Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Cars, The #73 Artist of the Seventies*

Rhythm guitarist Ric Otcasek and bassist Benjamin Orzechowski met in Columbus, Ohio, where they began performing as a duo, doing covers as well as dabbling in their own material.  Soon, they moved to Boston, Massachusetts to take advantage of opportunities there.  They met multi-instrumentalist Greg Hawkes, who had studied at the Berklee School of Music.

In 1972, Otcasek and Orzechowski formed a folk band called Milkwood.  They released an album How's the Weather on Paramount Records in 1973.  Hawkes played on the album as a session musician.  Ric and Benjamin then formed Richard and the Rabbits, with Hawkes joining the group Orphan.  By now, Rick and Benjamin began using the stage names of Ocasek and Orr, respectively, and the two played acoustic sets at the Idler coffeehouse in Cambridge.  Some of their songs during this time became early Cars songs.

Ocasek and Orr then formed a group with guitarist Elliot Easton, who had also studied at Berklee, in the group Cap'n Swing.  At this time, Orr was the frontman and lead singer, and did not play bass.  But the other musicians didn't fit in with Ocasek's songwriting, so he sacked the bassist, the keyboardist, and the drummer.  David Robinson was hired as the drummer, and it was Robinson that came up with the name "the Cars".  Orr resumed his bassist duties, Hawkes was invited back into the fold, and the group was underway.

In 1976 and 1977, the Cars played throughout New England.  Local disc jockey Maxanne Sartori of WBCN noticed the group, and began playing the group's demo of "Just What I Needed".  Elektra Records heard the song, and on the basis of the radio airplay alone, signed the Cars to a recording contract.

The Cars released their self-titled debut album in 1978 and "Just What I Needed" became the first single.  The song reached #4 in France, but only #17 in the U.K. and #27 in the United States, easily one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*. (Please press the "Play" Icon on the top left portion of the video...

The follow-up, "My Best Friend's Girl", had a similar story--#3 in the U.K. but only #35 in the U.S., another highly underrated song in retrospect.

The Cars again found favor in France (#5) with "Good Times Roll", but it stalled at #41 in the U.S.  The group was receiving airplay from the album, but wasn't able to translate into huge commercial success.  Yet.

The album finally was certified Platinum at the end of the year, thanks to Top Tracks* such as "Bye Bye Love".

The song "You're All I've Got Tonight" also received good airplay on Album Rock stations.

Another track that we want to feature is "Don't Cha' Stop".

Although they had yet to score a big hit, word spread about all of the great songs on the album heard above.  More and more, radio programmers began to realize that the industry had blown it on this album, and they played more Cars songs as "recurrents" (songs within the past year or so).  Plus, the band was earning a reputation as a phenomenal live act.  More airplay resulted in more sales, and this, combined with future Cars successes, led to the album going over the six-million mark in sales in 1995.

In 1979, the Cars released the album Candy-O.  The single "Let's Go" reached #5 in Canada, #6 in Australia, and #14 in the U.S.

The follow-up, "It's All I Can Do", peaked at #17 in Canada and #41 in the United States. 

Like their debut, Candy-O eventually became a huge seller, going over four million copies.  Another top track on the album is "Dangerous Type".

Although they hadn't collected a Top 10 hit yet (with several songs highly underrated), the Cars still sold over 10 million albums from their work in the decade.  They still hadn't reached their peak; they would do that in 1984 with their album Heartbeat City.

The Cars would go on to sell over 25 million albums in the United States alone, and are certainly one of the top New Wave acts that emerged to essentially rescue rock & roll in an age where Adult Contemporary music had become the top music around.  Their influence is far and wide, from Nirvana, to the Smashing Pumpkins, Poison, the Deftones, and more.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.