By Brian Ives
If you watched MTV or listened to rock radio in the ’80s, the Cars were ubiquitous. But by their final album, 1988’s Door to Door, they seem to have lost a bit of their magic (no pun intended) and pop culture was moving on; Ric Ocasek would redefine himself in the following decade as the producer of albums by Weezer and Guided By Voices, among many others.
Somehow, despite a list of hits including “Just What I Needed,” “Since You’re Gone,” “You Might Think,” “Good Times Roll,” “Touch and Go,” “Drive,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “Let’s Go” and “Shake It Up,” among others, they’ve been passed up by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for over a decade (they usually don’t even make the voting ballot). This year that may change—we’ll find out on Tuesday morning (December 20) when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announce their class of 2017.
Carter Alan says “The Cars were America’s answer to the rising tide of the UK New Wave pop bands flooding the market on the heels of the punk explosion. The Cars wrere born in that punk explosion and cut their teeth in basement clubs like the Rat in Boston, but they added that extra element of Greg Hawkes’ blooping and beeping keyboards and Elliot Easton’s Berklee Performance Center-trained and often astonishing guitar prowess (you always count on him for an off-beat, but brilliant solo). Then there was the arresting good looks of blonde Ben Orr on bass and vocals vs. the gawky, looming figure of Ric Ocasek who wrote and also sang his tales of off-beat love. Dave Robinson was a designing genius in addition to being the drummer – it’s his inspiration that came up with the ban’s black, white and red ‘look’ and those unforgettable album covers.”
Alan boils down their extraordinary career thusly: “Right out of the Rat, they released two albums (1978’s The Cars and 1979’s Candy-O) that went multi-platinum; they also were named Rolling Stone’s Best New Artist. An experimental third album (1980’s Panorama), followed by another hit album (1981’s Shake It Up) and a monster smash (1984’s Heartbeat City) that dominated the airwaves and MTV for a year.”
Chuck Nowlin adds “The Cars should have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame years ago. They’ve been a rock radio staple for decades. They managed to cover so many styles of music, New Wave, Punk, straight ahead guitar rock and ballads with the smooth voice of the late Ben Orr.”
Or, as Alan says, “Seriously: they were successful and they were cool, that’s the magic combo to get into the Hall of Fame. What’s the problem here?” Perhaps next week, that particular problem will be solved.