Live Aid: “It’s good to see you again!”

In a November, 1986, interview, when asked what his most memorable moment with The Cars was, Ben responded, “Oh… Probably Live Aid, I would say. We had a really nice time there and it was great playing for the world.”


There were a lot of BIG things about the 80s: big hair, big shoulder pads, big technology (have you seen the size of those portable phones?). And right in the middle of it (literally: middle of the decade, middle of the year, and middle of the month) was the mother of all 80s bigness: Live Aid. Capturing the world’s attention for about 16 hours on July 13, 1985, a bevy of the biggest names in music took turns busking on stages on both sides of the globe in an unprecedented charity concert to raise money for famine relief. Ultimately, the event set the Guinness World Record for the Largest Simultaneous Rock Concert TV Audience, was viewed by about 1.9 billion people in 150 countries, and reportedly raised around £150 million. See what I mean? BIG.

In the United States, things kicked off at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at 9 a.m., and while there is SO much to talk about in regards to this iconic concert, it’s only natural that I narrow the discussion down to the parts that pertain to our boys.

I believe The Cars took the stage at just after 5:30 p.m. They played four songs, opening with “You Might Think,” and then moving through “Drive,” “Just What I Needed,” and “Heartbeat City.” There’s lots to unpack here, and indeed, I’m not sure where to start but… how about we get the stink out of the way first?


The Collins Intrusion

Any serious Cars fan who’s watched this footage knows exactly what I’m talking about. For whatever reason, the powers-that-be felt it was of the utmost importance to document Phil Collins’ lackluster arrival in the U.S., and they had no compunction about cutting away from The Cars’ performance to bore us with the publicity grab. Yes, yes, I’ve heard that it was somehow a newsworthy feat that he performed ‘on both sides of the Atlantic,’ playing a short set in Wembley Stadium and then flying to Philly in a Concorde jet, blah blah blah. For lovers of The Cars, the time the broadcasters dedicated to the stunt was insulting.

And it’s not like they only mentioned it during an intermission, or cut in just once. The Collins Intrusion began early on, biting into the footage of The Cars’ first song, and then kept popping up with frustrating frequency. For what? The video feed of his arrival was totally boring! At least he could have done some cartwheels on the tarmac or something. Give me something to look at, for cripe’s sake. And you know what’s even more pathetic? After all that hoopla, Collins only played two songs, and then filled in a bit here and there. Certainly nothing to write home about.

Okay, okay. Enough of that, although I will mention that that little trick festered in comedian David Juskow’s brain for years, and inspired him to later write the Cars mockumentary Turbocharge: The Unauthorized Story of The Cars. Love it or hate it (I think it’s hilarious!), the film is part of the Fanorama. You can read more about it here, if you dare: The time has come for Turbocharge!

Alrighty… moving on!


Let’s take a minute to hang this performance on the Cars’ timeline. The band toured heavily in the latter half of 1984 behind their fifth album, Heartbeat City. As they moved into 1985, they took a break from The Cars ‘proper’ and invested varying levels of energy elsewhere. Elliot performed a handful of gigs promoting his solo album, Change No Change, and Ric was working on his second solo project, This Side of Paradise. And somewhere in there, the band was recording “Tonight She Comes” and making decisions about their Greatest Hits album, which would be released in October of that year.


NERD ALERT: Fun facts about the way that stage worked:

As you can imagine, the logistics of moving 38 musical acts and all of their various gear on and off the stage in about a 14 hour window could get pretty sticky — and time consuming. In order to speed up the process of switching the bands out, the center of the stage was circular and was divided into halves with a wall of portable screens. It was fitted with a motor that would allow the stage to rotate as a turntable. In this way, bands could be performing on the front half while the next band was setting up behind the screens. When it was time to switch acts, the stage would rotate, bringing the next band forward for their set, and allowing another switcheroo to happen ‘back stage.’ At least, that was how it was supposed to happen.

Wouldn’t you know it? Less than 24 hours before the concert started, the motor on the turntable went kaput — broke — with no time to replace it. Someone had to come up with a plan B, and fast. Here’s how  sound engineer Dave Skaff, who was part of the team in charge of providing for all of the audio at JFK that day, described the solution:

“Between Bill Graham and [legendary stage designer] Michael Tait, they decided it would have to be manually turned—but how? Tait came up with a great solution where they cut pockets around the turntable and put in these metal ‘receivers’ [where you could put in] a Schedule 40 aluminum pipe and now you had something you could push on. Well, they put about 20 of those in and then Bill Graham made a call to the Philadelphia Eagles and they had 20 guys over there as quick as they could get them. The Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive line came in and turned the turntable all day—that was pretty wild.”

You can see that solution in play in this photo taken by Elaine Hawkes (shared with permission).

1985 live aid getting ready to play photo by elaine hawkes

Can you imagine how wildly their hearts must have been beating as they slowly rotated to face the audience? The roar of the crowd, the wave of heat, the sea of people gradually coming into view as the band smoothly emerges from behind the scenes… Wowza! What a moment!

By the way, if you want to read more about the insane logistics of organizing the monitors, microphones and mixing consoles for more than 30 bands rotating out at 20-minute intervals in front of 90,000 people, check out this article from Mixonline.


For me, at the age of 15, Live Aid was the altar my best friend and I gathered around that summer day, but I wasn’t really into The Cars back then (for shame! haha). I don’t remember their set, and I certainly didn’t tape it. If it wasn’t for YouTube it would probably be lost to me forever, so I’m very grateful for today’s technology!

There were lots of uploads out there from a variety of sources (the MTV broadcast, some from ABC, and some from the BBC), but it looks like nearly all of them have been pulled from YouTube. For this article, I created a compilation video to pull together The Cars’ Live Aid experience by combining my favorite footage clips in chronological order, but YouTube won’t let me upload it, either. Rats! Oh well, all is not lost. I cobbled together a little playlist that includes most of the videos I had hoped to use. It’s a bit of a choppy fix, but but it’s all I can do. (Yep, I went there.) Oh, and I’ll see if I can get my compilation on my Facebook page at some point, too.

So just to be clear, there is nothing new unearthed here; just everything gathered into one place.


So let’s go ahead and take a closer look at their set. I won’t go over every song with a fine-tooth comb, but I do have a couple of things I want to point out.

“You Might Think”

Not to start off on a weird note, but I paused this video at about 0:16 because I was trying to get a good look at David’s hair; more specifically, his ponytail action. Does he have two? Or is it a half up, half down? I know the headphones are reducing his general fluff on top, and that adds to the unique look. As for Ben, he has a couple of eye-popping bass moves: don’t miss him at 1:13 (right after Ric’s adorable little smile), and that big bass swing at 2:13. Other notable nuggets: Elliot’s guitar solo is sizzling, and Ric’s wearing a snazzy “PARIS” lapel pin.


“Drive”

If you look at the footage carefully, you’ll notice three women standing in the wings off of Elliot’s right. In the “Drive” video you can see them fairly well at 2:14 and 3:28. The blonde woman in the pink on the left is Diane Grey Page, Benjamin’s fiancée. The second woman in pink is Greg Hawkes’ wife, Elaine, and the taller woman with the dark hair in the pale green (or blue?) dress is, I believe, Elliot Easton’s wife, Colleen. I point them out because I think I see a sweet connection happening…

Whatever Ric’s intentions were when he wrote “Drive,” the song had a special meaning for Diane and Benjamin, and every time Ben sang it, no matter where they were, he would make sure to find Diane and attempt to make eye contact. This event is no different. You can see him acknowledge her several times during his performance of the ballad, turning toward her frequently and smiling. When Ben flubs the lyrics a little in the second verse, he catches himself right away. He looks over to the side of the stage toward Diane with a wide, seemingly self-conscious grin and kind of an ‘aw hell’ hand gesture, swinging his arm up expressively. I imagine them sharing a laugh over it later as they relived this magical weekend.


“Just What I Needed”

The band’s performance of “Just What I Needed” is off the hook. It is the highlight of their set for me. The force of Elliot’s solo hits me right in the chest, and then he follows with that outro and my knees get weak. But, naturally, it’s Benjamin that sends the song into the stratosphere. He has me from the start with his jaunty address to the crowd, “It’s good to see you again!” He’s removed his sunglasses, and with the wind gently ruffling his hair, he looks genuinely pleased to share the moment with the 100,000 people bouncing in the stadium in front of him. His voice is clear and strong, his eyes are bright, and with every movement he’s giving off this perfect rock-and-roll swagger vibe tinged with a sheen of giddiness, and then you top all of that off with his flawless physical looks, and is it any wonder that many, many fans say that this footage of JWIN is the spark that ignited their obsession with Benjamin?


“Heartbeat City”

When Ric launches into “Heartbeat City” he is a bit late and has to ditch the first line of the song, but he appears completely serene. It’s funny, too, how everyone gives up lip-syncing to the backing vocals by the end of it. To me, this is the most lackluster song of the set, and it seems like a rather sedate note to end on, but don’t skip it. Elliot’s guitar solo is other-worldly and wonderful to watch.


NERD ALERT: Some gear notes that I stumbled across.

anthologyElliot used two guitars in the set. He started out with a Fender Telecaster in Fiesta Red (the same one he used in the video for “Magic.”) As we know, EE loves his Teles! He kept this one long after Live Aid, but in the mid-90s he had problems with the neck. He loved the body of it so much, though, that rather than ditch it, he had Fender Custom Shop guru Fred Stuart build a new neck and give the gal a makeover. The body was refinished in a distinctive, sparkly lime color with blue and white pinstriping. Many will recognize it from the back cover art of the 1995 Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology.

Roland-GR-700-G-707-Guitar-Synthesizer-371-3-big-1-www-vintagesynthshop-comThe second guitar Elliot played was a bit of an eye-catcher, and represented the latest technology. It was the Roland G-707, a guitar played in conjunction with a synthesizer, and it was perfect for crafting the unique sounds in the song “Heartbeat City.” He had used it during the recording of the Heartbeat City album, and also played it on the subsequent tour. I’m not sure how long Elliot kept it after Live Aid, or if he ever played it for any other gigs beyond that, but it has been up for sale a couple of times on ebay. I think the most recent listing I saw was around 2017.

That gorgeous bass Ben is playing is a Guild Pilot. Anything I know about Ben’s guitars I learned from the excellent file called Moving In Stereo: an instrumental retrospective of Benjamin Orr compiled by Michelle Bourg. You can find the entire photo album on Facebook, but I’ll share the relevant page here. In addition to Michelle’s background on the model, she points out that this is the same bass Ben used in the video for “Tonight She Comes.”

guild pilot
Retrieved from the Benjamin Orr Remembered public Facebook group; created by Michelle Bourg.

There are a small handful of goofs during their set. At the beginning of “Drive” you can hear David’s programmed drums go a little crazy, and Greg’s looking over at him like “Dude!?” I hadn’t realized before that things were going a haywire in the silence before the song started, but at one time there was alternate footage out there that made it really clear (it has since been taken down).

As I mentioned, Ben mixes up the lyric lines in the second verse of “Drive,” singing, “who’s gonna come around” instead of “who’s gonna hang it up.” Right after that, the lush backing vocal track comes in a little too early, beating the chorus. And Ric’s got a few flubs in “Heartbeat City,” as we noted.

I feel like these little stumbles can probably be attributed to several factors: the technical complexity of the music from HBC and the fact that the band had been off tour for several months, along with general (and justifiable!) nerves.

No matter. The Cars were at the height of their popularity. They sounded phenomenal; the crowd loved them. They all looked gorgeous, happy, relaxed. They had the world at their feet, and their performance was (and is) unforgettable. What a beautiful thing!


Notes on the heart-wrenching video

CBC Television (owned by the Canadian Broadcast Company) created the original promotional video that featured harrowing images of the suffering in Ethiopia backed with The Cars’ song “Drive.” Engineer Colin Dean happened to be listening to the song while he was editing footage for a short film, and he found the lyrics and emotion of it to be a moving and appropriate anthem for the desperate fate of the young children he was seeing before him. He added it in. He discusses his memories of that night in this stirring interview clip:

Upon viewing the finished film, David Bowie was so affected that he insisted it be part of the event, even cutting his own set short to make room. Live Aid promoter Harvey Goldsmith remembered, “One afternoon before the concert, Bowie was up in the office and we started looking through some videos of news footage, and we watched the CBC piece. Everyone just stopped. Bowie said, ‘You’ve got to put that in the show, it’s the most dramatic thing I’ve ever seen. I’ll give up one of my numbers.’ That was probably one of the most evocative things in the whole show and really got the money rolling in.” (“Live Aid in Their Own Words” by Carl Wilkinson, The Guardian, October 16, 2004)

The exposure pushed “Drive” back up the charts in 1985, rising to #4 on the UK Singles Chart. Proceeds from the sales of its re-release were donated to the Live Aid cause, and Ric himself presented a check for 160,000 pounds to charity trustee Midge Ure in 1986.


The Drive Aid Signature Car

Another fundraising element to the Live Aid efforts involved two donated GMC IROC-Z cars. A bunch of the July 13th performers signed the vehicles, their autographs preserved by a clear protective coating. One of the cars was sent off to the GMC Heritage Collection Center for a bit and eventually sold at auction. The other was raffled off as the Drive Aid Signature Car, quickly sold by the winner, and then under the care of a collector for almost 25 years until it was listed for sale again. The two histories get mixed up a bit and I didn’t try to noodle it out. If you’re interested in diving deeper, you might start with the extensive history on this old website, and this more recent information from 2018. What matters here is that documents list Ric and Ben as having applied their signatures, but I’ve only found images of Ben’s (behind the driver’s door) and Greg’s (on the hood on the driver’s side).

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Photo gallery

There are scads of Live Aid photos floating around out there, so I’ll just add a few of my particular favorites here. The first one might seem an odd choice, but it’s just such a tease, with Diane and Ben off to the left, and Ben so obviously engaged in conversation.

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The Miami Vice thing

In that interview segment toward the end of the playlist, Martha Quinn questions Ben about having to cancel a television appearance to be at Live Aid. It wasn’t just a rumor… I wrote more about that here, if you’re curious: Miami Vice: Missed Opportunity

And speaking of that interview, I just get such a kick out of their flirty little exchange from 1:18-1:40. That woman is a paragon of self-control in the face of Ben’s lavish charm.


Ending on a high note

The Cars’ music shows up a handful of episodes of The Goldbergs. It was fun to hear them mentioned in this clip about Live Aid:

The Cars Unlocked: breaking down the credit roll

Many of you know that the credit roll at the end of The Cars’ Unlocked DVD is broken into four boxes, with different content going simultaneously in each little area. When I first got it, I went kinda buggy trying to watch each corner exclusively, and then rewinding and backtracking to hone in on the next section.

Well, I finally decided to break the screen into each of the four parts and zoom in on the action, and then clip each one as a video segment. Once I had all four, I strung them together into this one video. I started in the upper left and then went clockwise from there. We do lose a little in clarity, but we gain in the ability to focus!

Be sure to take a peek at the video’s comment section. I made a list of many of the delicious little tidbits to be found, along with their time stamps. This should make it easy to return to our favorite spots in the future. Let me know which ones are your favorites!

Here we go — enjoy!

Lyrics: “Go Away”

Lyrics: “Go Away” by The Cars

Well I think of you when I fantasize, the best I’ve ever had

And I think of you when I’m driving myself completely mad

Why don’t we go… why don’t we go away

Why don’t we go… why don’t we go away

Walking on the footbridge high above the clouds

Listening to your yesterday (you didn’t make a sound)

Dazzled by your sweet lips touching on me

Here comes trouble, can’t you see

Why don’t we go… why don’t we go away

Why don’t we go… why don’t we go away

Well I think of you when I dramatize the things we never did

And I think of you when I’m flying, when I’m feeling just like a kid

Why don’t we go… why don’t we go away

Why don’t we go… why don’t we go away

Why don’t we go… why don’t we go away

Why don’t we go… why don’t we go away

Lyrics: “Coming Up You”

“Coming Up You” by The Cars

How could they leave you standing

Holding on to the air?

With never a hope of landing

Didn’t they know you cared?

And you’re finding out it’s never quite like it seems

You’re finding out it’s never quite like it dreams

Didn’t you get connected

When things were still upside down?

Feeling somewhat neglected

Turning the tide around

You’re finding out it’s never quite like it seems

You’re finding out it’s never quite like it dreams

It keeps coming up you again

Well, you’re never too hard to find

It keeps coming up you again

Taking up all your time

It keeps coming up you, coming up you again

It keeps coming up you, coming up you again

However you want to take it

With streamers of violets

If only you could forsake it

It stifles your etiquette

And you’re finding out it’s never quite like it seems

Well, you’re finding out it’s never quite like it dreams

It keeps coming up you again

You’re never too hard to find

It keeps coming up you again

They’re taking up all your time

It keeps coming up you, coming up you again

It keeps coming up you, coming up you again

It keeps coming up you again

Coming up you, coming up you again

It keeps coming up you again

Coming up you, coming up you again

It’s coming up you

The Selland Arena: “Thank you down here, thank you up there!”

On October 26, 1978, The Cars opened for Cheap Trick at the Selland Arena in Fresno, California. From the looks of this newspaper article in the Fresno Bee on October 20, it was a highly anticipated appearance.

The_Fresno_Bee_Fri__Oct_20__1978_ cropped

What a treat to know that we can still experience that show!

First, the video. You’ve probably seen this before. Sometime at the end of 2018 (I think Octoberish?) this partial footage was shared on YouTube by Fresno Media Restoration (FMR). By the end of 2020 it had disappeared, but luckily, fan Gwyneth Jeffer had the foresight to save it before it was gone. She passed it on to me a while ago to upload it to my YouTube channel and I’m just now getting around to it — yay!

FMR had published the footage in two parts, but I’ve taken the liberty to combine them here in the order of the set. It’s just over 20 minutes long all together, which is about half of the full show. The video shows, to varying degrees, seven of the ten songs of the night. Here’s what they’ve got:

  • 00:00 intro
  • 00:47 “Good Times Roll”
  • 04:26 “Since I Held You”
  • 07:57 “Candy-O” (incomplete)
  • 09:48 “My Best Friend’s Girl” (incomplete)
  • 13:41 “Bye Bye Love” (incomplete)
  • 17:23 “Just What I Needed”
  • 21:00 “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” (incomplete)

Take a look:

The guys are so tiny and the lighting is a struggle, and watching it makes me feel like I couldn’t afford a ticket so I had to sneak peeks through a missing board in the fence. Haha! Any view of them live is so great, though. We can find lots of things to gush about!

  • Ric’s cool as a cucumber, as always.
  • It’s an absolute treat to get a nice long look at David playing drums, and…
  • …Ben’s gorgeous in all red and his little black boots! Did you see (at about 11:30) when he moved off to the side to let Elliot have the spotlight during “My Best Friend’s Girl?” I love when he does that!
  • Elliot deserves having all eyes on him during that epic solo. They catch him during “Just What I Needed,” too, and I’m so glad — EE’s energy is hitting the ceiling!
  • We don’t get to see enough of Greg, but there’s a great moment of him in the spotlight during “Bye Bye Love.”

Let’s just focus on Ben here for another minute. He drives me crazy with his little head tosses, those badass rock star poses, and all that 1978 pout. He’s such a natural up there, addressing every corner of the audience, bold and upfront when he chooses to be. He sounds freaking amazing, too. And while Elliot’s energy is obvious in the way he jams his way through the songs, Ben simply exudes it, just standing there. It’s mesmerizing. I think my very favorite little part is at 20:30, when he pulls a stork pose at the end of JWIN. Dude’s on FIRE.

I’ve been wondering why the footage is interrupted by picture fills and dropouts. At first I thought maybe large portions of the original tape were damaged and that’s the best FMR could do to make it whole. Definitely possible, but now I’ve come up with a different little theory.

Friend and fan Jon Mortas mentioned on Facebook that the video was shot with a super 8 camera, and I figure this may account for the frequent intermissions of still photos with the live action. I am NO camera techie, but from what I understand from my cursory research, super 8 film spools could only hold 3 to 5 minutes of footage at a time, so the camera operator would have to stop filming, swap out the cartridge, and then resume recording, accounting for some loss of live footage. There’s a good chance that that is the case here, and that FMR added in still photos (or screenshots) to fill in the gaps so the audio track could continue uninterrupted. This is all just my speculation, of course.

Happily, the rest of the show is not lost to us — at least, not to our ears. I’ve uploaded the full audio recording to my channel for our listening pleasure. Here’s the complete set list:

  • 00:00 intro
  • 01:08“Good Times Roll”
  • 04:50 “Moving In Stereo”
  • 10:30 “Since I Held You”
  • 14:10 “Candy-O”
  • 17:00 “My Best Friend’s Girl”
  • 21:30 “Nightspots”
  • 25:45 “Bye Bye Love”
  • 30:20 “Don’t Cha Stop”
  • 33:56 “Just What I Needed”
  • 38:15 “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” (encore)

It’s so great how clear Elliot’s guitar comes through. I think that’s actually my favorite part. And I love the little bits of chatter, but I can’t always tell who says what. I mean, I’m pretty positive that it’s Ben that says ‘thank you’ at 21:14, but does he also say ‘Fresno?’ It sounds weird. Haha! Or at the end, who is encouraging the crowd to “wear a badge for the future?” Is that Ric??

The best is when they come out for the encore and Ben says, “Thank you down here, thank you up there!” (around 38:15). Oh, one more… I can’t make out what Ben’s saying at 33:55; sounds like the recording got clipped a little. Dang it! Oh well. In spite of that and a few other minor flaws, this is an outstanding performance! I hope that all who took the Fresno Bee’s advice would agree. ❤

How about you? What is your favorite video moment? How about the audio? Let me know in the comments below, or via YouTube or Facebook. Enjoy!

Quoting Benjamin

On the absence of touring: “I never get to play enough anymore. It’s pretty bad actually, really sad. I miss it a whole lot. It’s a chore to get on the road — a few of the guys don’t want to do it — but it’s business, and if you can make a living out of it, you’ve got to do it.” — “The Rewards of Rock Stardom” by Jim Sullivan, The Boston Globe, November 1, 1986

QuotingB

Five years and counting

5One of the things I neglected to write about during the craziness of 2021 was the fifth anniversary of this blog. I even made a graphic and everything, but then I got swept away with life again. So let’s go for it now!

May 1, 2021, marked the last time I could say, “I can count on ONE hand the number of years I’ve been writing about Benjamin.” (Not that I said that phrase a lot. Haha) I can hardly believe it. What started as an outlet for my personal obsession has grown beyond my wildest dreams, and has led me through more topsy-turvy adventures than even Bilbo Baggins could boast of.

And really, it’s the people that I’ve met over the years that have elevated this digital scribble pad to something more than just a place for me to gush.

  • I’ve had the privilege of interviewing family, friends, and musicians who knew Ben and who were willing to meander down memory lane with me.
  • Others have dug up rare photos, print media, interviews, music and videos for me, some of which had laid dormant for years and years.
  • Many people have been willing to “network” me, putting me in touch with contacts that have helped to fill in gaps, answer questions, and corroborate details.
  • Attentive music lovers have generously passed along tips that resulted in stories of cool and cute Ben encounters.
  • Longtime Cars fans have patiently and repeatedly allowed me to pick their brains for dates and names and obscure tidbits of the band’s history.
  • Encouragement from prominent musicians, including the surviving members of The Cars, has lent credibility and validity to the blog, and has given me confidence to stay the course.
  • Faithful readers have become true-blue friends, challenging me to go deeper, holding me accountable to the facts, and supporting me through the highs and lows of regular, everyday life.

I am sincerely grateful for every single one of you! I always get a thrill when I visit my blog dashboard and check the growing stats, evidence of your steadfast interest in Ben and The Cars. I love receiving comments and emails from new readers sharing their love for the band with me and relating the history of their fan experience. This feeling of community is one of the best things I have gained from this project.

The honeymoon isn’t anywhere near over between me and my little blog. I feel such a deep affection for what I’ve created, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done.  Reading through past articles gives me satisfaction because each word represents my passion for documenting Ben’s personal and musical legacy.

I flatter myself that there is true historical value to many of the pieces I’ve written. I care about illuminating the backstory, connecting the dots, documenting the details. I revel in the research and the fact-finding (the rabbit hole is my favorite place to be!).  I strive to create an accurate record, and if I’m wrong I’ll happily admit it and correct it. It is always more important to me to be accurate than it is to be ‘right.’ I’m not angling to be seen as an expert, I don’t approach the fandom as a competition, and I’m not seeking personal attention.

It’s all about Ben and The Cars for me; it always has been.

And in spite of publishing only 40 articles in 2021 (in contrast to the 160 I wrote in my first year), my devotion to writing about Benjamin and The Cars remains as steadfast as ever. I’ve got a handful of sparkly new things to share with you in the months to come, including endearing photos and personal stories of Ben, never-before-published video footage, and rare audio treasures galore. Let’s check in with the stats, and then we’ll kick off the year with something new down below.


All-time blog stats as of December 31, 2021:

Total posts (including this one): 488

Total views: 375,761

Total visitors: 122,846

Number of countries reached: 157

Total comments: 2,791

Top three “most viewed” posts:

  1. Thank God it’s free! (Rock Goes To College): 4,855 views
  2. In Other Words (Glen Burtnik): 4,780
  3. Behind the Scenes at Viele’s Planet: 4,598

Top three interview articles:

  1. Leo Yorkell: “Play ball, Ben!”: 2,574 views
  2. Joe Milliken: Signature move: 2,088 views
  3. AJ Wachtel: Friend first, fan second: 1,845 views

The post with the fewest views: Let’s Go (VH-1 Classic): 58

Most visitors in one day: September 16, 2019 (the day after Ric Ocasek passed away): 1,921 visitors


Alright, welcome to 2022! Let’s check out this brand new gem that I just uploaded.

To the best of my understanding, “Are You Ready” was originally part of The Cars’ 2011 album Move Like This, and was included on a handful of very early promo copies of the record. For some reason it didn’t make the final cut (obviously), but fortunately for us, a good friend of mine who collects lots of obscure music stuff had it and was happy to pass it on to me. I’m thrilled to discover and share this rare, previously unreleased track!

My $.02: Different than any other composition by The Cars, the song works on its own level. It has sort of a lovely Motown/”My Girl” vibe to it, accentuated by David’s light touch and skippy drum fills.  Greg offers a variety of delightful keyboard embellishments, and all are understated and perfectly suited to the sway. It lacks the punch of an Elliot Easton solo, though you can hear his gentle flourishes throughout. The lyrics are some of Ric’s best, and I can’t help but feel that they pave the way for the reception of this new album after the band’s 24-year absence. It’s a shame it was shelved. The whole thing is bright and lighthearted, and extremely catchy; I can’t get it out of my head.

Do you think it should have been cut from Move Like This? If not, what song would you trade it for? Personally, I would have sacrificed “Drag On Forever.” I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Lyrics: “Everything You Say”

Lyrics: “Everything You Say” by The Cars

They can’t stop you in the night

Twirling wildly in the light

But I know honey, it won’t take long

It feels like it’s one on one on one

There must have been a dream in you

A stick and fall and follow through

But I know honey, it won’t take long

Feels like it’s much too strong, too strong

And then you tell me that you can’t go on

And you think you’re losing sight

Don’t you worry, you can’t go wrong inside

Everything you say, oh it leaves me full of shine

Everything you say, well it crosses up my mind

Everything you say

Well and you could twist a little while

Lie there falling for a smile

But I know honey, you won’t give in

Feels like when you begin you’re in

But then you tell me that you can’t resist

When something happens that you like

You wanna know that you’ve been kissed goodnight

Everything you say (everything you say) just leaves me full of shine

Everything you say (everything you say) well it crosses up my mind

Everything you say

Well you know it’s not for real

But I know honey, for one long time

It feels like you’re endlessly entwined

But I know it’s what you did

You can’t be in a broken binge

Well take my heart, it’s only tin

Well, you got me goin’

Everything you say (everything you say), well it leaves me full of shine

Everything you say (everything you say), just crosses up my mind

Everything you say (everything you say) and everything you do

Everything you say (everything you say) makes me want to be with you

That’s everything you say (everything you say)

Studio version:

Live version (because it’s glorious, and sounds better to me than the original):

The Rat, June 1977: Take Me Now!

Another recording of The Cars at The Rat has surfaced, and it brings with it another rare gem!

I’m just going to jump right to the lightning bolt: they performed “Take Me Now” during the set! As we know, the demo of the song was released on the 1995 Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology, but I believe this is the first time we’ve heard this beautiful ballad played live. A few unfortunate flaws in the original tape mean that some significant sections of the song were lost, but what a treasure nonetheless, and such a clear recording! Ben’s achy vocal is layered so perfectly over Greg’s gentle keyboards and David’s faithful percussion foundation. Ah, it’s just so gorgeous! Someday… someday, I hope we can hear all of the verses. For now… 

As for the full gig, the band played a total of 9 songs in about half an hour. Here’s the set list:

  • “Leave Or Stay”
  • “Cool Fool”
  • “I Don’t Want To” (Elliot on vocals)
  • “I’m In Touch With Your World”
  • “Take Me Now” (!!)
  • “Come Back Down”
  • “See Through My Eyes”
  • “Looking To See You”
  • “You Can Have ‘Em” (aka “Sleepy Wasted Afternoon”)

Notice anything missing? The absence of “Just What I Needed” is a surprise, and leads me to think that they probably did an encore that either didn’t get caught on the tape or wasn’t released with the digitized files.

A little side note: I’m still digging to pinpoint the date of this performance, and to confirm that it is from The Rat. I’m not sure why, but something about the way the guy introduces the band at the beginning seems a little off and it kind of has me questioning the details. It seems like he’s trying to acquaint the audience with the band, but we know that The Cars had played there a bunch of times by this point. Of course, it’s not like I’ve ever even seen a show at The Rat, so what do I know? I may be totally off base, but those bits of info are puzzle pieces I’d like to have firmly in place. I’ll poke around a little more. 

The show seems to get off to a rocky start. After “Leave Or Stay,” the audience is either not paying attention, or they don’t realize the song is over, because there is an awkward moment of silence before the smattering of applause. Ric seems a little grumpy when he says, “There’s a lot of fucking room up here,” possibly referring to the audience area in front of the stage. Perhaps he got even more irritated by the overly-enthusiastic fan (apparently named Roy?) that causes a ruckus during the first half of the set. Or maybe that was just me getting annoyed. Haha!

Happily, the crowd becomes more enthusiastic as the band proves its mettle. Ric, Ben, and Elliot all take turns singing lead, one right after the other, and the contrast in sound and style is obvious but certainly not unpleasant. At a minimum, it underscores just how much talent these guys had to draw from. 

Benjamin Orr by Robert Post, 1977
Benjamin Orr by Robert Post, 1977

Whether he’s on lead vocals or singing backup, Ben weaves his way through the songs, his voice silky and smooth. He puts a more melodic spin on traditionally snarky songs like “Cool Fool” and “See Through My Eyes” than we find on other recordings (“nothin’s free, honey…” mmm). On “I’m In Touch With Your World,” Ben sings backup with an irrepressible seductive mellowness (at 13:03, for example), and his tranquil delivery of “Come Back Down” is flat out hypnotic. 

And since we’re talking about “Come Back Down,” after you soak up Ben’s vocal, I highly recommend that you listen through the song a second time, and maybe a third! You can really pick up the peppy fills in David’s drumming, Ben’s swaying bass, and all of Elliot’s brilliant guitar flourishes. Oh, and Greg’s perfectly understated keyboard outro that kicks in at 19:30… So, so good!

About Elliot: he is definitely delivering the goods in this show. While I understand the band’s decision not to have him continue as a vocalist, it’s always electrifying when EE takes the mic. He rips through a flaming and growly performance of “I Don’t Want To,” the most rollicking song of the whole show. Even as he continues to be a force on backing vocals, his guitar playing never lags. He stretches out some in “Looking to See You,” then he really lays into the audience with his work on “You Can Have ‘Em.” 

Greg is no slouch, either. His inventiveness and dexterity on “I’m In Touch With Your World” are moving the band closer and closer to their final studio version. “Looking To See You” really showcases his keyboard prowess, and it’s the ultimate cherry on top when he pulls out his sax on “You Can Have ‘Em.” Knowing now that it wouldn’t be long before that instrument would begin gathering dust, I just love when we are treated to him playing it in these early recordings.

All the while, David’s impeccable drumming, steady and stylish, is the essential framework of the whole show. No wonder they are screaming for more at the end! 

BONUS: There’s a good bit of audience and stage chatter, which I love (did you hear Ben saying, “I’ll have that, uh… soda… anytime” at 20:50?) It always adds that real-world touch that makes you feel like you’re at one of the tables in the club. I only wish there was more! It seems like there are a few places between songs where the transition is abrupt and I wonder what’s lost. No reason to dwell on that, though, when there is so much to love about this show.

Here’s the full set — take your time! When you’re done, leave me a comment and tell me your favorite part. Enjoy! ❤ 


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.

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!

Quoting Benjamin

On the reasoning behind the band name: “Who can forget the day he got his driver’s license? Or his first car, or his first drive-in? If I hadn’t had a car, I wouldn’t have driven over from Parma Heights to Fairview Park to go shopping, and I wouldn’t have met my future wife — Kris King from Bay Village. She’s a curly-haired strawberry blonde. Gorgeous!” — “The Cars take off fast in the record derby,” The Plain Dealer, June 9, 1978.

QuotingB