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The Cars

 

Blondie may have had a string of number one hits and Talking Heads may have won the hearts of the critics, but the Cars were the most successful American new wave band to emerge in the late '70s. With its sleek, mechanical pop/rock, the band racked up a string of platinum albums and Top 40 singles that made it one of the most popular American rock & roll bands of the late '70s and early '80s. While they were more commercially oriented than their New York peers, the Cars were nevertheless inspired by proto-punk, garage rock, and bubblegum pop. The difference was in packaging. Where their peers were as equally inspired by art as music, the Cars were strictly a rock & roll band, and while their music occasionally sounded clipped and distant, they had enough attitude to cross over to album rock radio, which is where they made their name. Nevertheless, the Cars remained a new wave band, picking up cues from the Velvet Underground, David Bowie, and Roxy Music. Ric Ocasek and Ben Orr's vocals uncannily recalled Lou Reed's deadpan delivery, while the band's insistent, rhythmic pulse was reminiscent of Berlin-era Iggy Pop. Furthermore, the Cars followed Roxy Music's lead regarding LP cover art, in their case having artist Alberto Vargas design a sexy pinup-style illustration for the cover of their sophomore album, Candy-O. Similar cover art remained the Cars' primary visual attraction until 1984, when the group made a series of striking videos to accompany the singles from Heartbeat City. The videos for "You Might Think," "Magic," and "Drive" became MTV staples, sending the Cars to near-superstar status. Instead of following through with their success, the Cars slowly faded away, quietly breaking up after releasing one final album in 1987.

The Cars are an American rock band that emerged from the new wave scene in the late 1970s. The band originated in Boston, Massachusetts, with lead singer, rhythm guitarist and songwriter Ric Ocasek, lead singer and bassist Benjamin Orr, lead guitarist Elliot Easton, keyboardist Greg Hawkes and drummer David Robinson. They were signed to Elektra Records by George Daly, then A&R head, in 1977.

The Cars were at the forefront in merging 1970s guitar-oriented rock with the new synth-oriented pop that was then becoming popular and which would flourish in the early 1980s. The Cars started fresh with their debut album The Cars which went on to go platinum in late 1978. The Cars' debut album was called a "genuine rock masterpiece" by AllMusic. The most successful and well known song from the album, "Just What I Needed", started as a demo in 1977. The song was sent as a mixtape to a local DJ in the Boston area, who played the song in heavy rotation. This soon caught the attention of other DJs, which led to the signing of the band by Elektra Records in 1977.

The band broke up in 1988, and Ocasek had always discouraged talk of a reunion since then, telling one interviewer in 1997 "I'm saying never and you can count on that." Bassist Benjamin Orr died in 2000 from pancreatic cancer. In 2005, Easton and Hawkes joined with Todd Rundgren to form a spin-off band, The New Cars, which performed classic Cars and Rundgren songs alongside new material. The surviving original members reunited in 2010 to record a new album, titled Move Like This, which was released May 10, 2011, and a tour to start on the same day.


Ocasek began playing guitar at age 10.
Orr died October 3, 2000 of pancreatic cancer. He vowed to continue playing music until he was dead. Honoring that vow practically to the day cancer took his life, Ben was on stage performing with his band Big People on September 27. He passed away at his Atlanta home 6 days later.
Orr had been in the Cleveland Sixties band The Grasshoppers. They opened for the Beach Boys and had their own fan club. They were even the house band for the TV show, Upbeat.
Ocasek dropped out of both Antioch College and Bowling Green University.
Ocasek and Orr recorded an album together before the Cars under the name Milkwood. Hawkes played keyboards on it.
Robinson had been a member of Jonathan Richman's Modern Lovers and DMZ.
Ocasek has made a name for himself as a producer. Early on, he produced bands like Romeo Void and Suicide. Recently he has worked with Weezer and Guided By Voices.
In 1978, the Cars were named the Best New Artist by Rolling Stone and Creem, among others.
They lost the Best New Artist Grammy to one-hit wonder, A Taste of Honey.
The first Cars show was performed at an air force base in New Hampshire on New Year's Eve 1977.
Before the death of Orr, Ocasek ruled out any possibility of a Cars reunion, saying that he would rather have "hot diarrhea for six months than tour with the Cars for six months."
In 2003, Ocasek was named senior vice president of A&R (Artists and Repertoire) at Elektra Records. According to The Boston Globe: "Technically his job is to scout and sign new bands. But Elektra is investing in more than a fresh pair of ears."
Ric Ocasek was booted off producing Hanson's second album after 3 weeks. Ocasek's has a strict rule of no corporate presence during recording sessions, which was a problem for Hanson's record company.
Ocasek's father worked for NASA on Top secret projects. Ric recalls one time when government agents visited his house and questioned his mother about the dreams his father had at night.
In 2005, The Cars re-formed with Todd Rundgren replacing Ocasek.

 

70's Rock

Just What I Needed
My Best Friend's Girl

80's Hits

Drive
Magic
My best friend's girlfriend
Shake It Up
You Might Think

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