Lyrics: “It’s Not The Night”

“It’s Not The Night” by The Cars

It’s not the night for foolin’

It’s not the night for crazy eyes

I get the feeling you wanna stay

I get the feeling you’re giving it all away

But I know, I know you take it well

And for you, for you I always fell

It’s not the night (it’s not the night)

For sweet revenge

It’s not the night (it’s not the night)

To spend

The time is right to take it out

The time is right to tango

I got the feeling you’re running out

Before your last fandango

It’s not the night (it’s not the night)

For sweet, sweet revenge

It’s not the night (it’s not the night)

To spend

It’s not the night for sticky boots

It’s not the night for tango

I get the feeling you’re the spark that’s dancing in the dark

I get the feeling you’re the one rushing on the run

It’s not the night (it’s not the night)

For sweet revenge

It’s not the night (it’s not the night)

To spend

It’s not the night (it’s not the night)

You can find sweet, sweet revenge

It’s not the night (it’s not the night)

To end

It’s not the night

We caught another Rat!

We caught another Rat!

Every time something new pops up in the Cars world I am ecstatic on two fronts: first, because another elusive piece of the band’s history has fallen into place, and second, because it bolsters my hope that there is even more yet to be revealed. And that’s on top of the thrill I always feel at just seeing or hearing my forever-favorite band. Anyway, you can imagine my elation when I returned from a recent trip to discover that a VERY cool friend had sent me some VERY cool files: new recordings of The Cars at The Rat!

Now you might remember that The Cars played The Rat for a four-night engagement spanning Thursday, April 28, through Sunday, May 1, 1977. A few months ago I uploaded an audio file from that weekend, though I wasn’t sure which of the dates it was recorded on. Well, with these two totally new shows, I’ve been told that they are specifically from April 30th, so they would be the Saturday night performances. As you’ll see below, each set offers us a previously unpublished gem, which makes these audios even more delightful.

In case you haven’t seen it before, on the right is an advertising flyer from that weekend. The Cars shared the bill with The Good Rats. I’m not sure who was the headliner; the way the ad is designed makes it look like The Cars were the big draw, but they were a fairly new band at the time (though the members themselves were not unknown). I think The Good Rats were still enjoying the regional success that followed their 1974 and 1976 albums, and they were coming up from New York, so they might have been a bigger deal? Oh, and each of The Cars’ sets was only about 1/2 an hour long, which seems more like a warm-up than a main event.

Okay, I got off track there, because I’m sure it doesn’t matter who was the headliner, but I was trying to imagine the order of the night. I’m going with The Cars, then The Good Rats, then repeat. There, I feel better now that I have that settled. Haha!

No more goofing off — let’s dive right in. Here’s the first set list, with the audio below:

  • 00:00 Leave Or Stay
  • 03:04 Cool Fool
  • 05:48 You Can’t Hold On Too Long
  • 08:54 Don’t Cha Stop
  • 12:25 My Best Friend’s Girl
  • 16:23 Gimme Little Sign (Brenton Woods cover)*
  • 19:40 I Don’t Want To (Elliot Easton on vocals)
  • 22:18 Strawberry Moonlight
  • 25:16 You’re All I’ve Got Tonight
  • 29:54 Just What I Needed

Some of my reactions to this set:

  • A lot of times when you go to shows, the crowd doesn’t seem to pay too much attention to the opener. The band might start, but people are still milling about, greeting friends, ordering drinks, and so on. I’m sure that was the case here, too, but the recording also picks up the sounds of cheers and whistling from the crowd at the beginning. I love it!
  • You have to know that I am thrilled that these recordings have come out of hiding — thrilled. But… there is one eensy weensy thing I wish I could change: I noticed that most of the transitions between songs have been edited out. That’s a little bit of a bummer because I feel like we can often glean several tasty bites of mood and personality from those breaks. Oh well! Not everyone’s as obsessed as we are. Better to have it with some edits than to not have it at all!
  • Let’s discuss the duo vocals on “You Can’t Hold On Too Long.” I have to admit it makes me wrinkle my nose a bit. Is it because I’m too in love with the album version? Or is it more that Ric’s voice clashes too much with Ben’s in this case? I mean, obviously there are many recordings where the two share the vocal duties successfully, but the disparity in their styles just doesn’t seem to blend well here.
  • I wish I could hear the what’s going on in the background after “You Can’t Hold On…” because I want to know what Ben is responding to when he says, “It’s not called that at all.” Sounds like he’s feeling squirrely!
  • I love Greg’s keyboard riff behind the chorus of “My Best Friend’s Girl” — it’s catchy! On the other hand, the absence of Elliot’s guitar solo is tragic. I’m glad that was eventually remedied; it totally changed the whole vibe of the song.
  • The big surprise in this set is the band’s cover of “Gimme Little Sign” by Brenton Wood (which I also carved out and posted separately). It’s been known in the Fanorama for a long time that they played this in their early days, but this was the first time I heard it. It’s great! Ric takes the lead vocals, but Ben’s voice is prominent in the chorus. Not sure who is doing the falsetto backing vocals, but there’s strong speculation that it’s Elliot. Hopefully someday we’ll have a definitive answer!
  • Here’s another recording of “I Don’t Want To” with Elliot on lead vocals. I think there is only one other published performance of this one, captured during the March 21, 1977, show when they opened for Bob Seger. Man, I love this song! I still need to get a lyrics post done for this — SO funny! Hey wait… there’s that high voice in the back again, but it sounds like Ben? Hmmm, the falsetto mystery continues…
  • By the end of the set the crowd is fully involved; you can hear them screaming and cheering as the band launches into “Just What I Needed” as their last song of the set. Hard to tell if it’s an encore but I would guess it is. Ben still hasn’t got those lyrics down all the way (LOL) but his adlibs are undeniably yummy. Elliot’s guitar melody during the chorus, which is rather hidden in the studio version, is front and center in this recording, and it freaking ROCKS.
  • “Thank you very much, we’ll see you in the neighborhood. Bye bye!” — Ben ❤

Whew! What an electrifying ride!

I wonder what they did while The Good Rats were playing? Probably changed their clothes, had some drinks and a few smokes, maybe put on a hat? Maybe they held court in dark corners and chatted up the girls.

This is a little bit of a detour, but if you’re a visual person like me you might get a kick out of it. I recently isolated a portion from an old Boston television program that showed footage of the inside of The Rat. If you have a few extra minutes, click on this video for a peek at what the venue probably looked like when The Cars were playing there.

Okay, let’s move on to their second performance that night:

  • 00:00 Bye Bye Love (Ric Ocasek on vocals)
  • 04:20 You Can Have ‘Em (aka Sleepy Wasted Afternoon or Blue Moon Saloon)
  • 07:21 Ta Ta Wayo Wayo
  • 10:08 Jezebel*
  • 15:48 Take What You Want
  • 21:41 My Best Friend’s Girl
  • 26:06 Something Else (Elliot Easton on vocals; Eddie Cochran cover)
  • 28:50 Just What I Needed
  • 32:35 Cool Fool (encore)

Let’s jump right into it:

  • The guys start off with a sizzler! (Mmm, Ben on the harmonies during “Bye Bye Love.”) Ric seems to loosen up a bit vocally on this performance so it’s not too unpleasant to have him taking the lead. Greg is killing it on keys, too.
  • I know I don’t comment about him much, but man, David’s playing really catches me in “You Can Have ‘Em.” He’s always so steady and solid back there, and I certainly can’t escape his perfect fills and flourishes here. Dude is on fire!
  • This set offers another tasty — and previously unpublished — surprise: “Jezebel!” I’ve loved this tune since I first heard Cap’n Swing’s demo of it, but I did not know that Ric had held onto it to include in The Cars’ repertoire. I definitely like the CS version better, although Ben’s vocals are luscious, no doubt about it. This song is great, too, because it is one of the few Cars songs that gives Elliot room to really stretch out and shine.
  • Elliot puts in another blistering performance on the mic with “Something Else.” That cover is so perfectly suited for him, and Greg’s scrumptious saxophone adds even more heat to it.
  • They attempt to close out the show with “Just What I Needed,” but the audience is wild for an encore. I particularly relate to the shrieking girls, who you know just want to see more of Ben. Haha! They return and launch into “Cool Fool” with swagger and energy. The crowd loves it.

And then it’s over. Another half an hour of raw talent from a band on the verge of changing the face of music. How fortunate we are to get to listen to the past!

I’ve given you a lot to unpack so I’ll leave you to it. Let me know what other bits and pieces stand out to you from these two terrific performances. Have fun!

*previously unpublished

Cover image photo credit: Larry Bouchie


Please remember that these live audios are not to be bought or sold!

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel and tap on the little bell to get a notification when I upload something new. Also, I’ve started keeping a playlist of the live shows in chronological order. You can check it out here:

Let’s Make A Record: The Results!

Let’s Make A Record: The Results!

Back in April I launched a fun little challenge for fans to create their own ‘new’ Cars album using only songs that the band performed but did not release on one of their six studio albums. We had a total of fifteen official contributions (those that came in before the voting started). From there, I organized the entries and set up a poll so readers could vote for their favorite submissions in four categories:

  • Best Album Title
  • Best Track List
  • Best Cover Art
  • Most Likely to Become a Bootleg (overall favorite)

Before I announce the winners, I’d like to share a couple of last-minute entries that came in. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive them in time to include them in the voting, but we can still enjoy them. Check out these cool compilations below:

LATE ENTRY Ellen Flint

LATE ENTRY Rick

I do have a little treat for everyone who sent in a submission: this badass 3″ Cars album sticker designed, printed, and donated by our very own Kurt Gaber! How cool is that???

prize for entries

If I haven’t already contacted you about getting your sticker to you, please send me a note, either through the blog or on Messenger. I’ll get them out ASAP!

And now to announce the results and winners in each category:

1

Best Album Title WINNER: Entry #01: Abandoned Cars by Steven Manson

2

Best Track List WINNER: Entry #04: Detour by Katherine Fendley

3

Best Cover Art WINNER: Entry #01: Abandoned Cars by Steven Manson

4

Likely Bootleg/Overall Favorite WINNER: Entry #04: Detour by Katherine Fendley

Congratulations to our winners! Wow, Steven and Katherine’s albums really battled it out. An Honorable Mention goes to Entry #08: Impound Lot by Becky Broderick for sticking close to the lead in all categories. And guess what? I have special prizes for them, too! These cool Cars logo decals were also printed and donated by Kurt Gaber, and will be sent out to Steven, Katherine, and Becky with their participation stickers. Woot woot!

prize for poll winners


A few random follow-ups:

I had originally presented the submissions without using names in order to help keep the voting objective, but for those who are curious, here’s the list of all of the participants by entry number:

  1. Abandoned Cars: Steven Manson
  2. Breakaway: Harold Strassler
  3. Cool Fool: Craig McGuire
  4. Detour: Katherine Fendley
  5. The Edge: Brandon Billings
  6. Hybrids: Chuck Walker
  7. Ignition: Silver Sunday
  8. Impound Lot: Becky Broderick
  9. In Deep: Michelle Turner
  10. The Novelty Knock: me!
  11. Sharp Subtle Flavor: David Curry
  12. Sleep Wasted Afternoon: Mary Theresa
  13. Untitled: Paul Sampson Fish
  14. You Can Have ‘Em: Beki Hampton Garland
  15. You Got It: Tina Megahey

After I had published the original article, I discovered that a couple of qualifying songs had slipped past me. Aargh! Two of them, “I Don’t Want To” and “Something Else,” were just total brain blunders. How could I have overlooked these fan favorites, and with Elliot on vocals? Jeez Louise. (Note: I will say that I did purposefully stay away from cover songs that the band just appeared to use to round out their sets, like “Gimme Little Sign” by Brenton Woods, etc.)

The third, “Jezebel,” was a new discovery for me. Of course, I knew that the song had been around with Cap’n Swing (and possibly before that), but I was in the dark that The Cars had performed it, too, until Jon M. gave me a heads up about it. Coincidentally, I received an audio from another source a few weeks later that included The Cars singing “Jezebel” during a weekend gig at The Rat. New to me!

I’m going to edit the original “Let’s Make A Record” article and update my graphic to keep things accurate. Sorry about the goof up!

This was a lot of fun for me — thank you to everyone who read the articles, submitted their ideas, or voted. And another big thank you to Kurt Gaber for providing the prize giveaways! What other fun things can we do, Fanorama? Let me know if you have any suggestions!

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!  

Lyrics: “Stranger Eyes”

“Stranger Eyes” by The Cars

When you took the fall and then you floated down

And then you took the jump and you fell through clouds

Yeah, then you watched the world beat the crowd

 

C’mon, ride me high (stranger eyes)

Well, ride me high (stranger eyes)

 

Yeah, you took the fall and then you landed soft

You thought to yourself, ‘well, I’m not alone’

You with your dark red soul and your chaperone

 

C’mon, ride me high (stranger eyes)

Won’t you ride me high (stranger eyes)

C’mon, ride me high (stranger eyes)

Ride me high (stranger, stranger eyes)

Stranger eyes

 

Well, I need your touch

It means so much

Oh, I need your touch

Because it means so much

 

Ride me high

 

C’mon and ride me high (stranger eyes)

Yeah, ride me high (stranger eyes)

Ride me high (stranger eyes)

Oh, come on and ride me high (stranger, stranger eyes)

Stranger eyes

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!

Live at The Rat: the Evolution Continues

1977.04.28 ad for The RatFrom what I can tell, this was The Cars’ fourth weekend gig at The Rathskeller in Boston. They played Thursday through Sunday, April 28-May 1, 1977, sharing the bill with The Good Rats (a New York band with a cool history). It is unclear which night was recorded here.

The flyer advertisement I used at the beginning of the video includes a photo of the early band, before Greg Hawkes joined in January, 1977. The guy on the far right is Danny Louis, the original keyboard player. Elaine Hawkes once commented that she thought the reason the guys were still using this photo to advertise the band was because they were too broke to get new promo shots taken right away.

Another note about the video: I’m not sure if the photos by Joanie Lindstrom are from this actual Rat performance. They look awfully similar to the Robert Post set that was taken in early February, so they could be from that.

Okay, let’s check out the show. Here’s the set list:

  • 0:00 “Just What I Needed”
  • 3:30 “I’m In Touch With Your World”
  • 7:05 “Strawberry Moonlight”
  • 10:08 “Lover and A Holiday”
  • 13:50 “Bye Bye Love” (Ric on vocals)
  • 18:15 “Wake Me Up” (!!)
  • 22:00 “Cool Fool”
  • 24:54 “Looking to See You” (an unreleased surprise)
  • 29:08 “Don’t Cha Stop”
  • 32:45 “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”

There’s a bit of a rocky start, and it sounds like Ben jumps in just a little too soon, but he corrects himself and then away he goes. A pretty cool show here: more fiddling with the instrumentation and the vocal delivery, and the songs move another notch closer to their final versions. There’s a little feedback problem in “Strawberry Moonlight” — eek! — and Ric on vocals for “Bye Bye Love” — double eek! The live version of “Wake Me Up” is a gem and I’m so glad to have it, in spite of the poor audio quality. ❤

To me, the most notable thing about this show is the song labeled “Looking to See You.” This was completely new to me! The originator of the audio file isn’t even sure if that’s what it’s called because, as far as we know, there are no other published recordings of it. It’s a great song! I assume it was written by Ric, but I know nothing about it. Maybe others can fill in the details?

Enjoy the show!


Please remember that these live audios are not to be bought or sold!

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel and tap on the little bell to get notifications of when I upload new stuff. I’ve started keeping a playlist of the live shows in chronological order. You can check it out here:

Lyrics: Drive

“Drive” by The Cars

Who’s going to tell you when it’s too late?

Who’s going to tell you things aren’t so great?

You can’t go on thinking nothing’s wrong

Who’s going to drive you home tonight?

Who’s going to pick you up when you fall?

Who’s going to hang it up when you call?

Who’s going to pay attention to your dreams?

Yeah who’s going to plug their ears when you scream?

You can’t go on thinking nothing’s wrong

Who’s going to drive you home tonight?

Who’s going to hold you down when you shake?

Who’s going to come around when you break?

You can’t go on thinking nothing’s wrong

Who’s going to drive you home tonight?

Oh, you know you can’t go on thinking nothing’s wrong

Who’s going to drive you home tonight?

Here’s a lovely acapella version, because who doesn’t want to hear that beautiful voice all on its own?

Live at Boston University: Short and Sweet

I recently received a treasure trove of live shows from a very cool friend and Cars fan, along with permission to share them. Because it makes the most sense, and because I’m a big nerd, I’ve decided to upload them in chronological order to my YouTube channel, and post a little write-up here with whatever little deets I can dig up about the performance, along with my own $.02.

The first one I did was The Cars opening for Bob Seger at the Boston Music Hall on March 21, 1977. If you missed that one, you can read it here: The Cars and Bob Seger: Yay for Snowstorms!

stephenshermanbostonphotog-1568865106022
Photo credit: Stephen Sherman, 1977

This second audio is another oldie: The Cars at Boston University. There was no specific date for this show when it was given to me, other than March of 1977. I think it must have been recorded sometime toward the end of the month because both Ric and Ben mention Maxanne Sartori leaving WBCN, and her last day was April 1, 1977. This is just a short four-song set, but it sounds like it was part of a larger concert with multiple bands (based on the blurb from the emcee at the end).

The Cars kick it off with “Just What I Needed.” It’s an interesting version. In some of the earlier Cars recordings Ben seems to mimic Ric’s low, draggy vocal style, and he kind of starts off that way here, but then I love how bits of natural Ben break out here and there. It’s a treat, too, to get to hear Elliot’s guitar parts so clearly.  Obviously the song was still evolving at this point (though I do think Ben flubbed the words at :53, as opposed to it being a lyric that was later changed). I can’t tell for sure who is singing back up… is that Ric, maybe? It doesn’t really sound like any of the guys to me. Oh, and I did click backwards a few times to listen to Ben’s little laugh at about 1:45.

When Ric takes over the mic after that song, it’s really cool to hear how relaxed he sounds. He drops the clues for us about the date and purpose of the show, and then introduces “I’m In Touch With Your World.” It doesn’t sound like Greg was incorporating all of his instrumental gew-gaws quite yet, although I do hear a toot or two on the whistle and a few other odd little sounds here and there. I love it!

From there, Ben leads the band into “Cool Fool” and there is no trace of Ric impressions… it’s a full-on vocal Ben fest. The whole performance smokes: Elliot is off the chain, ripping it up left and right. David can’t be thrown off the beat for anything, and Greg holds it all up with his subtle keyboard work and the reappearance of that whistle. Dudes must have been sweating after that one!

maxanne
Maxanne Sartori. Image retrieved from the internet.

As the crowd swells with cheers of approval, I adore Ben’s response: “Thanks! Okay… this one’s our bye-bye song and for our very special friend, Maxanne.” The band jumps into “Strawberry Moonlight” with a raucous energy; the perfect way to end their set.

The last little snippet of audio features an announcer indicating that The Cars are just one of the bands that will be playing that day, but then he gets cut off and it’s a bummer because I feel sure he would have identified the occasion for the concert. Oh well, it’s better than nothing. I have my fingers crossed that someone reading this might have memories of that show they’d like to share with us. That would be cool!

For the record: A Detour with Dr. Gonzo

Here’s a little misconception that popped up during the Christmas season. 

45 front
Image retrieved from Discogs.

Fans were (understandably) lamenting the fact that The Cars never recorded a Christmas song, though one track did come up in conversation. Our good friend and SuperFan Jon M. posted on Facebook about a single called “Dough Ray Me” attributed to ‘Dr. Gonzo,’ and shared the audio of the song. There was some confusion as to if it was actually a Cars recording or not. It sounds suspiciously like The Cars. The vocal could certainly pass for Ben being a complete goofball, and while the lyrics are too straightforward to have been written by Ric, the storyline seems like something that might appeal to the band.

Unfortunately, it’s not our boys, but the post sparked my curiosity.

Jon had also mentioned that Dr. Gonzo did a Christmas spoof of “Just What I Needed,” too. I got to wondering how these funny songs came to be, and if The Cars had any involvement in their creation. I figured I’d take the detour, if nothing else than to store away some more random Cars trivia (!). Through the magic of social media I was able to have a little chat with the talent behind the mic, Mr. John Means, aka Dr. Gonzo.

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Image retrieved from Facebook.

In the early 1980s, when stand-up comedy was thriving, Illinois native John Means landed in San Francisco and found his niche as Dr. Gonzo, “The Doc of Comedy Rock.” He would take the stage with a guitar slung over his shoulder, and he would pepper his joke routine with short bursts of cheeky parodies of the popular songs of the day. “That got me to open for a lot of bands,” John explained, “because I was sort of musical, and that kind of made me the ‘cartoon before the movie’ for a lot of rock bands.”

Enter Roger Clark of Little Roger and The Goosebumps. who had some notoriety (and a bag of legal trouble) in 1978 after his genius mash-up of the theme from “Gilligan’s Island” with Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” triggered a cease and desist order from Led Zeppelin management. Roger was compelled to destroy all of the unsold 45s. Of course, he couldn’t take back the radio exposure, and the song, titled “Gilligan’s Island (Stairway),” (later reissued under the name “Stairway to Gilligan’s Island”) became a cult classic. Incidentally, Robert Plant would say in 2004 that it was his favorite cover of the song.

Anyway, John teamed up with Roger in 1982 to write and record “Dough Ray Me,” a twist on Roger and Hammerstein’s “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music. The gist of the lyrics is that Dr. Gonzo got high and decided to steal Ray’s car, then he crashed it, and now he owes Ray some dough. Very recognizable musical bits from “Just What I Needed” are sprinkled throughout. The 45 was released locally, billed as Dr. Gonzo & the Rent-A-Cars (the Rent-A-Cars were, of course, Little Roger and his Goosebumps), and even got a little radio airplay. “I think Dr. Demento played it, and local bay area stations humored me by putting it on the air a few times,” John chuckled.

With some help from his friends, John also shot a video for the song, featuring the late Monty Hoffman as the angry Ray. MTV was exploding in popularity at the time, so John decided to see if he could get a piece of the action. “We went to LA and went to The Cars’ record company and tried to pitch this thing and see if we could get it on MTV,” he recalled. “We wanted a blessing, we didn’t want to just do it and get in trouble. The MTV people liked it but the record company didn’t want them to release it, so they kind of put a stop to it getting on the air.”

Still, the video survived (and luckily, we can watch it on YouTube!). And there’s that Christmas parody that Jon M. mentioned, too. On an episode of the 80s show Night Flight, Dr. Gonzo takes to a junkyard with his guitar and rocks out an ode to Santa, also using “Just What I Needed.” The clip of that is preserved on Tracey L.’s YouTube channel (including some cute footage of an interview with Elliot!). See both videos below:

“The Cars were just a good vehicle, very recognizable. I could play a couple of chords on the guitar and people would realize I was going to do The Cars. I even did a Ric Ocasek… I’d pull my ears out and look like the fly in that one video and go, ‘Hey, look! I’ve got a rock star in my soup!’ Stupid stuff like that,” John laughed.

“Anybody I ever made fun of is because I was a fan of theirs. Their sound was just so good!” he said.

He always thought maybe he’d meet someone from The Cars but no luck, even when playing in the band’s backyard. “People just loved it when I did [the song] in Boston. It went over well and it was just a lot of fun.”

Throughout the 80s, John opened for some great bands, like Blue Oyster Cult, Night Ranger, Starship, Joe Walsh, and Devo. He also toured extensively with Huey Lewis and The News in 1983-84, and ended up in two of Huey’s music videos — how cool is that? “I got into it to be a stand up comic, not a rock star, but I got to live out my rock-and-roll fantasies, too.”

You can see him here as the ball handler at the Clown Toss booth (from about 1:55 to 2:35):

He also shows up a couple times in this one. You can hear Huey call “Gonzo!” at the 12 second mark, and then John has two little exchanges with Huey, one at 0:25 and another starting at 1:38 as Gonzo models a Back to the Future jacket.

Well now, we found all sorts of fun 80s trivia to tuck away, didn’t we?! And now we’ll return to our regularly scheduled writing. Haha! 

Lyrics: Think It Over

“Think It Over” by The Cars

Every time I see you got to jump and shout

I haven’t got a clue what it’s all about

Well, I never had a dream that looked so much like you

I’ll do anything that you want me to

 

(Think it over, think it over)

Well, there’s nothing you can do to make me want to stop

(Think it over, think it over)

Well, every time you run around it makes me want to pop

 

What’s it going to take to make you change your line

What’s it going to take to get your valentine

How can I be sure that you’re the one for me

I only know that you wanted to be free

 

(Think it over, think it over)

Well, there’s nothing you can do to make me want to stop

(Think it over, think it over)

Every time you run around it makes me want to pop

Nothing you can do to make me want to stop

Every time you run around it makes me want to pop

Nothing you can do to make me want to stop

Think it over

 

Every time I see you got to jump and shout

I haven’t got a clue what it’s all about

I never had a dream that looked so much like you

Well, I’ll do anything that you want me to

 

(Think it over, think it over)

Well, there’s nothing you can do to make me want to stop

(Think it over, think it over)

Every time you run around it makes me want to pop

 

(Think it over, think it over)

Well, nothing you can do to make me want to stop

(Think it over, think it over)

Well, every time you run around it makes me want to pop

There’s nothing you can do to make me want to stop

Every time you run around it makes me want to pop

There’s nothing you can do to make me want to stop

 

Think it over, yeah

Think it over, think it over