After the Cars released their debut album in 1978, they continued a run of successful records, culminating with their 5th release, “Heartbeat City”, which was their last major hit, and their biggest hit since their first. Like most acts of the time, they rode the dual wave of success on radio and video, as their quirky sound and style carried over well to music television. I love all of their records, and this one was a particular favorite of mine for several reasons. I was originally captivated by the second single, “Magic”, which is incredibly catchy, but it was another song that ultimately defined my long-term affection for this record.
Producer “Mutt” Lange makes another appearance in this blog, and this was his first work with the band. The record opens with the perfect welcome back, “Hello Again”, sung by Ric Ocasek. “Looking for Love” was not a single, but has that ideal Cars sound. Then we have “Magic”, with yet another bouncing bass line I love. Released in May of 1984, this belongs on any summer fun playlist, it is such a happy song.
It is the 4th song that really endures, the slow and wondering tune, “Drive”. Beautifully sung by Ben Orr, this song has always been a favorite of my mom, and I will never not think of her when I hear this song, and fondly recall how much she tried to embrace my music as a way of staying connected during those awkward teen years. She has had a bit of a rough year, so I’m happy to listen to this song again and simply say, “I love you Mom”.
There are three notable songs from side two. The opener is “You Might Think”, which was the first single released from the album. I always liked this simple track, but again, this one has a more enduring memory and meaning for me. When my son was in high school, he performed in a unique musical that was created around several characters from the Brat Pack films. He played Duckie from “Pretty in Pink”, and sung the chorus of this song with a college acapella group during his moment of lonesome affection for Andie. As usual, he crushed it, and it was a nice preview of his own future to be had singing acapella in college.
One of the less visible singles on the album is the ballad “Why Can’t I Have You”. This is one of Ocasek’s best tracks, and like almost all Cars songs, it magically incorporates the layered keyboards of Greg Hawkes. The title track is the last song on the album, and it really serves as an appropriate farewell to the golden age of this remarkably unique and talented band.
Sadly, Ben Orr died way too young in 2000 from pancreatic cancer, and of course we recently lost Ric Ocasek as well. As I mentioned before, the Cars were and are a band who unite music lovers across all genres. I honestly don’t know a music fan who doesn’t love this band, and I look forward to many more years enjoying all of their rich catalog.