Not What I Needed

I was lurking on Twitter this morning and saw the names Ric Ocasek and Tony Bennett trending and thought uh-oh. Turns out there’s some college basketball coach named Tony Bennett who turned down a raise because he wanted more for his staff. But who cares, college coaches are obscenely overpaid and that seems like the least he could do.

Unfortunately, Ric Ocasek was trending for the very last time. He died after having an unspecified surgery. My first thought was I never saw him live, only once in concert with The Cars. If you ever saw them, you’d know what I mean.

I saw them in 1984 in Indianapolis at Market Square Arena. Lionel Richie cracked the ceiling of that stadium earlier that year. He wasn’t dancing on it either, he played too loud apparently.

They opened with “Hello Again” and just played one song after the other. There was no banter or connection with the audience. In hindsight, it was kind of dull, but I remember thinking it was a pretty good at the time. I’d only been to one other concert before, and that was Rick Springfield, in Springfield, Illinois.

Over the years, I have seen a lot of bands live, and The Cars have sunk way down the list in terms of performers. At least they weren’t as bad as Ray LaMontagne.

He was more than a great songwriter, musician, and producer. He made it socially acceptable for people like Julia Roberts and Katy Perry to marry ugly, and yet stay together.

All joking aside, I loved The Cars, they were my favorite band for a while. My brother gave me “Shake it Up” for my birthday and I played it to death. Before that, the only album I owned was “Spirits Having Flown” by the Bee Gees. I only bought it for the first two tracks on side one; “Tragedy” and “Too Much Heaven.” I never even flipped it over to side two. By the time I was 11, I was sooo over disco anyhow.

“Shake it Up” was the first album I could listen to from beginning to end. I didn’t care that every track wasn’t on the radio. I’ll always remember the way “Since Your Gone” opened up with the heal clicks, guitar strum and then the bass and drum.

A couple years later, we were in Winnipeg, Manitoba – of all places – where I bought The Cars first three albums. It was like discovering a new band for me. They were all solid, but it took me a little while to warm up to “Panorama” because it didn’t have any songs I recognized.

The Cars were always pegged as New Wave, probably because of the ham-fisted keyboards. But they were the only band in that genre who weren’t afraid to have great guitar riffs and solos. Which is why they still hold up better than a lot of other acts from that era.

As a young hipster wannabe living in cultural wastelands like rural North Dakota and Central Illinois (long story, boring story), The Cars were a great gateway band. They were popular and accessible, yet weird enough, that I could still call them my favorite band and maintain some street cred.