favorite lines: “The Cars may seem as icy as chrome, but a fire burns within — the blaze of sensual intelligence.” (p. 3) So perfect!

It’s a bummer that the book ends in the spring of 1985. Of course, I wish there was an epilogue covering the years after Heartbeat City and through to 1988. Oh well. I truly *am* thankful for this handy and fun-to-read resource.

In conclusion? As a Cars fan, I still really wish I owned this book. It just *needs* to be part of my collection. Having read through it, though, and finding that its purpose is different than what I was originally seeking, I confess I don’t feel the same sense of urgency I did at first.

A quick check as I’m getting ready to publish this blog post reveals copies are ranging from $20-60 on ebay and Amazon… I’m thinking about it. Certainly much more reasonable than earlier this spring! And this library copy is in pretty rough shape; it won’t be around forever…

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Since we’re talking about it…

The shirt! When I first saw the video of “Just What I Needed” from the Old Grey Whistle Test, I had to have that shirt. Tried to search around for it to no avail (it’s so random, how could I find it???). Finally came across an answer! A moderator from one of the Benjamin Orr fan pages on facebook had recreated the artwork in a jpg file. She graciously gave me permission to use it, and I immediately contacted our local print shop to make my dream come true. Within a few days I had my prize, and by the next week I had one made in black, too. I love them! I consider it my little secret tribute to Benjamin whenever I wear one, and I feel so sly since no one outside of my family recognizes its significance. LOL

 

 

**Update: Wahoo! These shirts can now be purchased through TeePublic. David Curry recreated the artwork from scratch and uploaded the designs here: https://www.teepublic.com/user/nightthoughts

Clothed in harmony.

The Cars were certainly a fashionable band, thanks mostly to David Robinson, who called the shots when it came to style and color choices for the members. It would seem that they had no quarrels over their preferences; in fact, I have found that they often appear to go out of their way to match each other since they will ‘twin up’ in a performance or photo shoot. Usually my handsome Benjamin is one in the pair, so I can only conclude that he had the best taste and every one wanted to copy him. LOL

Here are some of the matchy-matchy combinations I have found:

I love this shirt! In fact,  I had one of each color custom-made for myself. Benjamin and Greg sport theirs together in the video for “Just What I Needed” from the Old Grey Whistle Test.

Benjamin and Elliot here with matching jackets (from Elliot Easton’s twitter page) and matching boots at a record signing. Somewhere I think there is a photo of EE and Ben wearing matching red boots but I can’t find it at the moment.

Benjamin and Ric with their guitar straps. Funny how much more of it shows on Ric’s loooong torso. LOL

More guitar straps, this time with Elliot during the 1979 Midnight Special performance of “Let’s Go” (which, by the way, is delicious).

Benjamin and Greg with the shirts again. They’ve got the black-on-white, which they seem to share, and the white-on-black. Of course, there is some difference in the fit. Hahaha! And for the record, please notice the absolute awesomeness of Benjamin’s boots in the group photo. SO cool.

I  know I’ve seen a photo with Ric and Greg wearing matching shoes but I can’t seem to find it. I’ve yet to catch David matching anyone, unless you count the ‘skunk stripe’ he and Benjamin both flaunted for a while there… [shudder]. I’m not giving Benjamin credit for starting that one! LOL

I’ll update as I find more because I’m just.that.obsessed.

UPDATE: Here’s the photo I was thinking of with the red boots. Closer inspection makes me think they are not *exactly* alike, but pretty darn close:

BenEEbootsred

UPDATE: Found Benjamin and Greg sharing a tie on The Cars’ brief tour of Europe in 1978:

Photo bomb…

According to one of my sources, this is a recording of a rehearsal for a late 1978 performance at the Roxy in LA. The guys are being interviewed by Bob Harris from the British television music show, The Old Grey Whistle Test, where they appeared shortly after this was filmed.

There is SO much I love about this video.

  1. Benjamin’s ‘photo bomb’ passes behind the interviewer
  2. Benjamin’s cool t-shirt – and that Greg is wearing one, too
  3. Benjamin’s badass bass move at 4:18 (am I allowed to say ‘badass’? hahaha)
  4. Benjamin’s every move
  5. Ric and David look great in the interview, and Elliot rocks his solo
  6. Did I mention Benjamin?

It’s the little things.

There is no doubt that Benjamin was one very stylish man. I get hung up on some of his classy and unique fashion choices, like this “Do Not Enter” earring. It is just so COOL.  I finally found a little charm that I think is pretty darn close to what he had — and I love it! I photographed it as an earring just for comparison purposes; I actually wear it on a chain around my neck 24/7.

(He also had a “Do Not Enter” pendant that he wore in some photos. It is red and white, not sterling silver. I’m still on the lookout.)