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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 their sleek, mechanical pop/rock, the band racked up a string of platinum albums and Top 40 singles that made them 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 the 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, however, the Cars slowly faded away, quietly breaking up after releasing one final album in 1987.

Ric Ocasek (guitar, vocals) and Ben Orr (bass, vocals) had been collaborators for several years before forming the Cars in 1976. Ocasek began playing guitar and writing songs when he was ten. After briefly attending Antioch College and Bowling Green State University, he dropped out of school and moved to Cleveland where he met Orr, who had led the house band on the TV show Upbeat as a teenager. The two began writing songs and led bands in Cleveland, New York City, Woodstock, and Ann Arbor before settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the early '70s. In 1972, the pair was the core of a folk trio named Milkwood. The band released an album on Paramount Records in late 1972 that was ignored; the record featured keyboards by a session musician named Greg Hawkes. By 1974, Ocasek and Orr had formed Cap'n Swing, which featured Elliot Easton on lead guitar. Cap'n Swing became a popular concert attraction in Boston, but the group broke up in 1975. Ocasek, Orr, and Easton formed a new band called the Cars in 1976 with former Modern Lovers drummer Dave Robinson and keyboardist Hawkes.

Early in 1977, the Cars sent a demo tape of "Just What I Needed" to the influential Boston radio station WBCN and it quickly became the station's most-requested song. For the remainder of 1977, the Cars played Boston clubs, and by the end of the year they signed with Elektra. The group's eponymous debut album appeared in the summer of 1978 and it slowly built a following thanks to the hit singles "Just What I Needed" (number 27), "My Best Friend's Girl" (number 35), and "Good Times Roll" (number 41). The Cars stayed on the charts for over two-and-a-half years, delaying the release of the group's second album, and it eventually sold over six million copies.

Recorded early in 1979, Candy-O wasn't released until later that summer. The album was an instant hit, quickly climbing to number three on the charts and going platinum two months after its release. The record launched the Top Ten hit "Let's Go" and sent the band to the arena rock circuit. Perhaps as a reaction to the Cars' quick success, the group explored more ambitious territory on 1980's Panorama. Though the album wasn't as big a hit as its predecessors, it nevertheless peaked at number five and went platinum. Before recording their fourth album, several bandmembers pursued extracurricular interests, with Ocasek earning a reputation as a successful new wave producer for his work with Suicide and Romeo Void (he even produced some demos for Iggy Pop). The Cars released their fourth album, Shake It Up, in the fall of 1981, and it quickly went platinum, with its title track becoming the group's first Top Ten single.

Following the success of Shake It Up, the band recorded the soundtrack to the short film Chapter-X and then took an extended leave, with Ocasek releasing his solo album Beatitude in 1982 and Hawkes issuing Niagara Falls the following year; Ocasek also produced the debut album from the hardcore punk band Bad Brains. The Cars reconvened in 1983 to record their fifth album, Heartbeat City, which was released in early 1984. Supported by a groundbreaking, computer-animated video, the album's first single, "You Might Think," became a Top Ten hit, sending Heartbeat City to number three on the album charts. Three other Top 40 singles -- "Magic" (number 12), "Drive" (number three), and "Hello Again" (number 20) -- followed later that year, and the record went triple platinum in the summer of 1985. At the end of the year, the group released Greatest Hits, which featured two new hit singles, "Tonight She Comes" and "You Are the Girl."

The Cars were on hiatus for much of 1985 and 1986, during which time Easton released Change No Change and Orr issued The Lace. During 1987, the group completed its seventh album, Door to Door. The album was a moderate hit upon its summer release in 1987, launching the single "You Are the Girl," which peaked at number 17. Door to Door had seemed half-hearted, sparking speculation that the group was on the verge of splitting up. The Cars announced in February of 1988 that they had indeed broken up. All of the members pursued solo careers, but only Ocasek released albums with regularity. By the '90s, he'd also become a much sought-after alt-rock producer, having worked with with the likes of Weezer, Bad Religion, Black 47, Hole, Guided by Voices, No Doubt, Nada Surf, Johnny Bravo, D Generation, Possum Dixon, Jonathan Richman, the Wannadies, and former Suicide members Alan Vega and Martin Rev. Easton later reappeared with Creedence Clearwater Revisited, while sadly, Orr lost a battle with pancreatic cancer and died on October 3, 2000.

After Orr's passing, a few new Cars releases appeared on the marketplace, including the concert DVD Live (taped originally in Germany during 1979, and featuring an interview with the group shortly before Orr's death), a double-disc deluxe edition of their classic self-titled debut album, and a more extensive hits collection titled Complete Greatest Hits. By early 2002, Ocasek was at work putting together a Cars documentary film, comprised of backstage footage and unreleased promo clips that the band filmed itself. He also continued working on solo material, releasing Nexterday in 2005 to warm reviews. Meanwhile, Greg Hawkes and Elliot Easton teamed up with Todd Rundgren to form the New Cars, a pop supergroup whose repertoire included Rundgren's solo songs, the Cars' past hits, and some new material. The New Cars toured with Blondie in 2006 and released one record, the concert album It's Alive!, before Rundgren resumed his solo career the following year. By 2010, the Cars officially reunited for the first time in two decades, with the late Orr serving as the reunion's sole absentee. Working with producer Jacknife Lee, they took up temporary residence in a recording studio in Millbrook, New York, emerging with 2011's Move Like This. Released on Hear Music and greeted by positive reviews, Move Like This peaked at seven upon its release and the group supported it with a brief tour. Afterwards, the Cars entered hibernation, with the only new activity being the band's 2015 nomination for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (they were not inducted) and the 2016 compilations Moving in Stereo: The Best of the Cars and the complete box set The Elektra Years 1978-1987. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Move Like This

1. Blue Tip

2. Too Late

3. Keep On Knocking

4. Soon

5. Sad Song

6. Free

7. Drag On Forever

8. Take Another Look

9. It's Only

10. Hits Me

x

Track List: Door To Door

1. Leave Or Stay

2. You Are The Girl

3. Double Trouble

4. Fine Line

5. Everything You Say

6. Ta Ta Wayo Wayo

7. Strap Me In

8. Coming Up You

9. Wound Up On You

10. Go Away

11. Door To Door

x

Track List: Shake It Up

1. Since You're Gone

2. Shake It Up

3. I'm Not The One

4. Victim Of Love

5. Cruiser

6. A Dream Away

7. This Could Be Love

8. Think It Over

9. Maybe Baby

x

Track List: Panorama

1. Panorama

2. Touch And Go

3. Gimme Some Slack

4. Don't Tell Me No

5. Getting Through

6. Misfit Kid

7. Down Boys

8. You Wear Those Eyes

9. Running To You

10. Up And Down

x

Track List: Candy-O

1. Let's Go

2. Since I Held You

3. It's All I Can Do

4. Double Life

5. Shoo Be Doo

6. Candy-O

7. Night Spots

8. You Can't Hold On Too Long

9. Lust for Kicks

10. Got Alot On My Head

11. Dangerous Type

x

Track List: The Cars

1. Good Times Roll

2. My Best Friend's Girl

3. Just What I Needed

4. I'm in Touch with Your World

5. Don't Cha Stop

6. You're All I've Got Tonight

7. Bye Bye Love

8. Moving in Stereo

9. All Mixed Up

x

Track List: Greatest Hits

1. Just What I Needed

2. Since You're Gone

3. You Might Think

4. Good Times Roll

5. Touch And Go

6. Drive

7. Tonight She Comes

8. My Best Friends Girl

9. Heartbeat City

10. Let's Go

11. I'm Not The One

12. Magic

13. Shake It Up

x

Track List: Heartbeat City

1. Hello Again

2. Looking For Love

3. Magic

4. Drive

5. Stranger Eyes

6. You Might Think

7. It's Not The Night

8. Why Can't I Have You

9. I Refuse

10. Heartbeat City

x

Track List: Moving In Stereo: The Best Of The Cars

1. Just What I Needed

2. Since You're Gone

3. Let's Go

4. You Might Think

5. Shake It Up

6. Drive

7. Tonight She Comes

8. My Best Friend's Girl

9. Don't Tell Me No

10. You're All I've Got Tonight

11. I'm Not The One (Single Mix)

12. Candy-O

13. Heartbeat City

14. Touch And Go

15. Moving In Stereo

16. Dangerous Type

17. Sad Song (Zdar Mix)

18. Everything You Say (Live)

x

Track List: Sad Song (Radio Single)

1. Sad Song

x

Track List: The Elektra Years 1978-1987

Disc 1

1. Good Times Roll

2. My Best Friend's Girl

3. Just What I Needed

4. I'm In Touch With Your World

5. Don't Cha Stop

6. You're All I've Got Tonight

7. Bye Bye Love

8. Moving In Stereo

9. All Mixed Up

Disc 2

1. Let's Go

2. Since I Held You

3. It's All I Can Do

4. Double Life

5. Shoo Be Doo

6. Candy-0

7. Night Spots

8. You Can't Hold On Too Long

9. Lust For Kicks

10. Got A Lot On My Head

11. Dangerous Type

Disc 3

1. Panorama

2. Touch And Go

3. Gimme Some Slack

4. Don't Tell Me No

5. Getting Through

6. Misfit Kid

7. Down Boys

8. You Wear Those Eyes

9. Running To You

10. Up And Down

Disc 4

1. Since You're Gone

2. Shake It Up

3. I'm Not The One

4. Victim Of Love

5. Cruiser

6. A Dream Away

7. This Could Be Love

8. Think It Over

9. Maybe Baby

Disc 5

1. Hello Again

2. Looking For Love

3. Magic

4. Drive

5. Stranger Eyes

6. You Might Think

7. It's Not The Night

8. Why Can't I Have You

9. I Refuse

10. Heartbeat City

Disc 6

1. Leave Or Stay

2. You Are The Girl

3. Double Trouble

4. Fine Line

5. Everything You Say

6. Ta Ta Wayo Wayo

7. Strap Me In

8. Coming Up You

9. Wound Up On You

10. Go Away

11. Door To Door

Comments

Report as inappropriate
Hell yea! Late 70s/early 80s, kroq in LA & their sister station in San Diego kickin A** w/the punk/new wave tunes
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All I want is you...
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tjarrell15
Ant Music!
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jen3212
Feel good music.....
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RIP Benjamin Orr
Report as inappropriate
kcalciano723
Ahhh always what I needed ❤️️
Report as inappropriate
This is Just What I needed! 1st two albums so good. Scary it's been 35 years +
Report as inappropriate
metallicagur l 1 8
❤❤❤❤❤
Report as inappropriate
The cars produced a new wave of punk rock! 35 years had to pass before it was realized!
Report as inappropriate
Report as inappropriate
Bye Bye Love..." 'his orange juice died Always with some other guy "Huh? What? Makes me think of "Orange juice on ice," from Midnight Cowboy, with Jon Flight (Angelina Jolie's dad) & Dustin Hoffman
Report as inappropriate
It's All I Can Do
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So cool when you find someone that wants to be there for you
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cfelix210
life's the same...
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justinjenny4 9 5
❤❤❤❤❤
Report as inappropriate
The dangerous type
Report as inappropriate
Wow,ain't heard this in about 28 years
Report as inappropriate
My curiosity got me tonight
Report as inappropriate
justinjenny4 9 5
❤❤❤❤❤
Report as inappropriate
Best song The Cars ever did!
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It's Awl Mixed Up
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It's just a F**kin lullaby
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1984 is two years deep into your imark ownership. And it's all good.
Report as inappropriate
nursehatchet t 2 s
love
Report as inappropriate
Love that comment an couldn't agree more....
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I am gonna let the good times roll with the time I have left on this planet.
Report as inappropriate
How can this group be left out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? This group helped make the early 80's what they were; a great time to grow up.
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It's been a long long time
Report as inappropriate
So silky slow
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heavymetal35 9
❤❤❤❤❤
Report as inappropriate
You may think I'm crazy, all I want all I want is you<3
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Awesome
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i love the cars.
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My Best Friends Girl
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Awesome band The Cars love there songs
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❤❤❤❤❤
Report as inappropriate
I like it those "the Cars." Back to the 80's belong a together bk
Report as inappropriate
Az long as u WHERE DEEP....Then ur just what I needed...
Report as inappropriate
Who? Sancho
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mysteriousst r a n g e r s 8 6
❤❤❤❤❤
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I remember when this LP came out very few people people would touch it. Too different, I loved it. It was the beginning of a very exciting time in music, the cool 80s. Post punk, new wave, and true alternative also referred to as College Radio!!!! It was the Talking Heads versus Rush. It would be REM and U2 vs The Hair Bands. It was war.....In D.C. it was WHFS vs DC101. Give me the Talking Heads!!!!!
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I was always baffled on why the cars never got popular in uk. After all cars produced great punk sounds that were unique! Rip b. Orr
Report as inappropriate
Candy O, Just what I Needed, Shake It Up, Bye Bye Love, I absolutely love The Cars! I miss the 80s so much. So grateful God put me in this great era! We have the best music that no band can ever replicate! I raised my kids listening to this music, and they were born in 90s and love the Cars.
Report as inappropriate
gman1964
Let the good times roll.....say s it all
Report as inappropriate
The Cars songwriting and arrangements are so tight. They wrote perfect pop/rock songs. Love this band.
Report as inappropriate
The Cars weren't even my era, but the older I get the more I like them. They're a lot of fun
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CARS
Report as inappropriate
mysteriousst r a n g e r s 8 6
❤❤❤❤❤
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