Drive: The Genius Of Ric Ocasek, Benjamin Orr, and The Cars

The band I think truly defines "New Wave", a breath of fresh air after the heaviness of prog rock and anger of punk.
The Cars Candy-O

It’s always a shock when your favorite artist dies, even when you know that they can’t live forever. Ric Osasek’s death came out of the blue, but most of them do like Bowie and Prince (still not over those).

Not only did Ric write most of The Cars’ songs and sing lead (alternating with bassist Benjamin Orr), he was a prolific solo artist along with being a hugely successful producer of bands such as Weezer.

Of The Cars albums, I feel the first and “Heartbreak City” are perfection from start to finish, but here are some of my favorite individual songs from The Cars:

“Moving in Stereo”: An album track from their debut album, this was immortalized when used in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, where Judge Reinhold’s imagines Phoebe Cates baring herself after emerging from a pool, a much referenced and copied scene. A cool song!

“Let’s Go”: Still a truly exciting song, bringing back so many memories for me of my high school years in Japan. Sung by Benjamin Orr.

“Up and Down”: A great song for pogo-ing. The bleeping bass kills me. Although the accompanying album “Panorama” may not have been hugely successful, it was important for The Cars to try something different, trying out odd rhythms and sounds, for a less polished and commercial sound.

“Shake It Up”: Undeniable hit single, the definition of catchy and fun. The most commercial of their singles, they needed something to bring them back after the sales dip of “Panorama”.

“Drive”: This was a standout song for the band, an uncharacteristic ballad sung by Benjamin Orr, surprising a lot of people and turning them into fans of The Cars, making this their biggest hit ever. The video was in constant rotation plus the song was heavily used during Live Aid segments. Fun Facts: the video was directed by actor Timothy Hutton and it featured actress Paulina Porizkova who married Ric Ocasek.

“Heartbeat City”: There’s a beautiful wistfulness underneath the bleeps and beat.

“Breakaway”: A b-side from “Heartbeat City” that deserved to be an a-side.

“Blue Tip”: The opening track from their 2011 reunion album “Move Like This”, this song announced The Cars were back, as good as ever although enhanced with some new sounds and punchier sonics. This was the first without Benjamin Orr (who died in 2000) and now the last featuring Ric Ocasek.

Here’s a clip from Burt Sugarman’s “Midnight Special”, with Benjamin Orr looking like the model for Christopher Guest’s Nigel Tufnel in “This Is Spinal Tap”. He was a great singer, though!

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