WERS Essentials: The Cars

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By WERS Staff

With news of Ric Ocasek's passing, I’ve been thinking a lot about the songs he wrote and The Cars recorded, and what it was that made them special.

The Cars possess a certain power that music can have to sound fresh and current, despite being recorded a few decades ago. I am very aware of when The Cars were creating their music because the band was just hitting its stride as I was getting ready to enter high school. It hit even closer to home when bass player and vocalist Ben Orr moved to my hometown and the rumors started swirling that Ben, Ric, and the rest of the band were rehearsing just down the street.

In fact, there was a pivotal moment for me when I was working as a grocery bagger at Triple-A Supermarket in Weston. One afternoon, while I was doing my thing, a shiny, new, pitch-black Corvette with “Magic” stenciled on the front license plate rumbled up to the curb, and out stepped a couple of members of The Cars. They walked with a certain swagger, in their cowboy boots and leather jackets, with rock and roll hairstyles nothing short of perfection, and I decided then and there that I needed to be a rock star. Maybe that career path didn’t work out quite as planned, but I DID end up with a career where I get to play the music that Ric Ocasek and The Cars created, and send it out so others can enjoy it. For that, I’m grateful. -George Knight

In honor of Ric's incredible life and career, we're taking a look back at some of our favorite songs from The Cars with this staff-picked WERS Essentials Playlist

This weekend we’re celebrating Ric Ocasek's life and music with a one hour special hosted by George Knight, showcasing his many contributions to music. Catch it this Friday night at 8, Saturday afternoon at 4, and Sunday night at 6 on 88.9 FM WERS.

Magic

I love hearing stories of Ric Ocasek writing his songs on an acoustic guitar. When I listen to songs like "Magic," I realize that its some decidedly NON-acoustic sounds (including an epic synthesizer sweep at the beginning of this one) that make songs from The Cars so cool. With "Magic," it’s the tasty combo of Greg Hawke’s quirky synthesizer riffs and spacey effects, mixed with standard-issue rock guitar power chords, and thickly layered vocals that make this song a lot of fun to listen to. Yes, it’s the poppy side of New Wave music, but pop isn’t a four letter word, and here it’s done masterfully. -George Knight, Morning Host

Dangerous Type

As I’m giving another listen to my favorite Cars songs, the word “quirky” keeps popping into my head. The songs that Ric Ocasek wrote and the band recorded have quirky synthesizer lines, quirky rhythms--even a quirky delivery of the lead vocals. "Dangerous Type" is a showcase of the wonderful quirkiness of The Cars, but it also shows that it was an accessible quirkiness.

The rhythms are kind of halting during the verses, but then the guitar chords during the chorus come right in "on the one" to restore some order. I love the guitar solos from Elliott Easton on this one, too. He gets a GREAT rock guitar sound, and the solos seem to come and go before they overstay their welcome. There are some further quirky touches that happen toward the end of the song, like when you hear what sounds like a glockenspiel, and the vocoder kicks in playing the words “the dangerous type.” Love it. -George Knight, Morning Host

My Best Friend's Girl

Ric Ocasek wrote this song as a brag! A fictional one sure, but he figured stealing someone's girlfriend was something a lot of people did. But when he wrote the chorus, the brag turned into a pout - HIS best friend took his girl! Who ever wrote a cooler pout? It was one of the first Cars songs on Boston radio in 1976, when Maxanne Sartori played the demo tape constantly on her show. It became almost musical oxygen, especially in Boston. I used to cover this in my college band all the time, and the effect on a room is just magic. It's impossible to not smile. -Phil Jones, Afternoon Host

Drive

This is the biggest commercial hit that Ric Ocasek wrote during his life. Ben Orr, the bassist for The Cars, sang lead on this magical '80s AC smash that floats along like no other song from the band prior to its 1984 release. Famously performed at the 1985 Live Aid event in Philadelphia, the song is a living tribute to what a perfect soft '80s ballad should be: nostalgic, comforting, and alluring electronic-synth (obviously). -Cindy Howes, Marketing Manager

Good Times Roll

Looking for a very sarcastic song about good times? Well, let's get this mid-tempo song from The Cars' first record on your speakers. Ric Ocasek, frontman and songwriter, claims that this song is about the good times in rock and roll, but like, not really since it's a parody. So, not about good times at all. This song is wrapped in symbolism about not very good times: the upbeat title vs the mid-tempo pace, the creepy beat, and the cynical vocals from Ocasek. Brilliant. -Cindy Howes, Marketing Manager

Shake it Up

Shake it Up was the party tune everyone “danced all night” to at every frat party and club in the 1980s.  The Cars added synthesizers and drum machines to give the song a futuristic beat for a 1981 pop tune. "Shake It Up" gave The Cars their second-highest ranking tune on the record charts.  Have some fun and watch the video on YouTube as you celebrate the life of Ric Ocasek. -Hal Slifer, Host of Chagigah

You Might Think

A secret of mine: If a song has a sick beginning, I fall right in love with it. Whether it be some killer opening lyrics, or an instantly gripping instrumental bit, I'm locked in. "You Might Think" is deifnitely one of those songs that had me from the start. The upbeat, poppy synththesizer/piano, combined with the matching electric guitar riffs was entrancing to my little seven-year-old brain. My mom and her two siblings all grew up in the '80s, so they (lovingly) subjected me to a lot of '80s classics. I remember when the opening chords would come over the airwaves during '80s Thursday Nights. It's a song that reminds me of game nights, impromptu pool competitions, and family dinners.

Also, I definitely used to pretend I was the girl Ric Ocasek was singing about. I thought the lyrics were so sweet, and what I wanted my future husband to sing to me. Talk about a fun love song! -Lily Doolin, WERS Blog Editor

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