As many of you know, Panorama is my favorite Cars’ album! It was released 40 years ago today, on August 15, 1980. To celebrate, I’ve got stickers to give away!
If you’d like one, please mail me a self-addressed, stamped envelope and I’ll send a sticker your way! A small envelope with a single stamp will do; the diameter of the circle is only 3 inches. Because I have a limited quantity, it will be first come, first served.
Here’s my mailing address:
P.O. Box 925
Priest River ID 83856
Some quick facts about this album, and a few links:
It is The Cars’ third album, and Roy Thomas Baker continued his streak as the band’s producer.
It was initially recorded at Power Station Studios in New York. Roy was unhappy with the situation there so they packed up their stuff and moved to Cherokee Studios (where they had recorded Candy-O) and started over. Man oh man, how I’d love for those initial tapes to surface!
The photography for the cover art was done by the amazing Paul McAlpine. The flag on the front was mistakenly believed to be a painting done by David Robinson, but that has since been debunked.
I did go ahead and upload the audio of John Lennon talking about “Touch and Go” to YouTube to make it easier for people to hear.
I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been sitting on an interview I did with Gerald Casale since around February. He directed the videos for “Panorama” and “Touch And Go,” and he was so gracious to speak to me at length! It’s kind of a stupid story as to why it’s not done yet but no excuses; it’s on me. I’ve got it in the queue and hope to get it published soon!
Here’s the official video for “Panorama.” I LOVE THIS!!
Oh, and of course, Dave and I dissected this album for the podcast back in 2018.
Whew — okay, I think that’s it for now! Don’t forget to send me an envelope if you want that sticker. And now? Time to crank my favorite Cars record!! Enjoy this full-album playlist from The Cars Official Youtube channel. ❤
With two incredible albums under their belt, the 80s new wave rock band, The Cars, put out their third album in three years, and once again shook up the music world with their cutting-edge originality. Panorama continued the streak of platinum albums for The Cars, and broke the top five on Billboard’s album chart. Released on August 15, 1980, with Roy Thomas Baker back in the producer’s chair, Panorama caused quite a stir.
Picture an uppercase ‘Y’ as the path of creativity. If The Cars began at the base with their debut album, and moved upward with Candy-O, Panorama represents a veering off to the left on their musical journey. Almost across the board, critics declared this third album to be dark, moody, and cold. On October 30, 1980, Rolling Stone called it “rigid, electronic rock & roll that favors machine-like exactness over heartfelt expression, and avant-garde minimalism over pop-based tunefulness,” – and that was a friendly review!
But where those on high grumbled about the starkness of the music, I am crazy for it. Panorama is far and away my favorite Cars album. What may be considered rigid and distant, I hear as aggressive and full of swagger. Songs like, “Don’t Tell Me No,” “Getting Through,” and “Down Boys” present an in-your-face attitude that we can all relate to, while “Touch and Go” and “Mistfit Kid” expose a little of the human underbelly in Ric Ocasek’s writing, while still maintaining that above-it-all, bemused exterior.
Because it is my favorite album, I have to work harder than ever to not go on and on about every original track, and will instead focus on examining the “expanded” features of this new offering from Rhino Records.
As with the Candy-O expanded edition, opening the gatefold of the vinyl Panorama reissue provides a wonderful visual thrill. There is a collage of rare photos of the band, looking as cool and collected as ever. Inside the sleeves, the delights continue with the reproduced lyrics sheet, and another set of pictures backed by liner notes written by keyboard player Greg Hawkes and writer David Wild. There are two records: sides one and two feature the remastered Panorama album in its entirety, side three contains bonus tracks, and a custom laser etching graces the fourth side; this time with drummer David Robinson’s classy checkered flag.
Now here’s where things get a little sticky for me. Obviously the big draw of a re-release like this is the bonus material. Panorama has only four extra tracks. One of those is the punky and irresistible “Don’t Go To Pieces,” which was released back in the early 80s on vinyl as the B sides to both “Don’t Tell Me No” and “Give Me Some Slack,” and again on the Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology in 1995. Also included is a song called “Be My Baby,” which seems to me to be an almost identical version of the song, “Maybe Baby” from The Cars’ fourth album, Shake It Up. Not a fave of mine, but still a solid, throbbing rocker.
Then we get to the new stuff… the golden ticket. This is the kind of thing longtime Cars fans can’t ever get enough of: previously unreleased tracks. Rhino included two of them; both incomplete demos, and both sung by bassist Benjamin Orr.
First we have “Shooting For You,” a great meshing of rocking guitars and quirky synthesizer riffs, with a minimal infusion of lyrics. What Benjamin does sing, he sings with that unshakable confidence and wry delivery characteristic of many of the songs where he takes the lead vocal. The other treasure is “The Edge.” From my first listen I was electrified by Benjamin’s palpable energy, and completely taken in by Ric Ocasek’s lyrics, which alternate between taunting and nonsensical. The marriage of the two is intoxicating. Both “Shooting For You” and “The Edge” have become an exciting part of my regular playlist.
Now, I have to admit I was a little disappointed that Rhino included so few bonus tracks on this reissue. It would have been so great to hear some of the original Panorama songs in demo form or as previously unreleased live recordings. Perhaps no alternate versions exist? The two songs they did give us are terrific, but one of those (“Shooting For You”) was made available in its entirety via the internet almost two months before the expanded editions were on the market, so basically when I was forking over my money at the counter, I was effectively shelling out for only one new song and a bunch of terrific photos. Worth it? For me, yes! There is no question. I am absolutely crazy about all things ‘The Cars.’ You’ll have to decide for yourself, though, if the new elements are enough to compel you to replace what you’ve currently got in your library.
These new expanded editions from Rhino Records are available digitally and on CD, as well as the vinyl product reviewed here. And here’s an exciting side note: Greg Hawkes recently commented on Facebook that there might be forthcoming reissues of Shake It Up and Heartbeat City (the next two albums in The Cars’ catalog) before the end of 2017. Of course, I will eagerly open my wallet again! It’s getting awfully close to December 31st with no official announcement, but I am optimistic that 2018 will bring us those reissues if I don’t find them hiding under my Christmas tree. Fingers crossed!
When asked to name his favorite Cars album: “The first one is great for me. Panorama I like a whole lot, maybe just because we got a lot of crap for making it. So those two, and Heartbeat City. Candy-O wasn’t bad either.” — from “Benjamin Orr: The Cars’ Mr. Casual Steps Out” by Rob Tannenbaum, Musician Magazine, March 1987
Panorama: My favorite album, and my favorite album cover! Gorgeous, right? Simple, clean, and badass.
Here’s a misconception we can clear up pretty quickly:
Cars’ drummer David Robinson is sometimes credited with painting the flag for the cover of the Panorama album. This Nightflight article states it, and I believe Wikipedia reported that at one time, too. Did you believe it? I did!
Well, it’s not so. David himself set the record straight in a Facebook post:
That’s pretty definitive!
And of course we know that Paul McAlpine did the rest of the photography for the record, including the very cool cover art on the back, and the lovely album sleeve.
Heck, he took a ton of great photos of the band! If you’re not familiar with his work, do a quick Google search of “paul mcalpine the cars” and prepare to be amazed!
I do have to say, David’s “obviously” in his comment above made me feel a little foolish, because I did not doubt his ability to make a painting that looked so great. Was that naive of me? My husband did a pretty decent job with the duplicate he painted for me, so I thought, “Why not?” 😉
“It’s taken two years for the Cars to come out of their shell — or maybe shell shock is a better expression. But what we’re doing onstage now is as much us as what we were doing two years ago. It’s just that we developed at a pace that felt comfortable, without having to contrive any shows of emotionalism.”
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 about 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?
There 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.
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“‘We all know him to be a proud, unpleasant sort of man; but this would be nothing if you really liked him.’
‘I do, I do like him,’ she replied, with tears in her eyes, ‘I love him. Indeed he has no improper pride. He is perfectly amiable. You do not know what he really is; then pray do not pain me by speaking of him in such terms.'”
On remastering the Cars’ catalog: “The technology of recording… and the way people approach bass these days… is so different than it was in the 80s… didn’t have the finite things that some of the new technology has, so I was practically shocked by how much more clarity and bass… On all these albums I was like, ‘I can’t believe how good Ben’s playing the bass.’ It’s like, you can hear every bass thing going on. And that was… to me like… a whole new force, so remastering was a really good idea.” — Ric Ocasek, August 17, 2017
I announced several weeks ago that I was invited to do some writing for Joe Milliken, biographer for Benjamin Orr, and his diverse website, Standing Room Only. I’ve been working on a short series of reviews about the current reissuing of The Cars’ back-catalog, including the debut album in 1999, and the recent expanded editions of Candy-O and Panorama, released in July of 2017.
The final piece was published this weekend, so I am providing links to all three reviews down below (all photos courtesy of Joe Milliken). Hope you enjoy them, and be sure to like the Standing Room Only Facebook page to keep up with Joe’s excellent articles on arts and entertainment in the greater New England area and across the nation!
First up: I took a look back at the 1999 The Cars Deluxe Edition:
I’ve got one more assignment coming up (a review of The Cars Live at the Agora 1978) and then we’ll see where we go from there. I’m excited for the possibilities! As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts; comment below or find me on Facebook or Twitter.