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!

In other words:

“Ben Orr was our rock star. When he sang ‘Drive’ the girls just swooned… What a great artist he was.” — Liberty DeVitto, long-time drummer for Billy Joel and Ben’s Big People bandmate; interview with Modern Drummer Magazine, July 16, 2020

Lyrics: Send Me

Send Me written by Adrian Medeiros and John Kalishes,©1993

 

Day’s breaking, my body’s aching, this bed don’t feel the same

Who am I, where am I, need someone in my life

But I’m sitting here, talking to no one

 

I tell you one thing, you gave me something that made it feel so right

I need it now, I’m wondering how to keep you in my life

But I’m sitting here, talking to no one

And they tell me I’m crazy, but darling you’re the only one

 

Send me all of you, send me

Send me all of you, send me

 

It’s a fine line, just a matter of time, I hold my ground

I watch and wait, you hesitate, until you come around

But I’m sitting here talking to no one

And they tell me I’m crazy but darling you’re the only one

 

Send me all of you, send me

Send me all of you, send me

 

What’s nothing to you means everything to me

I’m talking to you, wherever you may be

I’ll be there, too

 

And I’m sitting here talking to no one

And they tell me I’m crazy but darling you’re the only one

 

Send me all of you, send me

Send me all of you, send me…

 

(Repeats to fade)

Benjamin: Lead Vocal List

C’mon, do I even need to say it? Benjamin’s voice is… everything.

Beautiful to the ears. Wonderful in vocal range. He opens his mouth and easily creates those lilting harmonies, or those deep warm tones.  Dramatic, melodic, seductive. Full of disdain or smoldering with emotion. Exuding confidence. Descending and weaving and pressing close…

I could go on and on, gushing about the mellifluous sounds that come out of that man, but I promised myself I wouldn’t. This is supposed to be just straightforward research. As you know, I love to have my little rows of facts and dates and figures; they make me so happy. Pulling data together and organizing it into a meaningful, structured presentation gives me a geeky thrill.

I’m a nerd… I know this.

So I decided I wanted to see a list of all of the songs Benjamin sang in his far-too-short career. Typing it into a single column in chronological order triggered a bout of pinball-machine-analysis and deep, varied speculations, but I’ll keep those to myself for now. And as satisfying as it was for me to see the list in a simple Word doc, I decided to stretch myself into the world of designing ‘infographics’ with this article. Bear with me, they are a little basic, but I wanted to add some color.

(And did you like my title? “Vocal List”… “vocalist”… see what I did there? Haha. Okay, okay… moving on…)

Before we dive in… some little disclaimers:

  1. This blog post is a work in progress.
  2. During the Milkwood and Ocasek & Orr years with Ric, the two harmonized and shared vocals so often that I decided not to list every single song they recorded, but instead only listed the ones where Benjamin handles the lion’s share of the vocals.
  3. I believe Ocasek & Orr recorded a version of “Start It All Again,” and I have always assumed that Benjamin sang the lead on it (as he did with Cap’n Swing), but I didn’t list it under O&O since I’ve not actually heard that version (but boy, would I love to!).
  4. I understand that Benjamin did some background vocals for other artists, but I haven’t been diligent about making notes when I come across that information. I’ll start a file to collect those notes, so hit me up with links, please and thank you.
  5. And again, I am only listing songs where he sang lead or the majority of the vocals…
  6. …except for “Since I Held You” and “You Are The Girl.” Wikipedia gave Benjamin a shared vocal credit on those, so I added them, too.
  7. I’ve only addressed songs that I’ve actually heard or can otherwise verify the existence of, but as always, I obviously don’t know everything. If I’m missing information PLEASE let me know!

And we’re off!

BENVOCAL1e

BENVOCAL2b

BENVOCAL3

** Update July 26, 2018: Added two songs to The Grasshoppers and the songs recorded by The Mixed Emotions (recently discovered through ebay). Also updated The Cars’ demos column to include “Midnight Dancer” and the demo recording of “Shake It Up” from the expanded edition of Shake It Up, released in 2018.

**Update August 18, 2018: Added “When You Gonna Lay Me Down” to The Cars — a song I somehow forgot to list. Thanks so much to my dear research-nerd-twin, JMW, for the catch!

**Update October 5, 2018: Added “I Know I’ve Had My Chance” to Cap’n Swing. Made available for sale by Glenn Evans in April, 2018; apparently recorded on August 28, 1975.

**Update June 17, 2019: Added “You Wanna Man” (written by John Gardina, sung by Ben) and “Julie Ann” (written and sung by Ben) to The Mixed Emotions. “Julie Ann” was performed and recorded with The Mixed Emotions at some point, and then apparently recorded again at Cleveland Recording Studio in November of 1969 while Ben and Ric were playing as Leatherwood.

**Update October 4, 2020: Added a circle for Leatherwood with “Falling Suitcases” and “Julie Ann” from 1969.

Lyrics: River of Fire

River of Fire (written by Stan Meissner and Glen Burtnik*, ©1992)

 

My life you hold in your heart

I look for the light, I wait in the dark

Burning emotions, I’m drawn to the flame

Chasing the shadows that call out your name

 

Searching for some kind of escape, I find my way right here to this place

‘Cause the night has no end

All of my life my dreams run wild, now I stand alone in this river of fire

Days of despair and nights of desire, I wait for you in this river of fire

 

I still remember the look in your eyes

I wish I knew then that it was goodbye

I try to fight it but I know I can’t win

Sometimes your dreams just get lost in the wind

 

Something beyond all time and space leads me right back here to this space

At the edge of this world

All of my life my dreams run wild, now I stand alone in this river of fire

Days of despair and nights of desire, I wait for you in this river of fire

 

Burn for you… burn for you… burn for you… burn for you…

 

All of my life my dreams run wild, now I stand alone in this river of fire

Days of despair and nights of desire, I wait for you in this river of fire

*The original composition had some differences in the first verse; I transcribed the lyrics as Benjamin sings them.

 

Lyrics: A Little Mind Working

A Little Mind Working (written by Benjamin Orr and John Kalishes ©1993)

 

I heard you screaming deep in my dreams

No sense in sleeping, max my machine again, my friend

I heard you breathing, I know it was you

Such heavy breathing left me speechless too, my friend

 

I know you’re watching and hiding from view

I feel your frustration and I’m walking new

I feel your frustration, I’m watching you, yeah

 

I heard it’s healing, an eye for an eye

Do me I’ll do you, out from the side again, my friend

 

I heard you crying alone in the dark

A little mind working, a big broken heart

And I know you’re watching, I’m watching you, yeah

 

I know you’re watching… I’m watching you

 

I heard you screaming deep in my dreams

No sense in sleeping, max my machine again, my friend

I heard you breathing, I know it was you

Such heavy breathing left me speechless too, my friend

 

And I heard you crying alone in the dark,

A little mind working, a big broken heart

And I know you’re watching, I’m watching you

 

I know you’re out there and hiding from view

I feel your frustration and I’m out here too

I feel your frustration, I’m watching you, yeah

I’m watching you

You know I’m watching, too, yeah

Lyrics: I Am

I Am (author and copyright unknown)

 

I am the fire that shows no flame, I am the killer who has no name

I am the wind you cannot feel, I am the truth that is not real

I am the river that flows nowhere, I am the feeling that does not care

I am the drug your body’s been missing, I am the soul that you’ve been wishing for

 

I am… I am… I am… I am the man

 

I am the time that will not pass, I am the future living in the past

I am the shadow you cannot see, I am the prisoner you cannot free

I am the legend of lust, love and pain, I am the man who’s lost his name

I am the drug your body’s been missing, I am the soul that you’ve been wishing for

 

I am… I am… I am… I am the man

I am… I am… I am… I am the man

I am… I am… I am… I am the man

 

I am the fire that shows no flame, I am the killer who has no name

I am the wind you cannot feel, I am the truth that is not real

I am the river that flows nowhere, I am the feeling that does not care

I am the drug your body’s been missing, I am the soul that you’ve been wishing for

 

I am… I am… I am… I am the man

Lyrics: The Edge

The Edge by The Cars (written by Ric Ocasek, ©198*)

 

Today you feel so hopped up like you’re cooking **

Prisoner of your own dilemma, you can keep the dirty looks

We’re talking* says the Chinaman, you can transplant instead

Or you can shuffle down to kingdom come but that’s just what he says

 

You gotta take off the edge, you gotta take off the edge

You gotta take it off, come on, take it off… well…

 

Today you feel so cracked up, and you feel this running fever

That rises when you least expect it, and comes on like a cleaver

Get lost in the ballerina, it’s just like dancing with myself

And the only time you sneak around is when you need some kind of help, ho!

 

You gotta take off the edge, you gotta take off the edge

You gotta take it off, come on, take it off…. go!

 

Today you feel electric, zippin and a-zappin

A little like ‘condition dead’ with all the extra trappings

I’m with you said the jedi, as he pockets all your hope

Well if you really want to hang yourself don’t supply* the extra rope

 

You gotta take off the edge, you gotta take off the edge

Come on, take it off… take it… take it off… take off the edge

 

You gotta take off the edge, you gotta take off the edge

You gotta take it off, come on, take off the edge

 

You gotta take off the edge, you gotta… come on, take it off… well

 

You gotta take off the edge, you gotta take off the edge

You gotta take off the edge, take it off

You gotta take off the edge, you gotta take off the edge

Come on, take it off… well… take it off… take off the edge

 

 

Lyrics: Even Angels Fall

Even Angels Fall by Benjamin Orr (written by Benjamin Orr and John Kalishes ©1994)

 

I have felt your fires flow and I now feel your winter’s cold

So now I know the meaning of ‘alone’ and I know how angels fall

Even angels fall

 

I see writings on the wall and I hear the wilderness, it calls

And I have found a place among these things and I know how angels fall

Even angels fall, like diamonds from your eyes

Even angels fall

 

And you know when you go you have my attention

So you see what you’ve sown, sure goes a long long way

Are you sure you’re right? Are you sure you don’t feel guilty?

 

I have felt your fires flow and I still feel your winter’s cold

And now I know the meaning of ‘alone’

Even angels fall, like diamonds from your eyes

Even angels fall

Even angels fall, like diamonds from your eyes

Even angels fall

Lyrics: I’m Coming Home Tonight

I’m Coming Home Tonight (written by Benjamin Orr and John Kalishes, ©1993*)

 

You think it’s easy walking on air

And you think I’m crazy; hell, what do I care?

‘Cause I’ve got news for you, dear

Yeah I’ve got news for you

 

I wrote you a letter I forgot to mail

And I tried to call you but the telephones failed

And I said I’d fax you, or maybe email

A telegram’s another plan, or on a pigeon’s tail

 

I’ve thought it over once or twice

Yeah, I’ve thought it over once or twice… and it’s the least I can do

 

I’m coming home tonight, dear… I’m coming home tonight

‘Cause I’ve got news for you, dear

Yeah, I’ve got news for you

I’m coming home tonight, dear… I’m coming home tonight

 

I’m coming home tonight, dear… I’m coming home tonight

 

I sent you a message in a sake bottle

It crashed on the rocks and shattered something awful

And I’ve thought it over once or twice

Yeah, I’ve thought it over once or twice… yeah it’s the least I can do

 

I’m coming home tonight, dear… I’m coming home tonight

I’m coming home tonight, dear… I’m coming home tonight

I’m coming home tonight, dear… I’m coming home tonight

 

*This song is copyrighted under the title “I’m Coming Home Tonight, Dear”

Shooting for You

Two amazing things happened for me last week:

The first is that I got to meet one of my dear “Cars world” friends in real life, the beautiful Lori J., and it was wonderful! Even sweeter in person than over the internet, there wasn’t nearly enough time for me to get my fill of her. I am forever grateful for her kickstarting my family vacation up into Canada, and I am looking forward to planning future get-togethers with her.

And the second? While I was in Canada, Rhino Records released the audio file for “Shooting for You.”

Just so you know, I don’t have any big insights on this release; I’ll summarize what information is already out there, but this article is mainly just going to be me, processing my feelings about the ‘new’ song.

DSCN1778.JPG
Painted by Mr. SPJ

While this track is being included as one of the bonus features on the upcoming Panorama expanded reissue (to be out July 28, 2017), evidence shows that it was actually originally recorded as a possible piece of Heartbeat City. Elliot Easton has affirmed that the track is an unfinished outtake, not a complete product. It was, of course, written by Ric Ocasek, and copyrighted in 1983.

Like I said, I was in Canada when this hit the ‘net, and only checking in here and there since I was on a family vacation. I was touched at how many of my dear Cars friends made sure I got the link when the track was released to the public. I confess, I didn’t listen to it right away. I just couldn’t. Knowing that Benjamin was on vocals – that I was going to be hearing something from him I had never heard before – I knew I needed to be in the right atmosphere and right frame of mind to experience it for the first time. That may sound a little dramatic… but there it is.

The Monday after we returned home I had a meeting an hour away, and I decided that being alone in my car was the perfect place to indulge. I’ll admit, I got a little emotional the first time through. It made me miss him so much; sort of brought to the surface those strong feelings of loss that I keep tucked away most of the time. I switched off the stereo and took a little quiet break after that first listen, just to let it sink in.

Once I got myself settled, I played to it repeatedly as the miles slipped away. Several things stood out to me.

  1. Of course, I love his entire vocal, but the way Benjamin says, “I’ll be shooting for you, I’ll be shooting for you tonight” is just addictive. I think it’s especially the ‘tonight…’ his inflection… it makes me crazy.
  2. Also, Benjamin’s voice called to mind The Cars’ cover of “Funtime,” mainly because of the line “you don’t need no self-control.” I like that.
  3. You know how there are two versions of “Night Spots?” The earlier demo of that song is kind of like this one; with some of the parts missing (compared to the album version) and how it has sort of an edgy, raw feeling to it. I like that, too.
  4. Greg sounds like he’s experimenting with lots of different synth possibilities. It’s kind of fun. He does that one little riff that reminds me of Saturday morning cartoons when there would be some storyline having to do with the orient — that just seems SO Greg! Haha!
  5. No guitar solo from Elliot. A little article was posted about it on the web, and when asked about it Elliot explained, “Honestly, I just think it’s an unfinished song, and we never got around to putting a solo on there. I don’t recall any particularly nefarious reason other than that!” So there you go.

Before I continue, if you haven’t heard the song yet, here is the link to it. Lyrics are here. Take your time.

This song was later given to Alan Vega, and he released it on his 1985 solo album, Just a Million Dreams (produced by Ric Ocasek). It gives a good idea of what Ric’s vision for the song might have been, though I’m still so curious as to how our five guys would have worked out a final version to make it entirely their own, had they finished it together.

After saturating myself in The Cars’ track, I switched over to the Alan Vega recording and listened to it a couple of times. His version is obviously fleshed out and polished, highlighting the rough state of the original. It includes different lyrics, a guitar solo, prominent background vocals, and more focused synthesizer work. I liked it, which surprised me, since I only associate Alan Vega with his work with Suicide (which I don’t care for). Here’s the link for his:

Of course, I prefer The Cars. I have had Benjamin’s voice in my head all week, telling me to ‘simmer down,’ and reminding me that I ‘don’t need no self-control.’ My man.

I am looking forward to hearing the other two previously unissued tracks coming out at the end of July: “The Edge” and “Be My Baby.” I’ve got both the CD and the vinyl Panorama products ordered; we’ll see how long it takes me to actually be stable enough to experience them. Haha!

I’d love to hear your opinion of the new release. Comment below, or find me on twitter (@sweetpurplejune) or on my Facebook page and let me know your thoughts.

Lyrics: Shooting for You

Shooting for You by The Cars (written by Ric Ocasek, ©1983)

Simmer down, I got the shakes

When you touch me something breaks

You gotta let me know

You let me know you’re dangerous

 

I’ve seen ‘em all, I’ve seen ‘em twice

You left them all in paradise

You gotta let me know

You let me know that you’re dangerous

 

I’ll be shooting for you, I’ll be shooting for you tonight

I’ll be shooting for you, I’ll be shooting for you tonight

 

You don’t need no backdoor heart

Someday I’m gonna get real smart

You gotta let me know

You gotta let me know you’re dangerous

 

I’ll be shooting for you, I’ll be shooting for you tonight

I’ll be shooting for you, I’ll be shooting for you tonight

 

You don’t need no self-control

Put you in a pigeon hole

You gotta let me know

C’mon let me know that you’re dangerous