The Cars is one of the most iconic bands from the 1970’s and 1980’s. They hit the New Wave scene powerfully and would have many hit singles and albums. Their music is a unique mixture of punk, power pop, rockabilly and art rock. The band formed in Boston in 1976. Many of their singles were released to Boston radio stations as demos. The band would record six studio albums before disbanding in 1987 with one follow up album, “Move Like This”, in 2011. Founding members Ric Ocasek, Benjamin Orr, Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes and David Robinson took the world by storm with their upbeat music and music videos just as MTV was coming to life. The band reunited for a tour in 2010 without Orr who died in 2000.
10. Heartbeat City
“Heartbeat City” was the sixth and final single released by The Cars off their fifth studio album of the same name.. It’s a good song. it’s new wave with heavy synthesizer. The song never lived up to the height of it’s A side, “You Might Think”. For the album, The Cars moved from Boston to London to record with producer “Mutt” Lange. It took 6 months to record and has a different vibe to it. It’s one of The Cars most successful albums. “Heartbeat City” was one of 4 songs The Cars played at 1985’s Live Aid charity concert.
9. Shake It Up
“Shake It Up” is the lead single from 1981’s album by the same name. It’s a good, lively dance pop rock song that is still played regularly on the radio today. It was written a few years earlier but took a lot of reworking before the band recorded it. It’s not Ric Ocasek’s favorite. However, it works well with simple lyrics and a lively melody. Ocasek has said that it’s about living life to the fullest.
8. You’re All I’ve Got Tonight
“You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” is a single from The Cars debut album in 1978. It’s continually played on classic music radio stations today. Ocasek wrote and sang the song. Other band members have noted that Ocasek had a gift for taking a simple phrase and creating a good song from it. The song opens with a tom tom drum beat, turns to flanging, a power chord riff, distorted guitars and a guitar solo. It’s the perfect blend of new wave, pop and rock.
7. Good Times Roll
“Good Times Roll” is from The Cars debut album. it’s the first track of on the self titled album and the third single that was released. It has layered harmonies worked on with producer “Roy Thomas Baker. It features electronic drum, guitar riffs and synthesizers. When he wrote it, Ric Ocasek thought of it as a parody of “good times” versus “rock and roll”. The song was released on several compilation albums.
6. You Might Think
“You Might Think” was released as a single on The Cars’ 1984 album “Heartbeat City”. It’s best known for its music video which won MTV’s Video of the Year and five awards for the Billboard Video Awards including innovation, editing and special effects. The video featured computer graphics showing Ocasek having strange encounters as he stalks model Susan Gallagher in her apartment. The rests of the band appears throughout the video.
5. My Best Friend’s Girlfriend
Although Ocasek said he did not write the song from anything personal, he just thought this could be a common problem. The song is about a guy who’s ex-girlfriend is now dating his best friend. Like many of The Cars’ songs, the melody is upbeat while the lyrics are kind of depressing. The song was originally recorded as a demo and then recorded on the band’s first album. The song received critical and commercial success. There was some talk about the similarity to a song recorded by Fountains of Wayne many years later, “Stacy’s Mom”, but the band and Ocasek didn’t worry too much about that.
4. Moving In Stereo
“Moving In Stereo” was not released as a single but was released played on radio stations that only played albums. That album was “The Cars” first one released in 1978. It was sung by Orr and written by Ocasek and Hawkes. The band considered it an experimental song. The song’s instrumental version appeared in the 1982 movie “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” in the scene where Judge Reinhold’s character fantasizes about Phoebe Cates’ character. Although it is not on the movie’s soundtrack, the scene is considered iconic to anyone who was a fan of the film.
3. Since You’re Gone
Like many of The Cars lyrics, “Since You’re Gone” is known for its juxtaposing words like “you’re so treacherous/when it comes to tenderness”. Despite it’s sad lyrics, the song has an upbeat melody. The video showed Ocasek walking around an apartment as it empties of all memories of his former love. The song was released on the 1981 album “Shake It Up” and was produced by Roy Thomas Baker.
Most of The Cars’ songs are upbeat, but “Drive” was a ballad and a success. It was the third single on 1984’s “Heartbeat City”. It reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and #1 on the Adult Contemporary Chart. It is best known for its video which features Orr singing and Ocasek and future wife supermodel Paulina Porizkova who would later become Ocasek’s wife. Actor Timothy Hutton actually developed the concept for the video and the band asked him to film it.
1. Just What I Needed
The number one hit for The Cars is “Just What I Needed”. The new band write and recorded the song as a demo, and it quickly became a hit when played by fans on a Boston radio station. It would be released on The Cars’ first album “The Cars” in 1977. Written by Ocasek with Orr on vocals, the song is simple and concise. Critics and fans instantly loved it, and it remains a favorite today.