Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Double Life

You may have heard this week that the Cars are reforming--sort of. Guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboard player Greg Hawkes have recruited Todd Rundgren to take Ric Ocasek's place after Ocasek declined to rejoin. Other new members are bassist Kasim Sultan, a former member of Rundgren's legendary band Utopia, and Prairie Prince, formerly of the Tubes. (Name-dropper alert: I met Prairie Prince about a dozen years ago, when he was playing the fair-and-festival circuit in the Paul Kantner/Jack Casady version of Jefferson Starship.)

I see a problem with this: the fact that they're going to call the band the New Cars. (At least I presume the "N" is going to be capitalized--there's a subtle difference if it isn't.) That adjective and similar sequel signals have only worked sporadically over time: New Christy Minstrels, New Riders of the Purple Sage, New Seekers. Such name tinkering automatically calls attention to the fact that you're one generation removed from the real thing. Remember the Jeff Lynne-less Electric Light Orchestra Part II, or Kantner's flirtation with renaming his band Jefferson Starship: the Next Generation?

I thought not.

Without Ocasek's inexpressive and disembodied voice, it's hard to imagine the New Cars being much like the old Cars at all. (Ben Orr, the only other member to take a lead vocal, on "Drive"--but not on "Just What I Needed" and "My Best Friend's Girl," as the story linked above claims--died in 2000.) Rundgren's voice is a lot warmer, so even if the rest of the band manages to recapture the tight, electronic sound of classic Cars, I'm afraid the New Cars are going to sound like a tribute band.

(I have deleted a comment that was made to this post, which pointed out that Orr did indeed sing "Just What I Needed" and "My Best Friend's Girl." Which is fine. But calling me a moron was unnecessary, and doing so anonymously was cowardly.)


At 9:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I first hears the Cars back in 1978, I thought of them as just another "new wave" band. When WLS began playing "Good Times Roll" in the spring of 1979, I realized the Cars were for real and were going to stick around. Later that summer, they released "Candy-O" which was one of their two best albums. "Let's Go" was an instantaneous hit, but my favorite track on the album is "The Dangerous Type" which I don't believe was released as a single, but at least got a lot of airplay from album rock radio stations. After "Panorama" in 1980 and "Shake it Up" in 1981, the Cars released "Heartbeat City" which had a lot of good songs on it. The first single, "You Might Think" paled in comparison to the next two singles, "Magic" and "Drive." Of course, the Cars benefitted from MTV's rising popularity in the early 1980's. If it weren't for music videos the Cars might have been...just another new wave band.

At 6:55 PM, Blogger Phantasmatron said...

Just because I, not you, am a moron, I'm going to do two things: First, I will point out that, as the deleted commenter said, Ben Orr did sing "Just What I Needed," but that Ocasek was lead on "My Best Friend's Girl." Second,I will thank you for this post, because it's encouraging to hear that people other than me do actually like the Cars. I mean the originals.


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