I discovered what it meant to be the first with new music on a Friday afternoon in the 5th grade.
On Fridays, we devoted our music class to playing a song from our own record collection. Most people brought singles, but on one particular day, I brought The Cars first album.
It was a new release, new to the point where my music teacher didn’t own The Cars yet, but you could tell that she liked it. She went over the cover, the song credits, the liner notes and the track listing.
She wasn’t a schoolteacher on that day, she was a fan.
And I was turning her on to the new Cars record.
I felt cooler than any other 5th grader in that room.
I still like the Cars’ debut, but I liked Candy O even more. The lead single “Let’s Go” was a perfect call-to-arms declaration for the weekend. Not that there was much for me to do in 6th grade for the weekend, but if I did have plans, that would have totally been my anthem.
I liked it more because it didn’t have as many recognizable songs as the debut. That’s really my only complaint about The Cars-the rock stations played nearly every song on it. Take a look at the track listing and you’ll recognize almost every song on it except one, “I’m In Touch With Your World.”
Candy O didn’t have that kind of saturation-still doesn’t-even though the album is full of great songs. I played it the other day and was amazed how it only managed to spawn one hit single, and how A.O.R. stations ignored the plethora of hooky tracks that were perfectly suited for rock radio playlists.
By album number three, The Cars were getting weird. Personally, Panorama doesn’t rank as high for me as the first two, but not by much. I loved the weirdness and the possibility that The Cars could turn into an art-rock new wave band and still manage to deliver memorable moments.
Nobody else felt the same way-the record stiffed-and for the new two albums, the band courted the mainstream with overwhelming success.
Then, they promptly disappeared.
I always viewed The Cars’ break-up with a sense of disappointment. Disappointment that they didn’t end on a note that acknowledged either the band’s more arty moments or their earlier rock moments. I didn’t even buy Door To Door, which sounded like it was merely an afterthought according to the reviews. I even didn’t bother with Heartbeat City, mainly because everyone else had it.
It seems that when they made the decision to move to a commercial center is the moment that I lost interest. The fact that each one of the primary band members released forgettable solo records after the break up also contributed to the fact that their absence wasn’t as devastating as some of their peers. Even when you started to notice The Cars’ contributions in other, newer band’s output, there wasn’t a sense of revitalized interest in them, particularly in regards to reunion.
The loss of Benjamin Orr from pancreatic cancer in 2000 was devastating for many reasons, but the biggest one for me was the fact that a real Cars reunion was now impossible. It almost prompted an immediate sense of finality for the rest of the band, with Greg Hawkes and Elliot Easton suddenly pressing for a reunion with David Robinson-one of the most underrated drummers of the past quarter century-staying put in his new career and Ric Ocasek pointing out the obvious that one of the primary voices of the band is permanently silenced.
The two started the New Cars, which from what little I heard, sounded like an eerie tribute band playing a weird mix of nostalgia and cash grab. I almost applauded Robinson and Ocasek’s stubbornness, which makes the rumor that the four surviving members are rehearsing for another go even more disappointing than the news of their break-up.
Here’s the picture of the surviving members in some rehearsal space practicing.
Maybe it’s for a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame gig.
Maybe it’s just an Ocasek solo album.
Maybe it’s for a reunion tour, a final jaunt that fills the bank accounts of the remaining members one last time.
I just hope that they’re not seriously considering a full-fledged return when a major voice of the band is not around to truly make it a reunion. I’d like to think that Ocasek understands this and he’s even taken a few swipes at Hawkes and Easton for their New Cars fiasco. But it is strange that a band that hasn’t played a note together since 1987 is photographed practicing with some wide grins, looking like the moment together was just what they needed.