The Untold Truth Of The Cars

The death of Ric Ocasek in September 2019
shocked fans of his seminal band The Cars. Though you’re probably familiar with all their
hits, there’s a lot you probably don’t know about the legendary group. Here are a few quick facts to get you up to
speed. A complicated friendship Perhaps because of his striking look – or
because he sang most of the bands’ songs – The Cars and Ric Ocasek are often considered one
and the same. “Hi, I’m Ric Ocasek, and I turn confusion
into a virtue.” But Benjamin Orr took on lead vocal duties
on plenty of The Cars’ songs – including classics like “Just What I Needed,” “Drive,” and “Moving
in Stereo.” “Greetings. My name is Benjamin Orr. I play bass and I’m one of the lead singers
for The Cars. And this is my face.” As you may know, “Moving in Stereo” features
prominently in an iconic scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and it was also a clever
musical cue in an episode of Stranger Things. Casual listeners may not have realized that
the band had two lead singers because their voices are rather tough to distinguish from
each other. In 2011, Ocasek told Vanity Fair: “I think our voices are similar because we
spent so many years together even before the Cars. Every band I’ve ever been in had both of us.” Ocasek later told Rolling Stone, “We were the best of friends forever.” Nevertheless, by the end of the Cars’ last
tour in the late ’80s, Orr had taken to traveling on his own bus – apart from the other band
members, and rarely exchanging words with Ocasek. In Ocasek’s own words, “He was drinking a little much.” Ocasek also told Rolling Stone that tension
mounted after Orr asked if he could write Cars songs with his girlfriend. Ocasek rejected the idea outright. The former besties and musical partners grew
estranged after the Cars split up in 1988. Fortunately, they worked out their differences
while taping material for a Cars DVD in the late ’90s. Orr died of pancreatic cancer in
2000, and Ocasek paid tribute with the song “Silver.” The iconic “Drive” video Fresh off his Academy Award-winning role in
Ordinary People, actor Timothy Hutton wanted to get into directing. In 1984, the Cars’ manager played him the
group’s album Heartbeat City. Hutton was particularly taken with “Drive,”
a slick, romantic soft rock ballad that represented a departure for the band. Ric Ocasek let Hutton direct a video for the
song. In the book I Want My MTV, Hutton recalled: “I called a casting director and said I needed
an attractive, exotic woman who has something fierce about her.” He hired model Paulina Porizkova – who was
among the last women he saw while casting the video. As he explains it, he took Porizkova and Ocasek
into a hotel room to rehearse the plot of the video: “[I asked them] to imagine they’d had a fight
that was escalating.” They rehearsed with Hutton for an entire day,
and when it was all over, Porizkova and Ocasek wanted to keep going. Sparks had obviously flown, although Porizkova
later told Entertainment Weekly that she’d already seen Ocasek on MTV, explaining that: “[It was] love before first sight.” Ocasek was already married at the time, to
his second wife. In 1989, Ocasek and Porizkova got married,
and they stayed together for nearly 30 years. “Shake It Up” took forever The Cars recorded plenty of sharp, tightly-crafted
songs – but even though they’re short and sweet, those songs could reportedly take forever
to make. According to Cars drummer David Robinson,
the band’s 1981 hit “Shake It Up” stewed for years before the group finally decided to
record it. In Frozen Fire: The Story of The Cars, he
said: “It never sounded good, We recorded it a couple
of times in the studio and dumped it, and we were going to try it one more time, and
I was fighting everybody.” Robinson says he relented when the band decided
to give it a total overhaul: “We thought, let’s start all over again, like
we’ve never even heard it – completely change every part – and we did.” But it doesn’t sound like the song was one
of Ric Ocasek’s faves. Speaking to Vanity Fair, he admitted: “I’ve probably written some crap lyrics. I’m not proud of the lyrics to ‘Shake It Up.'” Perhaps that’s because the song includes lines
like, “Do the move with the quirky jerk.” and “Make the night cats stop and stare.” “You Might Think” made waves “You Might Think” is arguably the Cars’ most
memorable song, and that’s probably because of its unforgettable music video. The Cars’ rise to the top coincided with the
early days of MTV, and the band was one of the first acts to embrace the new medium. The video’s director Jeff Stein evidently
had a tough time selling the band on his idea for the video. In I Want My MTV, he recalled: “I met the Cars and told them, ‘The band’s
in the medicine chest, and then on a bar of soap, and Ric’s a fly,’ and one of them said:
‘Why don’t we all just play on a turd in the toilet bowl?’ That was the prevailing attitude.” According to Elektra Records executive Robin
Sloane, Ric Ocasek didn’t like the video, explaining that: “He thought it made fun of the way he looked.” Of course, it all paid off in the end. The video was the first one ever placed in
the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection… and at the first MTV Video Music Awards in
1984, “You Might Think” won Video of the Year, somehow defeating Michael Jackson’s iconic
“Thriller.” The New Cars As we mentioned, The Cars ultimately broke
up in 1988. “At some point, something kind of cracked. Maybe it was around ’87. And then I didn’t like it as much.” But there was an attempt to resurrect the
band in the mid-2000s. That’s when a manager representing Greg Hawkes,
Elliot Easton, and David Robinson approached Ric Ocasek, proposing a Cars reunion on behalf
of his clients. Ocasek gave him a hard no, explaining to Rolling
Stone, “The s— hit the fan. Lawyers got involved. It must have cost a ton of money in legal
fees that I wasted, the Cars wasted, for f—-ing no reason.” So Easton and Hawkes hit the road in 2006
and 2007 as The New Cars. Robinson didn’t participate – he dropped out
of the project early on – but rock legend and producer Todd Rundgren and the Tubes drummer
Prairie Prince agreed to join the project. It didn’t work out. The New Cars’ poorly-reviewed debut album
It’s Alive would also be their last album. The real reunion In the early 2010s, a real Cars reunion happened. Ric Ocasek told Rolling Stone at the time, “This was strictly ‘F–k everything that happened
before this. This is a new thing.’ And it was great.” The Cars reconvened to record a new album
of original material, Move Like This, which generated a moderate hit single in “Sad Song.” The group even embarked on one last tour in
the summer of 2011, performing in 11 theaters and capping it off with a spot at Lollapalooza. “There’s a lot of people out there, and some
will like us, and some won’t, and that’ll be it.” Then, in 2018, the group entered the Rock
and Roll Hall of Fame. In his induction speech. Brandon Flowers of the Killers – a huge fan
– said, “We thank the Cars: Ric, Benjamin, David,
Greg, and Elliot. We are standing on the shoulders of giants. This band means so much to me and millions
of others.” That night would mark the last official Cars’
gig: Ric Ocasek died on September 15th, 2019 at the age 75. As people learned the sad news, many celebs
fondly remembered the talented musician… including talk-show host Stephen Colbert,
who was fortunate enough to occasionally have Ocasek as a guest on The Colbert Report: “I’m gonna need someone who can use his brute
animal magnetism to woo that lady zookeeper. Ric Ocasek?” “You bet I’m in, Stephen.” Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about your favorite
bands are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
bell so you don’t miss a single one.

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