Episode 43: “Let’s Go!” with Joe, Part 1

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An early copy of the Let’s Go! manuscript. Photo courtesy of spj.

After eleven long years, the wait is finally over! Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars, the first-ever biography of Ben — or any of the Cars’ members, for that matter — was published on November 11, 2018. Now that the fans have the joy of holding the finished product in their hands, your Night Thoughts co-hosts are eager to take a look inside!

Dave and Donna kick off this first installment in the two-part series by zeroing in on the first seven chapters of the book, discussing Ben’s childhood, his early band experiences and teen celebrity, his time in the military, meeting Ric, the Milkwood mess, the formation of Cap’n Swing, and the coming together of the five men that would eventually join forces to become The Cars.

The two share the parts that made them laugh, that connected some dots, and that were just downright COOL. Having had the privilege of working intimately with author Joe Milliken over the last year as he prepared the book to cross the finish line, Donna is now able to give insight into some of the ‘behind the scenes’ aspects of the publishing process, as well.

**SPOILER ALERT This episode gets pretty specific at times, revealing details and quotes from the book. If you haven’t read it yet, it will either tick you off or tantalize you further… only you can decide how you might react. Pod wisely, people!**

Next up is the Midnight Scroll, which includes some great feedback from our friends Grace Geek and B.B. on the Door to Door dissection episode. There’s also a letter from our old pal Rico, who, inspired by Joe’s book, has decided to write his own story of how he came to cross paths with NiGHT THOUGHTS, and sends us all the details in his email.

The podcast then moves into the first half of a recorded interview between Donna and the Let’s Go! author himself, Joe Milliken. (Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts prevented Dave from being able to join the chat.) The two spend some time talking about the ins and outs of Joe’s writing process and how critical the “Cleveland Connection” was to his success. From there they go deeper into Benjamin’s life, and Joe is generous with details that go beyond the book. Their candid conversation covers topics like:

  1. Ben’s relationship with his parents and the Mayers
  2. the strength of Ben’s independent nature
  3. getting the significant women in Ben’s life involved in the book
  4. Diane’s statements about Ben’s moods
  5. Ben’s interest in guns

The second half of Donna’s interview with Joe will be included in Episode 44, when Dave and Donna finish up their in-depth review of this terrific book — coming very soon! Until then…

Find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @TheCarsPodcast  (individually we’re @night_spots  and  @sweetpurplejune ), and subscribe to our audio outlets! You can listen by clicking the Youtube link below, or visit us on iTunes or Soundcloud. Wherever you connect, be sure to subscribe, share and comment. You can also email us at nightthoughtspodcast@gmail.com. Let us know your thoughts — we’d love to hear from you!

Okay, are you ready? Let’s GO!

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Episode 42: Album Dissections: Door to Door

Image result for door to door the carsLet’s face it, Cars fans are all over the board when it comes to their opinions of Door to Door, the sixth and final offering put out by the full band lineup. In fact, Donna has a history of poo-pooing this record (Dave loves it!), but for this episode she has spent a week listening to almost nothing else, with interesting results.

They start with the usual run down of the album stats, and then they lay the foundation for some deeper analysis. The unique dynamics of the band’s imminent break up cannot be ignored, as hindsight allows us to take a look at this bit of musical history through different lenses. And then of course you have Ric in the producer’s chair and the inclusion of a couple of songs from the early 70s, and the effect that those decisions had on the overall sound of the final product are worth ferreting out.

  1. Was Ric already ‘done’ with The Cars at the time they recorded this album?
  2. Can you tell that the band itself was not operating as a cohesive unit?
  3. Did any of these songs rightfully belong on solo albums?
  4. Is the album flat? Overproduced? Tired?
  5. How much Mutt influence is still present?
  6. And those background vocals: on target or totally off track?
  7. Where was Roy Thomas Baker?
  8. Will there be an expanded edition of Door to Door?
  9. Are the band members embarrassed by this album?

Dave and Donna weave their own varying opinions of each song with observations about the accompanying videos, the increasing focus on Ric, the balance of Ric and Ben’s vocal work, and the fluctuating musical presence of the other guys. They also discuss Diane Gray Page and what role, if any, she may have played in the tensions during that time.

Like the overall response in the Fanorama, Door to Door has the effect of sending Dave and Donna all over the spectrum when it comes to lining up their personal reactions. Throughout the discussion the two jump between taking each other by surprise, being totally on the same page, and flat out disagreeing with each other. But they are definitely keeping it real!

Friend of the podcast Alan Fields (from Drive: The Colorado Cars Tribute Band) writes a letter for The Midnight Scroll and it’s a doozy! He provides some amazing insights into the recording and mixing of Heartbeat City that give us some new food for thought, including the wild question: is there an entire ‘Mutt mix’ alternate version of HBC out there in the vault? Wow! Wouldn’t that be something?!

Now don’t forget… We want to connect with you! Find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @TheCarsPodcast  (individually we’re @night_spots  and  @sweetpurplejune ), and subscribe to our audio outlets! You can listen by clicking the Youtube link below, or visit us on iTunes or Soundcloud. Wherever you connect, be sure to subscribe, share and comment. Let us know your thoughts — email us at nightthoughtspodcast@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Don’t wait another minute… dive in!

Quoting Benjamin

“What attracted us to Boston? It was an entirely different city, and Ric and I, neither one of us had ever been here before. When I showed up I came in at about three in the morning and drove right over a Rt. 2 hill in Cambridge, (laughs) and it just looked so stunning and I said to myself  ‘this is the place I have to live.’ But I liked the city so much. And the next night after I got here we played out. So that about clinched it. And the people in town were mostly young people and it was a great place for a musician to be.” — interview by A. J. Wachtel of The Beat, October 1987

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In other words:

Regarding how Benjamin would feel about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction: “He grew up in Parma Heights, Ohio… There was a weekly TV show he was on called Upbeat and The Grasshoppers were the big stars of it. He was a good-looking 16-year-old singing wonderful songs with that great voice. He’s been inundated with music since he was a kid. He was pretty proud to have come from Cleveland.” — Ric Ocasek, Rolling Stone magazine, December 13, 2017

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Ric speaking during The Cars’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, April 14, 2018. Photo credit unknown. 

Episode 39: Name That Cars Tune

EP39Dave and Donna ‘get in the game’ with a twist on an old musical favorite. Using Lyrics and Prose by Ric Ocasek, the two take turns quizzing each other on their knowledge of Cars lyrics… and both find that it’s harder than ‘you might think!’ [Yep, I said that.]

For some added mental strain (and a healthy dose of badassery), Donna puts Dave through his paces with the first ever “Ric Riff Challenge.” Using some VERY cool audio clips of The Cars’ rhythm guitar parts performed by the talented Ben Fields, Dave attempts to identify just exactly what it is Ric does in a Cars song. As it turns out? He plays some pretty cool stuff!

And about those riffs, let’s all extend a hearty “thank you!!” to the members of Drive: The Colorado Cars Tribute Band! It was their drummer, Alan, who first suggested the game to Donna and stumped her with guitarist Ben’s rocking recordings.  He then graciously granted permission for her to share them with Dave, and generously provided all of the audio files and the answer sheet for her to share. On top of all of that? They rock! Be sure to like their Facebook page and let them know you enjoyed their participation in the podcast!

The ultimate challenge in the show comes when Dave presents Donna with a four-song Cars mash-up and asks her to pick out the individual titles. It sounds sooo wild! Can you name them all?

honey-1089508_960_720.jpgThe Midnight Scroll puts us in touch with Superfan B.B., Pirate Steeb, and the sweet Miss Liz from ‘across the water.’ Rico writes in with his questions about the forthcoming biography, Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars, which leads into a discussion of an audio book format and speculations about Benjamin’s possible sugar addiction. The episode plays out with Drive: The Colorado Cars Tribute Band’s version of “Cruiser.” Love it!

Don’t forget… Find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @TheCarsPodcast  (individually we’re @night_spots  and  @sweetpurplejune ), and subscribe to our audio outlets! You can listen by clicking the Youtube link below, or visit us on iTunes or Soundcloud. Wherever you connect, be sure to subscribe, share and comment. Let us know your thoughts — we’d love to hear from you!

And now… are YOU ready to play? Click below and enjoy!

Episode 38: Album Dissections: Shake It Up

EP38“Dance all night… go go go!”

It’s time for Dave and Donna to pull apart The Cars’ fourth album, Shake it Up. Loved by many and a big success for the band (the title track became their first Top 10 single), this album also represents a departure from the heavier ‘rock’ emphasis of their earlier music — at least, as far as Donna is concerned. The two take a close look at the shifts and nuances that moved The Cars into a new realm of creativity.

There is SO much packed into this episode! Things you never knew about Alberto Vargas’ early career, insights into the odd recording style at Syncro Sound, and Dave’s attempt to answer the “slug” lyric challenge (which is always on the table, by the way). They also wind their way around the ins and outs of the background vocals and the little ‘sneak peek’ threads of Heartbeat City woven through this album.

And then the questions…

  1. Do the underwater sounds of “Since You’re Gone” make for a good album opener?
  2. Would Ben have handled “A Dream Away” better than Ric?
  3. Should “A Dream Away” have meshed with “It Could Be Love”?
  4. What was Benjamin’s true comfort zone during their Friday’s performance of “Think It Over”?
  5. Does anyone have a ‘shaker pin’ available for a reasonable price???

And that’s not even all of it! Tune in to find out how in the world they get to talking about Ben in a leather rabbit suit, recommendations for Dante Tomaselli’s doorbell, line dancing to “Victim of Love,” and Donna pressuring Dave to get a full sleeve of tattoos. Lots of fun and frolic to be found in this episode!

Don’t forget… Find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @TheCarsPodcast  (individually we’re @night_spots  and  @sweetpurplejune ), and subscribe to our audio outlets! You can listen by clicking the Youtube link below, or visit us on iTunes or Soundcloud. Wherever you connect, be sure to subscribe, share and comment. Let us know your thoughts — we’d love to hear from you!

Grab your headphones and dive into Episode 38 — don’t let nothing get in your way!

Episode 36: Album Dissections: Panorama

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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 abour 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?

bufordThere 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.

Now don’t forget… We want to connect with you! Find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @TheCarsPodcast  (individually we’re @night_spots  and  @sweetpurplejune ), and subscribe to our audio outlets! You can listen by clicking the Youtube link below, or visit us on iTunes or Soundcloud. Wherever you connect, be sure to subscribe, share and comment. Let us know your thoughts — email us at nightthoughtspodcast@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Enjoy!