As with a lot of bands in the 1970s, I first saw The Cars on either The Midnight Special or Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, I’m not sure which. At that point, they weren’t really getting much airplay on Albuquerque radio but I flipped out over ’em when I heard them. For one thing, I was always happy to see a tall, lanky, dorky rock star like Ric Ocasek (being somewhat tall, lanky and dorky myself), but I dug that power-pop sound, too. The clip below might actually be the performance I saw:
I ran out and bought their self-titled debut on 8-track and played the hell out of it, then grabbed up their second album, Candy-O , when it was released the following year. Here’s the band tearing it up on the title track:
I was pretty heavy into magazines like Creem and Hit Parader at the time (not so much Rolling Stone, which has never managed to avoid having its head up its ass), and I was shocked at the so-so reviews the band’s third album, Panorama, received — it was a little more lyrically obscure than the first two (and with Ocasek’s songs, that’s saying a lot) but it still delivered some kick-ass songs (I doubt there’s anyone out there who can’t sing along with nearly every track on Side A, although the album only spawned one Top 40 hit, Touch and Go). Here’s the video for the title track:
After those first three monsters, though, I sort of lost interest in The Cars — that’s not to say they didn’t record some good songs on their later records, but Shake It Up, Heartbeat City and Door To Door never grabbed me the way those early albums did, despite producing the biggest hits of the band’s career.
While I love nearly every track on The Cars, Candy-O and Panorama, I don’t think they ever topped the 2nd track on Side A of their first album:
Sadly, bassist Benjamin Orr (who sang lead on a number of songs, including the band’s biggest hit, Drive) died of cancer in 2000. Surviving band members Ric Ocasek, Elliot Easton, David Robinson and Greg Hawkes have recently reunited and are recording a new album.