KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Satur-debut – THE CARS “THE CARS”

If The Cars had never released another album beyond their 1978 eponymous debut they would likely still be a legendary band thanks to the six radio standards included here, all of which I mentioned in my Great Out Of The Gate series (see below). Even the three remaining songs (“I’m In Touch With Your World,” “Don’t Cha Stop” and “All Mixed Up”) are all winners even if they weren’t as radio-friendly as the others. Most of their subsequent albums had greater commercial success and featured bigger hit singles, but none of that would have happened without the brilliance of this record paving the way. It’s hard to imagine anyone not loving The Cars, or at least admiring the quality of the songwriting, musicianship, vocal performances & production, and it still sounds fresh more than 40 years later.

For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.

 

 

From GREAT OUT OF THE GATE Part 1:

In the late-‘80s, there was a clear divide between fans of synth-based new wave music and what’s now known as classic rock. The only band that seemed to bring those two sides together was The Cars. Main songwriter/vocalist Ric Ocasek’s offbeat delivery & quirky songwriting (inspired by early Roxy Music) was embellished by Greg Hawkes’ space-age synths & keyboards and Elliot Easton’s jangly, melodic, Beatles-influenced lead guitar. Bassist Benjamin Orr added his warmer vocals to several songs and David Robinson supplied solid-but-never-boring drumming. This is one of the rare albums that could pass for a best-of collection, with radio staples “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “Just What I Needed,” “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight,” “Bye Bye Love,” “Good Times Roll” and “Moving In Stereo” (the latter etched in the minds of every male in my age group thanks to Fast Times At Ridgemont High). Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker was an inspired choice, making these songs sound huge and emphasizing their vocal harmonies.

 

Since I assume there’s no one out there who actually dislikes them, I just want to know how my fellow Cars fans feel about this album. Do you think it was the pinnacle of their career? If not, which ones are your favorites? I love all of their albums (yep, even the under-valued Door To Door), but I don’t think they ever exceeded the greatness of their debut.

Satur-debut will return in two weeks with another classic from 1978.

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29 comments on “Satur-debut – THE CARS “THE CARS”

  1. deKE
    July 20, 2019

    Another debut mega-seller Rich! 6 hit singles for a debut is crazy and I mean how do you top that?. Having said that The Cars sure had a brilliant run!
    I have recently been picking up their albums as soon as I come across on my record hunts.
    So far I have acquired Panorama/ Greatest Hits/ Heartbeat City/Shake It Up!
    I have seen the debut a few times as well but the copies are a little worn(no wonder!) but I will eventually track it down!

    Have a good weekend.

    Like

    • Hey Derek. Although technically they weren’t all hit singles, it is amazing that six songs from this album have become staples on rock radio. Not quite the perfection of Boston’s debut but every bit as enjoyable. As you search for The Cars’ debut I recommend the deluxe 2-CD edition, if it’s available for a reasonable price. Hope you’ve had a great weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Aphoristical
    July 20, 2019

    I’ve spent a lot of time with the Greatest Hits – haven’t heard this one as much. I like Red House Painters cover of All Mixed Up – the original sounds weird to me as a result.

    Like

    • The Cars discography is brief enough that I highly recommend checking out each album, since there are tons of great album tracks that would make a Greatest Hits Vol. 2 just as enjoyable as the first one. I’ve heard some Red House Painters stuff but never their cover of “All Mixed Up.” Will definitely seek it out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aphoristical
        July 21, 2019

        I have the first couple – I’m sure I’ll get to them sometime, and maybe further. I used to hate them – their synth-heavy sound and Ocazek’s insincere delivery didn’t impress a teenage rockist.

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      • I’m guessing what you heard were songs from Heartbeat City, since that’s the only album that could be considered “synth-heavy.” Everything before it had synths (from the awesome Greg Hawkes) but they were used for embellishment. I really think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how rockin’ most of their stuff is, filtered through the unique musical mind of Ric Ocasek.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Aphoristical
        July 22, 2019

        It was mainly early stuff that was played on the radio, actually – they were synth-heavy compared to the classic rock that preceded them. It’s also that Ocasek was so insincere – I always enjoyed ‘Just What I Needed’ (which obviously has Orr on vocals), but took a while to come round to the bubblegum pop of ‘My Best Friend’s Girl’ for example.

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      • I guess it’s a generational thing, since The Cars sounded so fresh when they hit the airwaves in 1978. As I wrote in this post, they were possibly the only band embraced by rockers & new wavers.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Aphoristical
        July 23, 2019

        Yeah, hearing them mashed in with earlier classic rock, they stood out as different. I like them now but it took me a while. Roxy Music, who were an influence, share a lot of the same characteristics- an aloof singer, a synth heavy sound, but I never heard their early stuff on the radio growing up.

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      • Roxy Music is definitely a good comparison, especially the “aloof singer” part.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. stephen1001
    July 20, 2019

    My only issue with this one was mismanaged expectations. As I adore the blue weezer, I somehow thought if Ocasek produced theirs, his group must be unreal!
    And the album was fine (like you said, hard to picture anyone disliking) I think I was just expecting it to make food taste better or some other less than reasonable outcome.
    I’m inspired to check it out again though after this post Rich – with more modest expectations of how the album will change my day-to-day life!

    Like

    • Hi Geoff. Are you saying that you were not familiar with The Cars’ debut before the first Weezer album came out? If so, you really are the ’90s man you claim to be. For us older folks, The Cars came out of nowhere, sounding like no one else, and fortunately we had no expectations. I hope the next time you play their debut I hope it hits you the same way it did for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yahooey
    July 20, 2019

    The first two albums are linked together in my memories. I first heard The Cars in the fall of ’79. My friend had both The Cars and Candy-O.

    I like their follow ups but the first two were, for me, magical – the music new, different; one listen and I was a fan.

    Like

    • I have the same connection with the first two Cars albums and I agree that they are linked, with Candy-O just being a slightly more polished version of the debut with just as many classic songs. I have a special connection with Panorama as well, which couldn’t be more different than the first two. I remember being the first person to buy it at my local record store, as they opened the box to get my copy before it hit their shelves.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yahooey
        July 21, 2019

        That is a cool connection to have with any album. I do remember listening to Panorama a lot when it first came out and disagreeing with those who criticized it. I’d say the different sound came from the Cars getting better, maturing. After I while I was playing it less than the first two. Plus the first two have a lot of memories associated with them (I had an interesting senior year.)

        Like

      • Panorama was definitely a shift for them but not so far from what they had previously done. I think the biggest change was no backing vocals, which were such a big part of the first two albums. I know what you mean about having memories connected to particular albums, so it makes sense that their first two continue to be the ones you return to most frequently.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. MichelleMB
    July 21, 2019

    Even more amazing when you realize the whole thing was recorded in 12 days, huh? Easton’s guitar parts were nothing short of laborious…a day and a half.

    Like

    • I had no idea it was recorded that quickly. I couldn’t imagine Roy Thomas Baker having such a short production schedule. Elliot Easton is an amazing player…one of the unsung greats…and I’m always amazed at how effortless his solos sound, even though I know many of them (like “Touch & Go”) were carefully constructed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • MichelleMB
        July 21, 2019

        It is hard to believe, coming off the heels of “A Night at the Opera.” The album is essentially the band’s club set from the time; they just had to go in, commit them to tape, overdub the big backing vocals, and voila, history.

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      • Shows what a talented producer RTB was. No one would ever make much of a connection between Queen and The Cars but he was the genius that linked them, especially with those vocals.

        Like

  6. Bill P
    July 23, 2019

    One time long ago there was a local newspaper that ran a Desert Island discs sort of thing where you had put down 5 (or was it 10?) discs that you couldn’t live without. I think perhaps Greatest Hits packages were off limits. I put some thought into it and sent away my list and it was printed in the paper. To this day, I can’t remember a single entry I put down with the exception of this one. It was likely the first one I thought of and it must have been downhill from there! This is just a classic straight up.

    I was introduced to the Cars via Heartbeat City but then classic rock radio ensured I knew almost all of these songs. One of my first Columbia House CDs (8 for a penny!) was the original Greatest Hits CD.

    What is interesting to me is that it was almost Side A for Ocasek and Side B for Ben Orr. Each vocalist has a single track on the “other’s” side. I’ve always been more partial to Ben Orr’s voice and songs but the variety is what really works for them. Too much of one and it would start to get boring but the variety makes it all seem fresh and fun. (For this reason, I enjoy bands w/multiple vocalists like Toto, Mike + Mechanics, Chicago, etc)

    As for Door to Door…one of my fave unsung Cars tracks is Strap Me In. I personally think it stands up to the rest of the 80s era songs from the Cars but it never really made a dent in the charts.

    Like

    • Hi Bill. Not sure I could ever make a top 10 desert island discs lists, although these days it would be easier by choosing some “Complete Albums” box sets as one item. Then we could go with the entire Cars output. I would have trouble narrowing down a list of my Top 100 artists, let alone albums. But your choice of The Cars’ debut is obviously a great one.

      Funny that you mentioned Columbia House Record Club. I believe that’s how I got the first two Cars LPs, both back in 1979.

      I hadn’t noticed the Ocasek/Orr breakdown on this album but I believe you’re right. I wonder if that was a conscious choice or it just worked out that way when they put together the final sequencing. I’m with you regarding bands that have more than one vocalist. Would you include The Who in that list, since Townshend handled his fair share of lead vocals, and Entwistle usually got at least one song per album?

      So happy to hear you appreciate Door To Door. It’s hard to find fans of that record. I seem to remember The Cars performing “Strap Me In” on SNL when they appeared on the Halloween episode in 1987. “Double Trouble” is another killer tune on that album.

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      • Bill P
        July 26, 2019

        Funny that you mention the Who. I just heard Baba O Reilly on the radio after reading your remarks and the part where Pete Townshend sings the “Don’t Cry” part before Daltrey kicks in. I really like that. The obvious other band with multiple voices would be the Beatles. When they can mix them on the same song, I feel it adds interest to the music.

        Like

      • That’s a great example of The Who blending those two voices. Not sure the song would have been quite as powerful without Townshend’s vocal contributions. As for The Beatles, have you seen the new movie “Yesterday,” a fantasy imagining how the world would be different if The Beatles never existed? I was skeptical but really enjoyed it.

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      • Bill P
        August 5, 2019

        My wife and I did see Yesterday. We went to a late showing and were actually the only 2 people in the theater. That was a bit surreal. Needless to say, I didn’t bother putting my cell phone to silent….ha ha. I also enjoyed some of the comedic jokes….like the fact that w/o the Beatles, there would be no Oasis.

        Like

      • Glad you enjoyed the movie too. I agree that the Oasis thing was pretty funny. It made me wonder how it affected his history with his “manager,” as he couldn’t have played “Wonderwall” for her all those years ago.

        Like

  7. 80smetalman
    July 28, 2019

    The Cars were simply ahead of their time with this debut album. You’re spot on when you say that they strode the line between classic rock and synth pop. I have always loved this album.

    Like

    • I completely agree that they were ahead of their time…yet they were also “of their time.” That’s why they sounded so groundbreaking but also had tons of hits, and they’ve held up over several decades. Pretty impressive.

      Liked by 1 person

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