A Boston band that grafted "new wave" sheen on a generic-rawk base. Early homebrew recordings got them airplay on WBCN, and a contract with Elektra, and "Just What I Needed" was just that, amidst the utter crap US radio was playing in 1978. They pushed the envelope as much as possible within the narrow confines of commerciality (Panorama may be the best example, and probably flopped compared to their other LPs). Ric Ocasek provided the artsiness, Greg Hawkes the synthesizer frosting.

The Cars were a musical quintet that consisted of Ric Ocasek - vocals/songwriter/guitar, Benjamin Orr - bass/vocals, Greg Hawkes on the keyboard, Elliot Easton - guitar, and David Robinson on the drums.

It's been said to be impossible to classify The Cars into one specific category of music. The Cars were known for their unique sound and lyrics, image, and videos. They drew quite freely from nonmainstream icons, and borrowed titles (Buddy Holly's "Think It Over," The Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love") and riffs (The Ohio Express' "Yummy Yummy Yummy" for "Just What I Needed,"). Tossing that with irony, satire, and sarcasm into their pot created a style hard to pinpoint.

Ric Ocasek and Ben Orr met in Columbus, Ohio and began performing as a duo, covering classics as well as performing some original material. Deciding that Boston would be a better place to break into the music business, they relocated. There they met Greg Hawkes, and the three worked together in a folk band called Milkwood. Milkwood released only one album, the eminently forgettable "How's the Weather". Nothing like you'd expect to hear from members of the Cars, Ric apparently has regrets about this part of his career.

Next, Ric and Ben put together a group called Richard and the Rabbits, and were a local club band for a while. Soon after, Greg temporarily left Ric and Ben to join several other groups. Ric and Ben then performed as an acoustic duo called Ocasek and Orr at the Idler coffeehouse in Cambridge. Some of these songs became background music in early Cars' songs.

Soon they formed another group, this time with Elliot Easton and Greg Hawkes, later on returning. It was called Cap'n Swing. This effort caught the attention of a local radio DJ, who frequently played their songs.

Slowly becoming more experienced, Cap'n Swing had yet to develop a professional image. In 1976 they replaced their drummer with a reluctant David Robinson. Bringing his artistic style to the group, he created a new image that showed on their albums and on stage for years to come. He was the one who came up with the Cars' name. "It's so easy to spell; it doesn't have a 'z' on the end; it's real authentic. It's pop art, in a sense." - Ric

They spent that winter working on a new collection of songs, and when a demo version of their single, "Just What I Needed," caught the attention of Elektra, they signed on to a multi-album deal in 1977.

They recorded their first album, The Cars, in only 12 days. It featured numerous Top 40 hits, including "Just What I Needed," "My Best Friend's Girl," and "Good Times Roll." Eventually, it sold over six million copies, defining them as one of the biggest groups of the late '70s/early '80s.

Their second album, 1979's Candy-O, spawned the hit single "Let's Go" and reached #3, not quite matching the success of their debut album. Their next album, partly moody, Panorama shattered casual categorizations. It went platinum thanks to marketplace momentum and the success of "Touch And Go."

1981's Shake It Up was a return to more upbeat pop, with the title track reaching #4 in the U.S. and the album itself going platinum.

Taking some time off to work on other projects, the Cars returned with 1984's Heartbeat City, another success. "You Might Think", "Drive", "Magic", and "Hello Again" all charted in the top 20s. This album went platinum too, and spawned several videos, most notably the one for "Hello Again" produced by Andy Warhol. (A year later, "Drive" was opportunistically (but tastefully) used to pull consciences during Live Aid concert. Accompanying the song was a film showing the appalling famine in Ethiopia, replacing the lyric 'Who's gonna plug their ears when you scream' with a small child's scream. Predictably, the song became a hit again.)

Rather than ride for a bit on their overwhelming popularity, the Cars took off time again to work on more solo projects. Meanwhile Elektra released a "greatest hits" album.

Ocasek took the producer's chair for their final album, Door To Door. Less cohesive thantheir past efforts, it sold well, but rumors began flying of a pending break up. which eventuated the following year, due to the band's having drifted apart and personal differences.

Ocasek went on to become a highly successful producer and a solo performer. The other Cars continue to perform as session musicians, Elliot Easton produced Middlescence for Amy Rigby, and Orr formed Big People.

Benjamin Orr passed away in October 2000 from pancreatic cancer.

Discography:


And the track listing for their self-titled album:
  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

Props to:
http://www.usats.com/dale/thecars
rollingstone.com
http://www.sonicnet.com/artists/cars
starpulse.com

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