Cool Happenings at the CNE

1984 gettyimages-1168829522-2048x2048About half way through their Heartbeat City tour, The Cars stopped in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and played at the CNE Grandstand (formally known as the Canadian National Exhibit Stadium). Though the band wasn’t in town for long, a couple of cool things took place at that August 8, 1984, show.

Before I get to those unique happenings, let me get a little bit of business out of the way. I don’t have a ton of background on the concert itself, simply because I just haven’t had time to do in-depth research, but I do believe that this was the second time the band performed at the CNE, having stopped there during the Panorama tour. They weren’t strangers to Toronto, though; the also played at the El Mocambo for the debut album, and at the Maple Leaf Gardens in support of Candy-O. And I know that the Canadian press wasn’t super impressed with this particular show, but then, they never really seemed to be in The Cars’ corner over the years (with the exception of writer Peter Goddard).

Wang Chung was the opening band, and then our band took the stage. I’m not positive that this is the actual set list played that night, but here is what The Cars worked through on August 6 and August 10 (both the same), so it’s gotta be close.

  1. Hello Again
  2. It’s Not the Night
  3. Touch and Go
  4. Candy-O
  5. Looking for Love
  6. Gimme Some Slack
  7. Jimmy Jimmy (Ric Ocasek song)
  8. Just What I Needed
  9. A Dream Away
  10. Cruiser
  11. Drive
  12. You Might Think
  13. My Best Friend’s Girl
  14. Magic
  15. Let’s Go
  16. Encore: Heartbeat City
  17. Encore: You’re All I’ve Got Tonight

And while though those two paragraphs above are a bit light on details, I DO have an excellent eyewitness account of the concert to share. Fellow Cars fan Doug Parsons was just 16 years old when he stumbled into the chance to see The Cars live. Rather than try to retell his experience in my own words, I’ll let you read his take on how The Cars rocked his world:

I was born and raised in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The Cars never played in Atlantic Canada when they toured, which was very frustrating to me, as they were my favourite band. It was only through a rather strange sequence of events that I got to see them in Toronto in the summer of 1984.

Earlier that year, I made a new friend and I spent a lot of time with him that spring. We really were an “odd couple” … we basically had nothing in common except that our older brothers knew each other. He lived with his father in Dartmouth, but his mother lived in Toronto. Sometime in June, he mentioned to me that he was going to visit his mother in the summer for three weeks and asked if I would like to go along. Having never been to Toronto, I was obviously excited to go. I didn’t expect that my parents would let me go, but they did, so I ended up going with him.

He had a girlfriend there, and I REALLY liked his girlfriend’s best friend (sounds almost like a Cars song, doesn’t it?). So one night we were over at his girlfriend’s house, and while I was unsuccessfully trying to chat up her friend, I heard over the radio that was on in the room that The Cars were going to be playing at the CNE Grandstand … and it was WHILE we were in Toronto! Needless to say, I immediately starting bugging my friend to go to the concert with me, which he unenthusiastically agreed to do.

So fast forward to the night of the concert. We got on the bus to the CNE, and after about 20 minutes my friend says, “I think we are going the wrong way.” So he asked the bus driver, and indeed we were going the wrong way. Fortunately, we made it to the CNE while Wang Chung were still on stage. I heard them play “Dance Hall Days” and they sounded great, but I was really only interested in seeing The Cars perform.

So, after what seemed like a LONG intermission … the lights went down, and the crowd started to roar … and then I heard “Hello…hello again!” And I was up on my feet and I didn’t sit down until the lights went back up. I had seen a few concerts in Dartmouth, but nothing of this magnitude. The stage layout was so futuristic with all of the TV screens playing exotic-looking videos. And song after song that I had played on my record player so many times … “Let’s Go” … “Cruiser” … “Just What I Needed” … and on and on. But the two songs that REALLY blew me away were “Good Times Roll” and “It’s Not the Night.” I was not expecting “Good Times Roll” to have such a cranked-up guitar sound, and as much as I liked the album version, I LOVED the live rendition. “It’s Not the Night” was just plain amazing, with all of the layered synthesizers and Ben’s incredible vocals. It really gave me chills.

This was my first outdoor concert, and the beautiful weather and the excellent acoustics of the CNE made it a truly sublime experience. To this day, it remains my all-time favourite concert.

And my friend? TOTALLY indifferent. Sat for the entire concert and said afterward that he found it boring. Like I said, we really were an odd couple. After we got home, we basically stopped talking to each other, which was probably for the best, as he started to associate with some rather unsavoury characters.

And my best friend’s girlfriend’s friend? Turned out that she liked my best friend’s little brother. Just like in a Cars song.

Oh man, I can just feel his heart start to race when he heard those opening lyrics, can’t you? I love that he shared his memories with us! And from his account we can determine that the set list that night did vary a bit. Good to know!

Okay… so the first cool thing. According to one review (from The Toronto Star, August 9, 1984, pictured below), there were only about 8,000 people in attendance. Interestingly, one of those people was none other than the actor, Rob Lowe!

Now, you all know who Rob Lowe is, right? Having made his acting debut at the age of fifteen in a short-lived sitcom in 1979, Rob burst into the 80s movie scene in the coming-of-age classic, The Outsiders. From there it was silver-screen sailing, as he starred in one Brat Pack classic after another, establishing himself as a teen idol and relentless heartthrob. A sex tape scandal in 1988 knocked his reputation for a loop for a bit, but he continued to work steadily, and in the 2000s, he reclaimed his status as an acting force to be reckoned with (and still just as handsome as ever!) on the set of The West Wing and beyond.

Well, rumor has it that Rob was a big fan of The Cars during his high school days. He’s alluded to it himself on Twitter, and actress Melissa Gilbert (among others) has reminisced about driving around and listening to The Cars with Rob. Coincidentally, The Cars used a little snippet of Rob’s appearance on Andy Warhol’s TV in their mini-documentary about the making of the video for “Hello Again.” Check it here at 1:50. Anyway, in 1984 Rob was in Toronto filming Youngblood with co-stars Patrick Swayze and Cynthia Gibb. On the night of the Cars’s show at the CNE Grandstand, photographers spotted him in the crowd enjoying himself. Awesome! I wonder if he got to visit backstage and meet the band?

Oh, and if you needed to see that photo of Ben from the article a little clearer… here it is. It’s very similar to the one by Philip Kamin in the Peter Goddard book; the one that Kurt Gaber uses for the memorial shirts. What a stunner!

1984 by John Mahler
In Toronto, 1984. Photo by John Mahler.

Now the second cool thing.

While The Cars were in the Toronto area, they were presented with an award for selling over 200,000 units of Heartbeat City — also known as ‘going double platinum’. A little blurb about it was printed in RPM Weekly on September 22, 1984, with a bit of a grainy photo. Luckily Louise Potts posted a clearer version of the picture on Facebook.

RPM Weekly
REM Weekly, September 22, 1984
1984 toronto double platinum
“Double platinum for Heartbeat City to The Cars at CNE Grandstand from WEA’s Larry Green, Kim Cooke, Randy Sharrard, Garry Newman and Roger Desjardins.” – RPM Weekly, September 22, 1984. Photo courtesy of Louise Potts.

Isn’t that great? I love when these little puzzle pieces fit together, and what a treat to get a glimpse of the other commitments that filled the band’s time while they were on the road. The obsession continues!

(Oh, and here’s an extra little factoid: Greg’s double platinum award sold at auction in March of 2019 for $400. Wowza!)

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Lyrics: Just What I Needed

“Just What I Needed” by The Cars 

I don’t mind you coming here and wasting all my time

‘Cause when you’re standing oh so near I kinda lose my mind

It’s not the perfume that you wear, it’s not the ribbons in your hair

I don’t mind you coming here and wasting all my time

 

I don’t mind you hanging out and talking in your sleep

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been as long as it was deep, yeah

You always knew to wear it well, and you look so fancy I can tell

I don’t mind you hanging out and talking in your sleep

 

I guess you’re just what I needed (just what I needed)

I needed someone to feed

I guess you’re just what I needed (just what I needed)

I needed someone to bleed

 

I don’t mind you coming here and wasting all my time time

‘Cause when you’re standing oh so near I kinda lose my mind, yeah

It’s not the perfume that you wear, it’s not the ribbons in your hair

I don’t mind you coming here and wasting all my time

 

I guess you’re just what I needed (just what I needed)

I needed someone to feed

I guess you’re just what I needed (just what I needed)

I needed someone to bleed

 

I guess you’re just what I needed (just what I needed)

I needed someone to feed

I guess you’re just what I needed (just what I needed)

I needed someone to bleed… yeah yeah… so bleed me

 

You’re just what I needed

You’re just what I needed

You’re just what I needed, yeah yeah yeah

Lyrics: Never Gonna Get Over You

“Never Gonna Get Over You” by Ocasek & Orr

We sat and talked through the night, I was feeling full and light

And all the words meant the same, they bounced along on a plane

And everything was going as well as it should

We tried to make it through the night if we could

You were the woman who was misunderstood

 

But you know I’m never gonna get (no no) over you

Said I’m never gonna get (no no) over you

Well I’m never gonna get over you

Never gonna get, never gonna get over you

 

I see your face in the mirror, see your silk on the floor

It seems like you never left but you’re not here anymore

Yeah and something keeps on shaking inside

It’s a feeling that I just can’t hide

Jealous lovers seem to lose their pride

 

But you know I’m never gonna get (no no) over you

Well I’m never gonna get (no no) over you

Said I’m never gonna get over you

Never gonna get, never gonna get over you

 

(Never, never gonna get over you)

(Never, never gonna get over you)

 

I see your face in the mirror, see your silk on the floor

It seems like you never left but you’re not here anymore

And everything was going as well as it should

We tried to make it through the night if we could

You were the woman who was misunderstood

 

But you know I’m never gonna get (no no) over you

Said I’m never gonna get (no no) over you

Well I’m never gonna get over you

Never gonna get, never gonna get over you

 

(Never, never gonna get over you)

Never gonna get over you, no no no

The time has come for Turbocharge!

movie posterIt’s finally here, people: Turbocharge: The Unauthorized Story of The Cars is available on Amazon Prime! Regular followers of the podcast will know just how much my co-host Dave Curry and I have longed for this day! The journey goes back over a decade…

Dave remembers when this film was completed in 2008, and there were posts popping up on social media about some screenings in New York. For many Cars lovers, the thrust of the movie was perplexing and unclear. A website to promote the film was also launched, featuring some bizarre clips and puzzling images that could only serve to mystify fans even more. Dave’s curiosity was piqued and never quite subsided, even as chatter about the movie eventually cooled. In time, it seemed the reality of this little film was sinking into the depths of Fanorama folklore, with only odd blips of its existence evidenced on its equally fading website.

But like Gage coming back to life in Pet Sematary, awareness resurfaced when the writer of the film, David Juskow, brought up Turbocharge on his personal podcast in December of 2017.  Its revival spurred Dave into action, and he began a little Twitter campaign prodding Juskow to dust off the film and share it with us for review on our NiGHT THOUGHTS Podcast. His efforts were successful and Dave and I were allowed a private online screening. We were electrified by the movie, recognizing it as a hilarious and wonderful tribute to The Cars, and we strongly encouraged (begged?) Juskow to reconsider releasing it to the rest of the world. And so here we are!

**Before I get into my review/history of Turbocharge I am going to issue a DISCLAIMER: I know there’s been lots of recent discussion about who we would cast in a serious movie about The Cars. Let me state unequivocally that this movie is NOT a serious movie about The Cars! While much of the band’s true history is represented, this is a parody, an exaggeration, and at times a downright fabrication of events for comedic purposes. As Dave Curry said on our podcast, “In order to enjoy this film, you have to set aside what you know about Ric Ocasek, Benjamin Orr, Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes, and David Robinson, and you have to accept them as these characters in this film.” If you can do that, you will love this movie!**

badassbenjamin

Created more as an act of rebellion, New York comedian, writer, and filmmaker David Juskow was fed up with the stereotypical ‘serious’ rock biopic. One night in 2005, after nearly gagging on the cheesy dialog and overbearing drama in Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story, he had had enough. It was the final push he needed to pursue his own project.

“I made Turbocharge out of spite, let’s just say that. It is completely spoofing the genre of any biopic that’s been made of a music band. That is exactly what it is,” Juskow told me with finality.

It’s no secret that The Cars were crazy-popular throughout the late 70s and on into the 80s, but intuitive fans recognize that they were never ones to really push themselves into the spotlight. No exhaustive merchandising, far-reaching world tours, or relentless appearances on the late night television circuit. As a whole, they were a low-key and private band, holding the media at arms’ length and creating an air of mystery about their deeper identity. Did they have a story to tell?

Juskow believed they did.

Exaggerated personalities, terrible wigs, and an unorthodox plot make this hilarious film the breath of fresh air the genre needs. Narrated by a snowman a la Rankin/Bass, the story revolves around The Cars’ reputation for being robotic and boring during live shows, and their supposed determination to correct that perception with the fans. Running alongside that thread is the assertion that bassist Ben Orr was secretly plotting to wrest the control of the group from co-founder and songwriter Ric Ocasek. In an unexpected twist, Phil Collins is delightfully in the middle of it all.

Sure, Juskow pokes fun at the band, but he’s not vicious. He respects all five members very much.  “Nothing about the movie is mean-spirited,” he assured me. “I can’t make a movie like that. It’s always got to have goodness in it.” And it’s not like he had to make a bunch of stuff up; Juskow would soon discover that The Cars’ own history easily leant itself to comedic treatment.

79423416_1228562430677576_83295135449743360_nOn the whole, David Juskow is a man of strong, immediate emotions paired with a very thin verbal filter, pretty standard on the streets of Brooklyn (“People either love me, or they really, really dislike me,” he laughs). Fortunately he grew up in the riotous era of late 1970s television and he generally sees the world through sitcom lenses. Juskow takes timeless gags and bits from those classic shows and weaves them into his standup act. His penchant for spotting the ridiculous moment, his ironic delivery, and his spot-on celebrity impressions soften his edges with his friends and fans. Those talents also lead him to create great comedy.

The idea for Turbocharge actually materialized in the mid-80s during Juskow’s college days. The Heartbeat City album took his ears by storm. He remembered, “I thought it was the greatest album I had ever heard in my life, and ‘You Might Think’ – the song itself – just completely spoke to me. I went backwards from there and started worshipping all of their stuff. The videos made no difference to me, it really was the music, and I just really got into that Heartbeat City album. Greg Hawkes’ influence in that stuff really worked for me and that’s why I really liked them. They just had such interesting melodies and electronic keyboards. And then I was just obsessed with everything they did.”

Lightning hit in the summer of 1985. Juskow’s voice escalated with emotion as he explained, “I remember exactly where I was during Live Aid. I was at this party in Rochester, New York, and I was waiting and waiting for The Cars to come on.  Everybody was outside but I’m just waiting for them to be on, and then they get cut off by Phil Collins! And I was like, ‘What?! How could you do that to my boys?!’

“Being a huge fan of The Cars at that time I was so angry that they got shafted that it turned to comedy in my mind. I was like, ‘Someday I’m going to depict that!’”

Two decades later, the time had come. The 20th anniversary of Live Aid unearthed Juskow’s earlier grudge over the Phil Collins fiasco, and that, coupled with his disgust over the Def Leppard movie, prompted him to approach his good friend, television industry veteran Memo Salazar. “I said to him, ‘Let’s just do this. It will be stupid, but it will be brilliant… in a way,’” he laughed.

Memo said he might do it if Juskow wrote the script, and so it was on. Juskow spent the next several months researching The Cars’ history, confirming things he already knew and then going deeper. And the further he dug, the funnier it became. The peculiarity of Ric and Ben’s early partnership, The Cars ‘trashing’ a hotel by leaving pictures askew, the perceived disaster of the Panorama album… it was the oddities in the band’s journey that propelled everything forward with the movie.

1984 by Brian Brainerd backstage at McNichols Arena
The Cars by Brian Brainard, 1984

Not only that, but the band members’ public personas were ripe for humorous distortion. David Robinson, the consummate ladies’ man – you just had to have that character brought out. And Ric’s exaggerated awe of anyone who does anything ultra-creative, Elliot’s stony seriousness that was masking his sharp wit, and the sweet-faced Greg, who surely must have been hiding a side of snark behind that smile.

“You couldn’t even make a serious biography about these guys. It would have to be hilarious. They are a true rock and roll band who are a bunch of nerds, and I knew I must tell this story in a nerdy way… and yet we all know they rock.”

Juskow does take an obvious amount of creative license, but many of his conjectural elements are a weighty mix of fact and thoughtful contemplation. He fleshes out underlying fan controversies… questions like why didn’t Ben sing more? Was Ben ambitious? Did Ric and Ben reconcile before Ben passed away? Juskow speculated about what might have been bubbling up in Ben. “It’s weird. He clearly has a better singing voice. He’s clearly more attractive. And in my mind I’m saying, ‘what’s going on behind the scenes? Why don’t I do a movie just saying how angry this guy is? He doesn’t have any songwriting talent so he gets screwed.’”

“Everybody takes liberties for drama purposes,” Juskow went on. “What would you have if you didn’t have a fun antagonist? C’mon, you need someone to get mad about Andy Warhol: ‘You hired this guy? Are you kidding me?’”

And there’s the difference: Juskow’s forays into embellishment are not designed to evoke emotion with the cookie-cutter ‘climb to fame’ struggles of the typical rockumentary… they’re just damn funny.

The cast is largely made up from Juskow’s comedy family and ‘friends of friends,’ including Kevin Kash, Rachel Feinstein, Jonathan Katz, Irene Bremis, H John Benjamin, John Samuel Jordan, David Engel, Tom Shillue, and Dave Attell. Juskow himself plays Ric Ocasek. Out of necessity, the lines were few and far between for his character. “There was no way I could direct and be in the movie; it was too complicated. It was way easier to just be silent and ‘tortured.’”

The soundtrack includes music from Eric Barao, The Cautions, Frank Stallone, and a couple of Cars-flavored tunes written by Juskow himself.

As I mentioned above, the film originally opened in 2008 with a few private screenings in the New York area, but Juskow didn’t pursue much more exposure than that. He felt it was a bit of a niche film and was afraid there wouldn’t be much of an audience out there, but we know there is! The playful humor and witty references will hit home with Cars fans and lovers of 80s culture alike. You can check it out on Amazon Prime by clicking here: Turbocharge! Watch it, and then find me on Facebook or comment below to tell me what you think!

To learn even more, visit the Turbocharge Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/turbochargethemovie/, and check out David Juskow’s comedy podcast on Soundcloud here: https://soundcloud.com/davejuskow

ONE

Casting Cars?

Casting Cars?

With the official release of the parody biopic Turbocharge: The Unauthorized Story of The Cars just around the corner, my longing for a true and deep telling of The Cars’ history, which is never far below the surface, springs forth. An actual, factual, full-length documentary would be my first choice (to reduce room for inaccuracies justified by creative license and sensationalistic fabrications), but barring that, it would be so great to have a serious movie made about The Cars.

And that, of course, begs the question: who would play our boys?

Not too long ago this article was posted on Facebook (thank you, Michelle B!) that gives one website’s suggestions on who should be cast to play the members of The Cars if a biopic was made.

Here are their choices:

  • Ric Ocasek: Nat Wolff
  • Benjamin Orr: Liam Hemsworth
  • Elliot Easton: Jonny Weston
  • Greg Hawkes: Tyler Posey
  • David Robinson: Daniel Radcliffe

Image result for nat wolffImage result for liam hemsworthJonny WestonImage result for tyler poseyImage result for daniel radcliffe 2019

Uh, these guys don’t look like they can fill the bill to me. Reading that article, they’ve got a bunch of reasons behind their choices in terms of each actor’s musical experience, acting background, and the potential chemistry of the cast as a whole. I get that, but still, I was like, “Really???” There just has to be visual compatibility between the actor and the person they are portraying. And of course, I know that Hollywood can do amazing things with makeup and stylists and whatever other theater hacks they have (Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury? Brilliant!), so I’m not saying those choices are impossible, but they were pretty unsatisfying to me.

So now I’m going to give my candidates (surprised?), but obviously, nothing so deep for me. Mine are pretty much all based on looks and my own two cents, and limited by my lack of extensive knowledge of today’s young stars. One disclaimer: My biggest challenge is height, I think. My actor choices don’t measure up (or down, as the case may be) to create an accurate lineup, so I’ve had to override that consideration.

Alright, here we go. My top picks:

Ric Ocasek: My mind immediately went to the early 80s comedian Richard Belzer, who looks a lot like Ric, and is even the same age. Of course… his age is the problem; he certainly wouldn’t be able to pull off those early years.  In light of that, my present-day choice would be Scott Mechlowicz. He doesn’t quite have the same eclectic overall look as Ric, but his eyes, though they’d be under shades most of the time, are amazing, and I think that when revealed in the right scenes, they would be dramatic and able to communicate the beauty and mystery of Ric’s inner self.

Benjamin Orr: Did anyone else’s jaw drop when Ben Hardy showed up as Roger Taylor in Bohemian Rhapsody? He would have been the perfect Ben for OUR Ben! Of course, it wouldn’t be cool to have Hardy play another rock star, so I had to look elsewhere. Interestingly, I had recently stumbled across a great candidate in a clip from the show “The Carrie Diaries” that featured “Drive.” Austin Butler played the part of Sebastian Kydd, and his resemblance to Ben is striking. He’s got the right coloring, plus the sensuous mouth and beautiful blue eyes. We might have to pluck those eyebrows a little, though. Haha! Somewhat appropriately, this summer Butler was cast to play Elvis in a biographical Warner Brothers drama slated to begin filming next year. You’ll remember, I’m sure, that Benjamin has been referred to as ‘the Elvis of Cleveland.’

Elliot Easton:  Unlike Ben and Ric, no great options for Elliot jumped into my mind when I started considering my cast. I fished around for a bit with little success. I remembered Mark O’Brien from an episode of “City On A Hill” and thought he had potential. Not sure if his hair is thick enough, but he kind of has the right air about him; he would do. But then I discovered a better choice. I am really digging on Ellar Coltrane (without that thing in his face). He’s got great hair, the perfect mouth, those piercing eyes… and he just looks like our badass guitar player so much! He’d be perfect.

Greg Hawkes: With such a sweet disposition and an inherently boyish air about him, I really want someone who can capture the essence of Greg. The speed bump? It seems that every viable choice is six feet tall! I had to discard Thomas Brodie Sangster for that very reason. Just when I was thinking I’d have to stall out with Seth Green (who is clearly too old), I remembered Alex Lawther from one of my favorite movies, The Imitation Game. He’s cute and thin and quirky, and looks like he could handle the nerd factor (in a good way!). And at 5’8″, I think he’s as short as I’m gonna find!

David Robinson: The choices I like for David are all too old, I think. Zachary Levi, John Krasinski (if I can stop seeing him as Jim Halpert), and the claymation Santa (!!) all bear a believable resemblance, but probably wouldn’t cut it when it comes to portraying David banging it out in DMZ. Combing the younger crowd has me coming back to Dylan O’Brien again and again. Not sure what it is about him… His mouth isn’t quite the same, and we’d have to change that eye color, but he seems to have that same intelligent, amused look on his face that David always has. I think with a few alterations he could pull it off.

Clearly, my actor choices aren’t the only options. I’ll bet you have some favorites, too, that you consider ringers for our beloved band members. Comment below or find me on Facebook and tell me your top picks!

The Cars in Commercials

The Cars in Commercials

Okay… this is just one of those ‘rabbit hole’ things I stumbled across. I was working on my obsession of clipping out Cars references in television and movies and I came to Circuit City.

From 2004-2006, Circuit City used “Just What I Needed” in their ad campaign to try to revive the suffering sales of their consumer electronics chain. As awesome as the song is, it couldn’t work any magic (groan) for Circuit City, and the company filed bankruptcy in 2008. Here are the deets on that advertising plan: 

Though The Cars had allowed their music to be used in many movies prior to this, I think this might be the first time that it was part of an ad campaign. I’m not positive on that, though, so if someone knows otherwise, please let me know. Of course, several other Cars songs have made there way to commercials since then. As you may or may not know, I’ve got a Youtube playlist where I’m trying to gather all those bits. Here’s a link to it, if you want to check it out. I’m continuing to add to it all the time, so be sure to subscribe to my channel to get notice of new additions (if you’re into that sort of thing). 

I do remember an interview where Ric Ocasek felt sure that he would NOT permit his songs to be used in such a way. He was speaking with the late Bob Coburn on Rockline in 1987. Here’s the clip: 

When asked about licensing “Just What I Needed” to Circuit City, Ric told Tom Lanham of Magnet Magazine, “Well, a lot of that money goes to the band, too. And maybe I’m a little bit better off than the band, financially, because I do a lot of other things in my life. But I got a little bit of, ‘Oh, could you please? We could really use it!’ I kind of fell to that, even though philosophically, I really never wanted to do that. But after Dylan did Victoria’s Secret, I thought, ‘If Dylan’s gonna do it and Lou Reed’s gonna do it, maybe I’ll just forget about what I said 30 years ago and do this.’ So I did it. Plus, Ben’s estate gets a cut.”

Well, that’s some pretty great motivation there, then. Since ALL the guys benefited from it, including Ben’s estate, I think that’s a worthwhile reason for Ric to let go of his long-held personal rule. I wouldn’t really be complaining about him changing his mind in any case; I love it when I see commercials featuring the music of my favorites. Not only does it make me happy and hyper because I dig the song, but I think it’s an important part of continuing a band’s legacy, and it is instrumental in introducing classic music to a new generation of listeners. And this current generation needs to hear The Cars!

Anyway, here is a compilation of all of the Circuit City commercials that I could find, and now I can cross this one off my list. Haha! 

[Thank you for reminding me about the Magnet Magazine article, Rebecca! ❤ ]

In other words:

11173381_1198170660199561_7158283802363511294_n
Photo by Ebet Roberts. 1978

Do you think about Ben a lot? “He was certainly my closest friend. He was in every band I ever had. It was a pretty close relationship. He crosses my mind a lot. I certainly see pictures of him around or I hear his voice.

“It’s funny, for some of these re-release things we would find some alternative cuts or things. I’d find demos or recordings where Ben and I played acoustically at Cambridge, Massachusetts, those clubs around Harvard. It was just him and I. They were kind of great. Every time I heard him sing on anything, whether it was a demo or a living room, it always sounded amazing. I could never get over how great his voice was, at least to me.

“So yeah, I think about him. Unfortunately, there were a lot of artists I was close to we lost in the past couple of years, Alan Vega and a bunch … I guess time rolls on.” ~ Ric Ocasek, Rolling Stone Magazine, December 17, 2017.

Our Fanorama Family

With the passing of Ric Ocasek on September 15, the world has gone into mourning. Rock legends and up-and-coming musicians (and everyone in between) have been paying tribute to him all week long, in all sorts of meaningful ways: posting photos, tweeting remembrances, and singing his songs in live sets across the country. Not only do they celebrate the man they loved and admired, but they give us a gift in revealing more about who Ric really was. I am deeply appreciative.

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Photo by Paul McAlpine

Seeing all of the headlines day after day, my sixteen-year-old daughter remarked, “Wow. I didn’t think it would be this big of a deal.” You see, here in my house, my family obviously knows about my fixation with Ben and The Cars, and they lovingly humor me about it, but they think it’s just my ‘little thing.’ They don’t know how important The Cars have been to the world at large, and none of them really understand how much the band matters to me. They don’t get that it is more than just an obsession or a hobby. Ben, Ric, David, Greg, Elliot… these guys move me. Their music is part of my brain matter, intimately inseparable from my emotions and memories. Their existence is important to my existence. And when they are no longer leaving fingerprints in this world, I feel it deep down inside. Not many of my peeps around here get that.

And so it has been all the more precious to me to see how the Cars fans have come together over the news that Ric is gone.

A few years ago someone coined the term ‘Fanorama’ to encompass the members of the Facebook groups and Twitter pages (and anywhere on social media, really) who regularly check in to geek out about The Cars. Over the years I’ve developed many solid relationships inside the Fanorama; people who I may or may not have ever met in ‘real life’ but that are part of my daily landscape. And while I’ve long considered them friends, I believe that Ric’s death has made us a family.

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Artwork by Jim Clarke

When someone you love dies you automatically want to go to others who also loved that person and express your shock and sadness. You want to share the memories and pictures, you want to cry together and tell of regrets and give words of hope. It’s a natural human response, right? “Misery loves company.” And you bond as brothers and sisters in your grief.

And that’s what we did, our Fanorama. When Ric died, we virtually looked at each other in disbelief and said, “tell me it’s not true!” We collapsed on each other’s shoulders and cried together in grief. We gave strength and we took strength and we squeezed each other’s hands and asked, “how are you holding up?” We wrapped our arms around each other and held on tight and assured each other, “it’s going to be okay.” And we shared memories, music, stories, artwork, awe, laughter, frustration, gratitude. I felt it — I still feel it — every time I get on social media, the healing comfort of my dear Cars family.

I find that in the midst of this devastating loss there is so much love. It’s a beautiful thing.

So many offerings I’ve seen and heard this week have helped me, but I think this video comes the closest to encompassing my emotions in a visual form. I woke up the morning after Ric passed away feeling confusion and achy longing and at a bit of a loss. My FB feed was flooded, but this post from Becky B caught my eye. As I watched the incredible video she created, the tears came again, but as much pain as I felt watching it, it was different somehow. I saw the celebration of Ric and Ben. Her tribute skillfully addressed the hurt and the healing and the hope, all at the same time.

The song choice, the photos and live footage, the spiritual aura… I’m not sure how to explain my impressions.  I’ll just let you watch it. Be sure to grab some tissue.

I send out a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to Becky. I can’t imagine how late she stayed up the night Ric left us in order to create this tribute, but I’m so glad she did. It went straight to my heart.

And thank you, my Fanorama family. Being able to stay in touch with you this week has been such a consolation to me, and I know you are comforting one another, too. We’ll see each other through this, like a family should.

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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“Le Grand Chapeau”

Okay, so this is another one of my nerdy little mysteries … at least, it used to be!

I had heard this one 1987 interview on Youtube quite a while ago. It’s Ric and Ben with the late Bob Coburn on Rockline. A caller asked the guys what they do after a show, and Ben gave a rather odd and cryptic answer, which cracked Ric up, but left me baffled. Well, here… Take a listen:

Now what could he possibly mean? Surely not a literal hat, like his black bolero one from the Shake It Up days. Hmmm. Since I always chew on Ben’s words and turn them over and over in my head, his response really stood out to me but there was just no way I could figure out what in the heck he was talking about. So… I’m sure you can imagine how my eyes popped out of my head when I was reading Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars by Joe Milliken and I got to this part on page 108:

“The Cars had no drug scene. Most, as I recall, smoked cigarettes and pot, which was referred to as ‘putting on a hat’ or ‘le grand chapeau.'” ~ Stephen Bickford

Ahhhh! So that is what Ben meant! Goofy boy. He sounds so pleased with himself, too, the way he is snickering at his own joke. Hahaha!

Well, I guess we can lay that little riddle to rest.

Oh, and just to clarify, Stephen Bickford is a talented set designer who started working and traveling with The Cars around the time they were making Candy-O. He’s also the guy who (thankfully!) filmed a lot of the backstage antics that ended up in the epic The Cars: Unlocked DVD, and is credited with some great photos of Ben and the band, like this one:

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Benjamin Orr, 1982. Photo by Stephen Bickford.