365 Day Song Challenge: Day 164 – “Touch And Go”

Day 164: A song that features your favorite guitar solo.

“Touch And Go” – The Cars

The Cars - Touch And GoSo, apparently “Touch And Go” was released 35 years ago today.

So I guess that’s as good a reason as any to get off my butt and finally post this entry. Because, y’know, it’s only been 4 months since the last one. But who’s counting?

Normally I would see “35 years” and freak out because I had been alive for a while when this was released, and dammit, 35 years is freakin’ long time.

But I don’t feel it so much on this one, because I don’t actually remember this song as a single. When it was released, I guess I wasn’t paying attention. (Neither was anyone else, apparently, since it only got to #37 on the charts.) Continue Reading

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 112 – “Dangerous Type”

Day 112: A song by your favorite band/artist whose name begins with “C”.

“Dangerous Type” – The Cars

Dangerous TypeYou really should have seen this one coming. If not the song, at least the band.

The Cars were my first favorite band. While all my friends were oohing and aahing about The Police in 1983/1984, I was telling everyone I knew about The Cars.

Two things about that:

After the furor about The Police faded away (and Sting bailed) I was still talking about The Cars. (At least until Ric Ocasek bailed.) Continue Reading

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 85 – “Too Hot To Stop”

Day 85: A song you like by a singer who’s dead.

“Too Hot To Stop” – Benjamin Orr

Too Hot To StopAh. The solo album. There is nothing so likely to break up a band as individual members doing their own album. Especially if that person happens to be the primary writer in the group. While that wasn’t immediately the case for The Cars, I’m sure it didn’t help.

After the phenomenal success of Heartbeat City and the long tour that resulted from it, it seems as though the members of the band needed a break from each other. After that album, three out of the five members released solo albums before returning to do group work: Ric Ocasek’s This Side Of Paradise, Elliot Easton’s Change No Change and Benjamin Orr’s The Lace. (I would recommend all three, actually, although they may not be the easiest things to find these days.) That short span was a good time to be a fan of The Cars.

(The Cars got back together for one more album, 1987’s Door To Door, after this hiatus. I thought the album was good, but everyone else seemed to hate it. Rumors are tensions were very high within the band by then. They broke up for 23 years after that. Damn solo albums!)

Not familiar with a song I’ve mentioned?
Click the > button above to hear samples
and purchase songs.

Now, more people are familiar with Benjamin Orr’s first single “Stay The Night” (not to be confused with the Chicago song of the same name and roughly the same era) than they are with today’s song, which is not surprising. “Stay The Night” was a Top 40 hit (peaking at #24) while “Too Hot To Stop” did not chart. That’s a shame, because it’s a catchy song, and one more deserving of attention and promotion than it got. (I suspect the record company released “Stay The Night” as the lead single because it’s a ballad, and The Cars’ ballad “Drive,” with Orr on lead vocals, would have been familiar to people at the time. If so, it seemed to work.)

The songs on The Lace are, overall,  similar in genre to The Cars’ music, but since Orr co-wrote all the songs with long-time girlfriend Diane Grey Page, these songs had a somewhat different feel from the band’s output (which was virtually all written by Ric Ocasek). “Too Hot To Stop” starts the album, and I’ve always thought it set the mood quite well. Fun, upbeat, easy to sing along to. In short, a good example of the New Wave-ish music popular at the time. Given that, I’m not sure why it didn’t do better.

I remember finding this album. There was no Internet, and I didn’t read Rolling Stone or the like, so I tended to stumble upon releases. There was always some weird sense of satisfaction when you discovered a new release. Even now I get a bit of euphoria when I discover one of my favorite bands is releasing something new. It’s either that or gas. I’m not sure which.) I remember checking The Cars’ bin at the local Record Town (because that’s what you did in those days; the only search engine at Record Town was you), and—shocker!—stumbled upon it. I remember being surprised to see it. I also remember grabbing it immediately.

I’ve loved this album since the first time I listened to it. I think every song is great, but I’m admittedly biased. I also suspect that if I was listening with more objective ears, some of the arrangements would sound dated. (I find that the better I know—and like—an album, the harder it is for me to tell if it sounds old.) But even to my jaded ears, the keyboards on “That’s The Way,” a song I love, sound a little cheesy. So listen to the samples. You tell me.

The Lace would be the only solo album Benjamin Orr released. He died of pancreatic cancer in October of 2000. The Cars 2010 reunion album, Move Like This, while very good, was missing a little something without him. And the music world is a little worse off without him.

Rest in Peace, Ben.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 72 – “Drive”

Day 72: A song someone has said reminds them of you.

“Drive” – The Cars

If you’re reading this, you probably already know, but I had to go out and ask people what song reminds them of me. Because no one has specifically said, that I remember anyway.  Realistically, who walks up to someone, even a close friend, and says, “Hey, you know that song? Yeah, that reminds me of you.”

I suppose if it’s something like “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen, you’re okay. But what if it’s “American Idiot” by Green Day or “Stupid Girls” by Pink (depending on your gender)? Not so nice anymore.

Not familiar with a song I’ve mentioned?
Click the > button above to hear samples.

Anyway, the results of my ad hoc poll were limited and mixed. But one person said “any Cars tune” and another actually specified “Drive.” Ding! Ding! Ding! There you have it, today’s winner.

The ironic thing about this? I’m not a huge fan of the song. I’m not saying I don’t like it, or that it’s not a good song, or that it’s not pretty. It’s just not one of my favorites.

I remember back in 1984 when this album was released. Late ’83 and ’84 was a big music discovery time for me, and the Heartbeat City album was part of that discovery. I’d already been hooked on “You Might Think” and “Magic” from that album and I knew “Shake It Up” from their previous album of the same name. But despite my early exposure to The Cars’ debut album, I was by no means an expert on the band at that time.

In the summer of ’84, there was this other song getting played on the radio, but I had no idea who it was. It was a ballad, and frankly, I thought it was just okay. And then one day, I found out it was The Cars! (It was “Drive” in case you didn’t get that.) I couldn’t believe it was the same band. (Now who’s the American Idiot?)

Sure, it was probably dumb of me not to know, but to be fair, the three songs I mentioned above were all sung by Ric Ocasek, whereas “Drive” was sung by Benjamin Orr. And The Cars had not been previously known for their ballads. “Drive” had a totally different sound—both vocally and musically—than any song of theirs I was familiar with. So I’m giving myself a pass, even if you don’t.

So yes, my fondness for The Cars is well-known. It makes sense that the people who know me would make some sort of association when the hear those songs. Fair enough.

In case you’re wondering, the other songs that were specifically named are:

So that’s it. The songs that remind people of me. Not a bad haul. And no “A**hole” (by Denis Leary) in the bunch. I’m going to take that as a victory.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 42 – “All Mixed Up”

Day 42. Your favorite song from the 70s

“All Mixed Up” – The Cars

AllMixedUpAs we continue the “Your favorite song of the XXs” series, you should know I’m technically breaking the rules with my dates. For an explanation, go here.

As I go through these exercises I’m finding that on the one hand the less I think about my choice, the better off I am. That is, go with one of the first things that comes to mind, because looking deeper just complicates things and after the initial analysis paralysis I don’t end up picking  any of the additional songs as the favorite anyway. On the other hand,  I tend to find some good runners-up that way, so it’s not a total loss.

I still have to give is some thought, though. For example, you might not know this, but Genesis is my favorite band. (That’s a joke, son. Not that they’re my favorite, but that you wouldn’t know.) Genesis released an album every year of the 70s except for 1979. So you might think that there had to be something they released in that decade that would top my list. And I had to think about that before I ruled it out.

Not familiar with a song I’ve mentioned?
Click the > button above to hear samples.

To be sure, they’re in the top ten, and if you’d have asked this question a few years ago, “Dance On A Volcano” probably would have been my choice. (DOAV was my gateway drug to Genesis’ back catalog, by the way, but that’s a story for another day.) Things change over time, though. Heck, for all I know, “Dance On A Volcano” might be my choice if you asked me next week. But not today.

The Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl” is actually what came to mind first. I love the song, and again, it’s definitely top ten. It’ll probably show up as a selection for one of these challenges somewhere down the line. (The Cars has so many good songs, I probably could have picked any number of them for this challenge.)

But in some ways, “My Best Friend’s Girl” is too easy. It was a single. It’s very accessible.

I had to work for “All Mixed Up.” You see, when I started getting to The Cars (the album), I actually didn’t care too much for the song. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I was wrong. Maybe it was the minor key. Maybe it was the structure. I don’t know. But I do know it took a long time to grow on me. (But then kept growing on me.)

It has another thing going for it that helps give it the edge. I mentioned in the “Crazy On You” post that when a song really gets me, my face flushes and I can feel it in my cheeks. (Am I the only one this happens to?)

No matter how many times I’ve heard “All Mixed Up” that continues to occur. It happens around 1:40, when the song comes out of the first chorus, the drums change, and there’s a short guitar solo. (It’s the guitar that makes them flush, especially if the room is dark or dim for some reason.) Then the vocals come in: “She’s always out making pictures/She’s always out making scenes.” It’s one of those perfect musical moments for me when everything seems to come together.

Finally, the stats are there to back up the selection. “All Mixed Up” is the most-played song on my iTunes with 96 plays (and counting). That means, since 2006 when I converted to iTunes, I’ve spent nearly 7 hours listening to that song. Just that song. (Yes, I have a life, why do you ask?) “My Best Friend’s Girl” is second with 85 plays, or just over 5 hours 15 minutes of listening time. (It’s also 30 seconds shorter.)

So that’s what I’m going with.

By the way, today’s runners-up (in addition to the aforementioned songs) minus Genesis and The Cars:

For a decade touted for its crappy music, I found it pretty easy to put a list of favorites together. Although some songs were never candidates.

But then, I don’t remember much of the disco craze, so maybe it’s just that I don’t have the PTSD that those who really experienced it do.