Please post the cars (band)
I’m incredibly flattered when people make requests like this! I feel like it’s saying, “You’re good at finding high-quality pictures that we haven’t seen a million times, so please show me something new and special from one of MY favorite bands.” That’s very sweet! I’m honored!
That said, The Cars, I dunno, friend. I’m not passing any judgements here – most of the people around me describe my musical taste as “kind of annoying” and I have to agree LOL – but The Cars are one of the bands that didn’t do much for me.
Not that I gave them a chance. They featured two of my favorite acts as openers in the early-to-mid 80s – ‘Til Tuesday and Icehouse – and both times, I went to the shows to see THOSE bands and left immediately after their sets. (Both were awesome, btw.) Who knows? Maybe The Cars would have won me over if I’d given them a shot. That’s on me, for sure.
That said, Ric Ocasek did a couple of things that I’m NUTS about, both, it happens, in 1982.
First, after their highly underrated debut album, It’s A Condition, Ric brought the San Francisco-based band Romeo Void to Boston to produce an EP called Never Say Never, released January 1982.
You’ve surely heard the hit version of the title track, a chart-topping smash with a terrific video and a brash chorus with Deborah Iyall’s incantation, “I might like you better if we slept together….never say never” – in other words, “BUT DON’T COUNT ON IT.” LOL
But here’s the thing. The EP version wasn’t the hit! The hit version came from the band’s second LP, Benefactor, released in August ‘82, and is defanged from the original, to say the least . Still tough as nails, still with that dissonant post-rock sax stab, but drenched in echo, cussing removed, two and a half minutes shorter, and generally much more mainstream-friendly.
I do strongly believe in the convergence of punk and disco, and especially in the early 80s, dance punk was my favorite genre. The hit album version in late ‘82 was bouncy, but Ric’s earlier EP production was a punch to the face to distract you from the stiletto sliding between your ribs.
I’ve only found a YouTube clip for the entire EP, which is fine by me. Romeo Void is way too frequently remembered as a 2-hit wonder doing dance pop, but this is hard-core post-punk, as brutal and beautiful as anything from Depeche Mode or New Order, the kinds of bands you should be thinking of when you think about Romeo Void, rather than, say, Blondie or Martha And The Motels (both of whom you know I love, but THIS is not THAT.)
I mean LOOK AT THEM.
They weren’t just posing. They were playing for keeps – and if you don’t think a Monkees shirt is part of a punk band playing for keeps, then you haven’t heard The Sex Pistols’ cover of “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone”. Origins matter less than the tale you tell down the road.
(Sorry not to have a better pic, though – the later, cuddlier version of the band is the one that survives.)
The punk community in Boston knew all this, including the band’s terrific first indie post-punk elpee. The place I found the Never Say Never EP was in a local punk record shop (I lived there in Boston in the early-to-mid 80s the first time, and again from 2000-2010), IN THE LOCAL BIN, with a handwritten-note appropriating this album on behalf of Boston post-punk because Boston’s own Ric Ocasek (by way of Baltimore, Cleveland and Bowling Green), produced it in Boston.
Not just “I might like you better if we slept together”, but “This is not my idea of a good time”, “Enjoy the privilege of earning twice as much”, “I’m not sorry”, “We’re not safe”, and twisted tales of predators and louts framing so many other declarations of strength and independence (great quote from Trouser Press: “she sings not only of situations where love is absent, but also of when it should be absent”) – no wonder the record business had no idea what to do with Deborah Iyall!
But Ric Ocasek did, and he helped make this EP a wall to wall masterpiece.
Put on yer headfonez and TURN THIS UP. Really is phenomenal production.
As much as The Cars didn’t move me that much, Ric Ocasek’s 1982 solo debut, Beatitude, very much DID move me. (It looks like Be-atitude, a reference to the Sermon On The Mount, but it was pronounced Beat-itude, which I thought was AWESOME.)
The versions of the songs on the LP were okay, but where they really shined was the 12″ dance remixes. My favorite of these by far was “Connect Up To Me”, which was ONLY released as a 12″ dance remix (no conventional 7″ single release), and frankly went nowhere outside Boston. The whole album disappeared, was never released on CD, and this version of the song didn’t appear digitally until it was included as part of Cars rarities box set.
The album is available on Spotify, though, and lots of it is on YouTube, where I encourage you to dig in. Even though Ric was the primary creative force (albeit far from the ONLY driving force) behind The Cars, there are ways in which this sounds nothing like them. Even moreso on this 12″ single, which has more in common than Gary Numan (WHO HAD A HIT WITH A SONG CALLED “CARS”) or Kraftwerk than The Cars.
I played the ever-loving shit out of this thing. This version of the song, along with his work on the Never Say Never EP point to directions I wished he’d have explored more, but hey, it’s his career, and he did just fine with no help from me beyond the $6 I spent on this single and his share of the concert tickets where I left before he played.
BUT THIS. THIS.
So I ain’t saying that I’ll never get around to posting The Cars – Never Say Never, right? LOL – but I’ll say that I’m WAY overdue posting a couple of my favorite tracks from one of my favorite years, with roots in one of my favorite towns, and I’m grateful that you’ve given me the perfect excuse!
Thanks again for the generosity of spirit in your ask, too! I hope that these tracks are an adequate down payment on returning the favor for now.