Quoting Benjamin

On writing lyrics for The Lace with Diane Grey Page: “I had the tunes pretty much laid out, but my weakest point are lyrics, so I needed to get some help on lyrics. I asked her if she wanted to try a few with me, and the first one got into the second one and just kept… (trails off)” — interview with Mark Goodman, MTV, circa October, 1986

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Episode 03: I want my MTV!

Don’t miss Episode 3, where Dave and Donna dive into the hilarious and awesome world of official Cars’ videos!

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http://www.blogtalkradio.com/nightthoughtsthecarspodcast/2017/07/12/night-thoughts-the-cars-podcast-ep-3mtv-beyond-the-cars-videos-part-1

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

She’s A Lot Like You…

My husband’s brother, D, has always been my rock-and-roll buddy. We’ve talked music from as far back as I can remember, and he is one of only two members of my large extended family that will talk seriously with me about The Cars without looking at his watch. His all-time favorite song of theirs is “Dangerous Type,” the last track on the 1979 Candy-O album.

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Photo by Ebet Roberts

One might not consider the lyrics of The Cars to be ‘seductive’ in the traditional sense, but when my brother-in-law sings, “Inside angel, always upset. Keeps on forgetting that we ever met. Can I bring you out in the light? My curiosity’s got me tonight,” my sister-in-law blushes and giggles like a schoolgirl.

Such is the provocative power of The Cars!

(Of course, her response may have more to do with the fact that after all these years they are still madly in love, and just about anything he does makes her blush and giggle! haha)

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From Ric Ocasek’s book, Lyrics and Prose

Rock critics agree that “Dangerous Type” is one of the true highlights from Candy-O. Written by Ric Ocasek and produced by Roy Thomas Baker, it was never released as a single but it received a lot of radio play and easily became a fan favorite. This is also one of those songs where, if you really tried to pull a specific message out of Ric’s lyrics, you would likely be left scratching your head. That doesn’t stop any of us from singing along, though, does it? I’m sure each of us has some sort of connection we make with it, which is exactly what Ric wants.

There’s no denying that this song has panache. With every individual element, the guys get in there, throw their punches and then get out. You feel it from the first beats of David’s kick drum, and all through those excellent fills. Greg’s skillfully crafted synth sounds couldn’t be more perfect; I would love to lie across his keyboards and have him play those notes along my spine.  Ric’s vocal treatment is flawless, and adds just the right attitude to his cryptic lyrics. Benjamin’s got that pulsing bass line moving things along, and Elliot’s guitar work is no-nonsense and effective…. on out the door, the band entirely locked into that addictive outro.

Take a minute — well, 17 seconds, actually — to appreciate that guitar solo. It emerges from the chorus so subtly: edgy, powerful, and perfectly symbiotic with the keyboards in the background. When he’s made his voice heard Elliot drops us into to the next verse with little fanfare. That transition — from the end of the guitar solo to Greg’s kick-ass synth while Ric sings, “Museum directors with high shaking heads, they kick white shadows until they play dead…” — that is my absolute favorite part. I eagerly anticipate it every time I crank this song.

For our listening pleasure, there is an alternate studio version out there. It surfaced when the Candy-O monitor mix tapes were recovered. It’s pretty similar to the final track, with the most obvious exceptions being the missing guitar solo and a few minor lyric changes. I’m really looking forward to the Northern Studios recording that is slated to come out as a bonus track on the newly expanded Candy-O release, dropping on July 28, 2017 (just around the corner — yippee!). I’m always thrilled to hear something new.

This song has been covered numerous times. The most notable is this terrific version by Letters to Cleo, which was featured in the 1996 movie, The Craft, and included Greg Hawkes sitting in on the synthesizer. Greg also joins the band in their music video! I love love love this rendition! Take a peek here:

It was also covered by Johnny Monaco on the 2005 Substitution Mass Confusion tribute compilation. I haven’t heard that version yet; still trying to pick up that CD on the cheap. I’ve read that it’s well done. Another tribute album, Just What We Needed, came out in 2010 and includes a version by Graveyard School, but I can’t find that CD — cheap or otherwise — anywhere.

And now are you ready for a totally different take on this song? Check out this lush cover by Susan Hyatt, including some gorgeous trumpet playing by Zack Leffew… it’s a little startling, but I like it. From her 2016 album, Pin-ups and Trumpets.

A youtube friend let me know that “Dangerous Type” was also part of a movie soundtrack (though it does not show up on the official soundtrack album). The song plays for over 3 minutes during this transitional scene in the 1980 film, Times Square. Now I confess, I didn’t watch this movie; I generally like films about teenage angst but this one just didn’t appeal to me at all, though I understand that it is somewhat of a cult classic.

A bonus tidbit: on MTV’s first day of broadcasting (August 1, 1981), the 124th video they aired was “Dangerous Type.” I’m pretty sure it was this performance from The Midnight Special (I chose a higher quality of the footage rather than the one with the VH1 logo):

There are several live performances out there to listen to, but we’ll play out the article with this gem: the audio from The Cars’ set at the 1982 US Festival. Their energy is off the charts, Ric adds great flourishes to the lyrics, and Elliot shakes things up with his gritty guitar playing. Enjoy!

 

Miami Vice: Missed Opportunity

Miami Vice: Missed Opportunity

I love the way he says this:

Caller: “Have you ever considered going into acting, and if so, what kind of roles would you like to take part in?”  Benjamin: “I considered it… but nothing’s come my way…” (laughing) — Rockline interview, 1987

Well, we know of at least one opportunity he had, but it didn’t work out — dang it!

Miami Vice was a hugely popular television show from 1984 to 1989. It starred Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas as undercover detectives whose job was to rid Miami of drug lords, sleazeballs, and other bad dudes. Unlike the normal fare in the ‘cops and robbers’ genre, Miami Vice skillfully threaded their episodes with cool clothing (starting a whole new fashion trend!) and cutting edge music.  The show often featured popular rock-and-rollers of the day, like Glenn Frey, Phil Collins, Ted Nugent, Gene Simmons, Sheena Easton, Power Station (and plenty of great actors, too)… the list goes on and on. It is a great tragedy that Benjamin Orr’s name is not on that list.

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Apparently Benjamin was scheduled for a cameo appearance on Miami Vice in 1985, but the day set aside for him to film his part was the same day The Cars were to appear on stage at Live Aid. Since he later mentions Live Aid as his most memorable experience with the band, I’m SO glad they did it. And their performance there is EPIC, one of the best… but , oh, how I would have loved to see him act! Could you imagine? His incredible looks, that low voice, his stony facial expressions; maybe even featuring a song with his vocals (a la Glenn Frey and Smuggler’s Blues)… it all seems so perfect for him! It’s a shame he never got a second chance.

Benjamin was asked a few times what he thought about acting. Here are a couple of other clips of his responses…

 

What do you think? What kind of roles would have liked to see him play — leading man, action hero, villain? Comment below or find me on Facebook!

What was wrong with her???

How in the world could Martha Quinn control herself from grabbing his beautiful face and planting a big ol’ kiss on that gorgeous mouth??? Especially because he’s obviously a little tipsy, I’m sure she would have gotten away with it! I would have been in his lap by :56 (as soon as Mark Goodman stopped flapping his stupid gums… geez, enough with the ‘Led Zeppelin’ already).

Sweet, sweet, funny Ben! I’m so crazy about you!