[Review] The Cars (1978)

Finally, a new wave band that everyone could rally around, a radio ally for the rest of us.

Kronomyth 1.0: Here with The Cars, I feel safest of all.

The Cars looked like a 21st century version of Buddy Holly and The Crickets, led by the vampire-chic Ric Ocasek, yet no one else sounded like them. Sure, you could point to the pop experiments of David Bowie’s Low, but that was cutting-edge back in 1977 and The Cars were hardly a snip behind with this debut in 1978. Let’s face it: Low didn’t get a whole lot of radio play. The Cars did. “Just What I Needed,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “Good Times Roll” and “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” changed the landscape of rock radio. Here was something new and different that had somehow managed to penetrate the mainstream.

New wave was just beginning, and most of the acts across the ocean hadn’t “arrived” yet: Boomtown Rats, Gary Numan, Ultravox. The Cars took advantage of the opening with a crossover appeal that Talking Heads and Television lacked. The guitars rocked out (listen to the solo on “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”), the heavy harmonies pointed to arena rock, the vocals didn’t sound too affected and the lyrics put a slight science-fiction twist on rock’s typical woman-as-an-object-of-desire model. So for every element that sounded new, there was a reassuring aspect to The Cars’ music. It was what record executives probably called “fresh.” It was very fresh for 1978.

The several million people who finally bought the album were treated to a tightly conceived album that breathlessly moved between the worlds of rock and science fiction. At the more experimental end were songs like “Moving In Stereo” and “I’m In Touch With Your World” that showed The Cars’ interest in new wave was legitimate. Lest we forget, Roy Thomas Baker deserves a lot of credit for helping to shape the band’s sound; their approach to backing vocals, for example, bears a striking resemblance to Queen, and Baker displays his usual knack for keeping these songs moving briskly despite occasionally long run times. For collectors, a deluxe edition of The Cars’ debut was released in 1999 with demo tracks from the same period.

Read more Cars reviews

Original LP Version

A1. Good Times Roll (3:44)
A2. My Best Friend’s Girl (3:44)
A3. Just What I Needed (3:44)
A4. I’m In Touch With Your World (3:31)
A5. Don’t Cha Stop (3:01)
B1. You’re All I’ve Got Tonight (4:13)
B2. Bye Bye Love (4:14)
B3. Moving In Stereo (Ric Ocasek/Greg Hawkes) (5:15)
B4. All Mixed Up (4:14)

All songs written by Ric Ocasek unless noted.

The Players

Elliot Easton (lead guitar, backing vocals), Greg Hawkes (keyboards, percussion, saxophone, backing vocals), Ric Ocasek (vocals, rhythm guitar), Benjamin Orr (vocals, bass), David Robinson (drums, percussion, syndrums, backing vocals). Produced by Roy Thomas Baker; engineered by Geoff Workman; second engineer: Nigel Walker.

The Pictures

Art direction by Ron Coro. Design by Johnny Lee. Photography by Elliot Gilbert.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on June 6, 1978 in the US and Canada (Elektra, 6E/TC5/ET8-135), the UK (Elektra, K/K4 52088), Australia (Elektra, 6E-135) {butterfly label}, Brazil (Elektra, 32027), France, Germany and the Netherlands (Elektra, ELK52088) and Yugoslavia (Suzy, ELK52088) with lyrics innersleeve; reached #18 on the US charts (RIAA-certified 6x platinum record) and #29 on the UK charts. 8-track features different track order.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Elektra, 135-2) {red target cd, made in w. germany}.
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Elektra, 135-2).
  3. Re-released on half-speed mastered elpee in the US (Nautilus, NR14).
  4. Re-released on super high material compact disc in 2012 in Japan (Elektra, WPCR-14382).
  5. Re-released on remastered super audio compact disc in 2015 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, UDSACD 2162).
  6. Re-released on blue vinyl elpee in January 2016 in the US (Rhino, R1 135).

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