THE CARS – DEBUT ALBUM FROM 1978 REVISITED


The Cars have always been summed up and best described as a New Wave Band. Alright, I’ll let that jive with me, only on their first album, The Cars had some serious Rock in their Wave. Missing Persons were a New Wave Band too, so was Men Without Hats and neither of those two bands come even remotely close in sounding like The Cars. So, were The Cars really a New Wave Band after all? A Flock Of Seagulls… now that’s what I consider a New Wave Band from the 80’s to sound like.

Due to the timing of The Cars being released, I gather it is probably “convenient” to lump this band into the New Wave crowd too. The debut and self titled album from The Cars was perhaps, just a few hundred slivers heavier, than your standard New Wave Band of the late ’70’s and early ’80’s. Sure, Missing Persons had a few “heavier” songs for their New Wave sound and style, with very decent drumming from Terry Bozzio, his playing and songwriting really was standout with that band. (Plus, Terry Bozzio was and still is an excellent drummer and all around musician too… in my Metal opinion).

I can recall hearing the “first” single off of this album, it was Just What I Needed. Can I recall the actual year I first heard this song? Ugh. Maybe it was 1979. No, I think it was 1980. Who really gives a flying elephant crap about when I first heard Just What I Needed. The simple fact is that I loved this song from the opening note. Seriously, this song’s significance lies in it’s originality for no other song really sounded like it, back in 1978.

I’m trying to “think back” and remember if there was another band out there that sounded like The Cars did, at the time of their 1978 debut album. This was 1978, not 1988, when a decade later you could swoop up a hundred New Wave Bands or so and compare them all against each other. Growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s, I just accepted The Cars and their sound without giving any thought as to what music genre they belonged to. (Now that I’m a cranky old man, I scrutinize music genres like there’s no tomorrow). As each new song from their debut album trickled onto FM radio, I became more of a fan of them and this album.

Out of the nine songs heard on The Cars, seven of them made it to FM airplay. Seven! That is nothing to sneeze at either… how many Rock or Hard Rock bands can any of us name in 2010, that can boast seven songs from one album, being accepted into FM airplay and becoming hits? A “debut” album no less! It’s not as if these songs on The Cars were “Poppy” either, they were mainstream certainly, still a far cry from sounding “bubble gum”. These seven songs were played so often on the Connecticut FM radio stations, (WHCN, WCCC and WPLR), that I am guilty of never having bought this album, many years after it’s release.

Elliot Easton played guitar on The Cars with an obvious hard edge, his solo on Just What I Needed is an example of what I mean. It’s guitarists like Elliot that really exemplify playing for the song unselfishly and skillfully, versus the household name guitarists out there, who have accentuated their fame through piles of average solo albums throughout the decades.

Ric Ocasek’s vocals were meant for The Cars. I know that sounds rather cliche, only it’s so true. Ric Ocasek gave The Cars a booming personality with his vocals. The “modern” vibe that The Cars pulsated with through their songs seemed to stick to Ric’s voice like glue. The late/great Benjamin Orr not only played bass for The Cars, he was the lead vocalist on All Mixed Up as well. Benjamin Orr’s vocals were perfect for this song, giving it that added emotion and personal element befitting of the lyrics. (His vocals on The Cars 1984 hit Drive, from their Heartbeat City album is another memorably gigantic performance from him as well).

The Cars presented an edgy futuristic listen into Rock’s eventual “wide-open” Pop feel of the 80’s, courtesy of Greg Hawkes on keyboards and an open mindedness of this band to create songs that were fabulously accessible. Regardless of the Rock/Pop direction The Cars did take into the 80’s, this debut album is by far, their best full-throttle, Rock teetering on Hard Rock effort… with a New Wave approach, let’s not forget.

Moving In Stereo can be the cornerstone New Wave song for The Cars. There was and still is something almost fantastically mystical about my never wanting to turn this song off, when I hear it on the radio. Could it be that The Cars really are moving me, through stereo? I feel semi-scared now. Good Times Roll has all the ingredients of bursting out of it’s seams with a loud guitar solo and a psyched out tempo that doesn’t relent. It does not happen that way though. It’s the keyboards that administer the melancholy antidote of calm, making this song still feel like the good times are rolling, nonetheless… in a Logan’s Run sort of cosmic way.

The Cars as I look back upon them now, were a mighty decent Rock, I mean, New Wave Band. After all these years, however, it is more beneficial for me personally, to call The Cars debut album a Classic Rock gem. If I was to recommend that “one” album from The Cars to a civilization outside of our Milky Way, it would no doubt be their debut album. For those on this planet, that are just being introduced to The Cars, I would recommend their debut album as well. These excellent musicians that decided to call themselves The Cars, as I look back now, are a symbolic example of their era, showing just how dynamic and memorable a band could become, by solidifying a unique sound from a Rock meets New Wave fusion.

THE CARS was released in June of 1978, on Elektra Records.

Track Listing For The Cars:

Good Times Roll

My Best Friend’s Girl

Just What I Needed

I’m In Touch With Your World

Don’t Cha Stop

You’re All I’ve Got Tonight

Bye Bye Love

Moving In Stereo

All Mixed Up


Rest In Peace, Benjamin Orr.

Stone.

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24 Responses to “THE CARS – DEBUT ALBUM FROM 1978 REVISITED”

  1. I am not ashamed to say that I am still a fan of The Cars. Too bad Ric Ocasek disappeared off of the face of the earth.

    • metalodyssey Says:

      Nuthin’ to be ashamed of exactly! This band put out one hell-of-a debut album! Plus, “Candy-O” was a kick-ass album too! ;)

  2. I am not a fan of the Cars at all but I do like the fact that you have a diverse taste in music.

  3. I love a lot of CAR’s songs but not albums.

    I think I might have had this on 8-track too. If not, their 2nd one for sure. They always had a handful of catchy pop tunes mixed with a bunch of sub-par material IMO.

    Fav. songs on this LP:

    Good Times Roll

    My Best Friend’s Girl

    *I would recommend a “Best Of” or “Greatest Hits” collection.

    One thing that is certain, is the fact that you can still jam on their pop tunes and they are still “fresh-sounding”…

    Nice post.

    Kinger

    Just What I Needed

    • metalodyssey Says:

      Thanks Kinger… the first two albums from The Cars I’m the biggest fan of. I agree with “fresh-sounding”, maybe The Cars were slightly ahead of their time? I stop to Metal ponder… I’m thinking they were. ;)

    • metalodyssey Says:

      Oh, hey Kinger… aren’t you glad that I did not mention in this post, that this album is 32 years old? Uh, oh… I mentioned it! :)

  4. I consider these guys New Wave, but I also plop them into the Classic Rock category, mostly for this album, but Candy-O and Sake It Up are pretty good, but to answer your question, Van Halen’s whole freakign debut gets a ton of radio airplay here, all 11 songs, and def Leppard’s Hyteria has 7 songs I can name I have heard on the radio, Women, Animal, Love Bites, Rocket, Pour Some Sugar On Me, Armageddon It, and Hysteria all made it.

    • metalodyssey Says:

      You are correct with Van Halen “l” and “Hysteria”, both albums are monumental. I just don’t see a new debut album from a Hard Rock or Heavy Metal band in “2010” with so many songs on the radio. Maybe it is unfair of me to pose this question for a “2010” debut album for this is a different era altogether. Back in the 70’s and 80’s, Rock, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal ruled the FM airwaves. (Satellite Radio now helps the cause).

      We live during a day and age where lip syncing, boy bands, Disney bands and lightweight Rock “ballad” bands get pushed on the listening public. All that crap did exist decades ago too, only not to the level it is now. The “shelf life” of this garbage that makes the charts these days seems to be lasting longer than it did 15 and 25 years ago.

      It really doesn’t matter though… we know what the great albums are both past and present still. You named off two of ‘em. ;)

  5. im glad you didnt try to relate there debut album to pop music like alot of people like to do as shown in the above comments. i agree this album is peer new wave/rock. to bad after panorama they went all goofy pop on there rock fans and rarely could have a new wave rock song without pop or poprock backing it up. even though of that dissapointment, they still used enough rock to be called a rock band. there debut album is solid rock, and so is candy O in a sense “limited exceptions for lets go”.

    • metalodyssey Says:

      I think that “MTV Age” of the 80’s lured many bands into writing songs that probably never would have been written… if not for the insane commercial exposure that network had on fans of all Rock genres then. It’s just my own theory.

      From the first time I heard this debut album from The Cars until now, I’ve never grown tired of the Rock sound this band captured. ;)

      Thanks for commenting –

      – Stone

  6. i did like your post though, infact i liked it so much i even book marked it :) ive always been a hard rock/heavy metal fan and when i hurd my dad jam bye bye love, i fell in love… it changed my life, it gave me a whole new look at music. it gave me a new passion… kinda shocked me how there not in the rock hof, they were the kings of the 80’s synth based rock and pop. and on top of that there guitarist elliot easton practically labeled 80’s new wave rock. well take care man.

    • metalodyssey Says:

      Thanks Nate! I’ve written time and again about my aggravation for the “political good ‘ol boys club” that is The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. The list is huge when it comes to legendary bands that have been snubbed by that “establishment”. Cheap Trick, KISS, Doobie Brothers, Mott The Hoople, Budgie, The Moody Blues, Boz Scaggs, Heart… (phew), the list is long as I said!

      If you visit the Metal Odyssey “home page” you will see a long column on the right hand side… just keep scrolling downward until you see my list of bands that have been ignored by The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. I’ve titled this list: “Metal Odyssey’s Rock and Roll and Heavy Music Hall of Fame! The Rock Legends Ignored By “The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame”

      It’s cool that one song you heard your Dad jamming to changed your life. Music is a powerful energy that has always been there when I’ve needed it most! Especially Metal. :)

      – Rock Steady and Always Be Ready To Rock!

      – Stone

  7. your welcome, anyway a question i have to you is, what is new wave… i mean i know overall it’s alongside punk blah, blah, blah…

    but where do the cars come along.. there is so much talk about there genre, they’ve been labeled pop, new wave, poprock and worst of all powerpop… just because they happen to use some catchy guitar and synth lines people think there powerpop. I just think there rock but i cant get over how much pop they used in there later albums….but the good thing is that they have reunited as of 2010/11, and i heard a snip of there first 2 songs on the album, they have some heavy guitar riffs that sound very 80’s revival.

    • metalodyssey Says:

      New Wave to me, is an extremely legitimate and important sub-genre to Rock Music. Yes, Punk Rock can be called “the big brother” to New Wave, for New Wave realistically spawned from Punk Rock. (Just look at the legendary Blondie). With tons of synths and the electronic “sounds” popping up all over New Waves music, the experimental creature that was/is New Wave in essence attached itself to those colorful 80’s (and very late 70’s). Vocals of New Wave had it’s fine line of “Punkiness” yet not entirely Punk. Where Punk Rock was not a legion of bands aiming to be played on “America’s Top 40″ way back then, New Wave bands seemed to lean towards getting one, two or three singles on FM’s mainstream.

      At the end of the day, The Cars will always be a legendary Rock Band to me, that played a variety of styles without losing their “signature” sound. What New Wave has spawned, through the decades, are the sub-genres known as Alternative and Indie Rock. Of course, this blabbing is all my own Metal opinion… I just see and hear New Wave this way then and now. I honestly like New Wave, not every band though. With many New Wave bands, I only liked say, one or two songs from a respective album.

      That’s very cool if The Cars do reunite. Of course, it would never be the same without Benjamin Orr. Still, the surviving members should have a lot of Rock ‘N’ Roll left in their tanks.

      Rock Steady – \m/

      Stone

  8. I like New wave too, i just needed a understanding of it, thanks taking time to write that comment, very helpful :)

    Maybe something i should of added in my other comment, what is power pop?? I mean wouldn’t it be exactly like pop rock?? Catchy melodic vocals with guitar heavy riffs, whats the difference?? I ask this because The Cars have been labeled this genre before, and i question it. The genre has also been labeled to The Cars song just what i needed and countless others, but i think it’s just cranky pop fans who have a habit of calling bands that use pop friendly lyrics with rock friendly guitar riffs power pop.

    • metalodyssey Says:

      Yeah… I agree with your Metal assessment of what “Power Pop” is. You know, when I think of “Power Pop”, man, I really think of that band from a long time ago… in a Rock galaxy far, far, away… they were called: The Bay City Rollers. ;)

      – Rock Steady

      – Stone

  9. Well according to wikipedia, power pop:

    Stylistic origins: Pop rock, rock and roll, beat music, rhythm and blues, garage rock

    Like their punk brethren, late–1970s power pop groups favored a leaner and punchier sound than their early–1970s predecessors. Some occasionally incorporated synthesizers into their music, though not to the same degree as did their new wave counterparts. Representative singles from the period include releases from the Bomp! Records label by 20/20 (“Giving It All”), Shoes (“Tomorrow Night”) and The Romantics (“Tell It to Carrie”). Major label groups like Cheap Trick, The Cars and Blondie merged power pop influences with other styles and achieved their first mainstream success with albums released in 1978.

    and plus i got this from the cars wikipedia page

    Robert Palmer, music critic for The New York Times and Rolling Stone, described The Cars’ musical style by saying: “they have taken some important but disparate contemporary trends—punk minimalism, the labyrinthine synthesizer and guitar textures of art rock, the ’50s rockabilly revival and the melodious terseness of power pop—and mixed them into a personal and appealing blend.”

    which i somehow disagree with in some ways.

    50’s rockabilly?? hahaha! maybe my best friends girl and the good times roll solo

    melodious terensons of power pop?? I think this guy has been listening to just what i needed or magic too many times..or blondie ?

    i know if your a acdc or metallica, judas priest, megadeth etc fan (like myself), then the first genre you think of when you listen to this album is classic rock.

    but a blondie, green day, or human league fan..then i guess you think of new wave or power pop :O

    but one thing i tend to forget about the cars is there later albums, which yeah had a major approach towards pop…maybe that’s why people think there a pop band..because there most famous for there pop songs such as you are the girl (pop), magic (poprock), drive (sythpop) etc…

    • metalodyssey Says:

      Yeah… it’s easy to “stereotype” any band into whatever one may “think” they are, stylistically. If someone only listened to Metallica’s “Load” and “ReLOAD” without ever listening to their first four albums, then they would instantly label them: Hard Rock with “flashes” of Heavy Metal. You are right, it depends many times on a respective bands album and how often they diverted their “sound”.

      Thomas Dolby was New Wave… or “early” Electronica. I can’t compare that style of New Wave to any album from The Cars. We could go on forever with the contrasts and examples… music is that subjective! It is fun to blab about though. :)

      • Agreed, I guess if you consider ocasek’s supreme pop sensibilities in his songs and eastons rock friendly guitar licks, riffs and solos, then maybe powerpop plays a factor. I guess i just want to hear it from the band themselves. Ocasek said in there last interview in june of 2000 (a couple of months before benjamin orr died) that “i quote”, “we were a good…pop..band” in kind of a studderish overthinking way, so i dont know what the hell to think. From a long time of studying though, i learned that they at first were planning to be a “full-throttle rock band” according to greg hawkes (keyboardist).. he also said “but it became more of a artier thing”……what, art rock? what the hell does that mean?? Very very much confusion with there genre, i see people from one side of the internet saying there a pop band, and another saying there new wave, then another saying rock, then finally, powerpop…??

        • metalodyssey Says:

          Well Nate, the best way to sum up The Cars is to say they were as “diverse” as any other Rock band in the history of Rock. The Cars took on a glow of uniqueness that really cannot be matched to this day.

          It’s like Pink Floyd… what can we really call them? Progressive, Rock, Hard Rock and “Alternative” to a degree for their time. Psychedelic? I’ve heard Pink Floyd get that label too.

          Just about everyone who knows the music of Krokus will call them Heavy Metal or Hard Rock. Yet, when I interviewed Marc Storace, (lead vocalist for Krokus), he was adamant about Krokus being called a “Hard Rock Band” and not a Heavy Metal Band. So, I understand your wanting to hear it “straight from the horses mouth” so to speak… and have a member of The Cars come out in 2011 and state what they feel their “sound” should be labeled as.

          Musicians are “artists” so often times they will refer to their sound and/or style as a representation of their “art”. Don’t let the “art” word bother you when it comes to music… it’s never been a word that has “watered down” any band or album for me!

          At the end of the day, being known as a “multi-genre” band and/or having that “diverse” label attached to your sound is pretty cool to me. :)

          – Stone

          • So have you been busy? Because you haven’t posted a comment on your website for over a month as far as I’m concerned. take care!

  10. Wow, you’ve met some really big names that i could only dream of meeting! Did you say something about meeting glenn tipton on that van halen birthday thing??!! Anyway it’s been fun chating with you, and you’ll probably see me on some of your other “blogs”, so yeah, take care, and just a fyi im pretty young and working on becoming a musician myself, im saving up for a ibanez rg electric guitar, so far i only have a acoustic guitar, lol, well thats how ric ocasek and benjamin orr (RIP) started :) ;)

  11. Nice review. I couldn’t think of a better way of summing up there genre. Rock and roll would never be New Wave without The Cars in my opinion. They were walking a fine, especially on there first 2 albums.

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