5 Reasons the Cars Should Be in the Hall of Fame
In 2014, both the Cars and Sting were nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Let's be clear, not the Police (who got the nod in 2003), but Sting. The idea that Sting’s solo catalog can compete with the Cars' legacy is just silly. But sometimes the Rock Hall makes silly choices. Hopefully, this year they get it right and finally enshrine the Cars. We have 5 Reasons the Cars Should Be in the Rock Hall ...
Are the Cars a top-notch ’70s classic rock band? Are they a New Wave act? Are they a ’50s throwback? Would you believe they’re all of these and more? For a band that's basically considered pop, the Cars somehow captured every rock genre that came out between the mid-’70s and mid-’80s. Over six albums and 12 Top 40 singles, they combined hip New Wave, tough hard rock, soft-rock ballads, retro rockabilly and dashes of prog and punk. Listen to “Shoo Be Doo” odd electronica back-to-back with big, bold rock sound of “Bye Bye Love” for proof.
When I curated a list of Boston’s greatest songs, every musician I talked to wanted to write about the Cars. Requests to champion them topped requests to write about Aerosmith, Boston and the J. Geils Band (who are also nominated this year). Nearly every musician I spoke to put a Cars song in their Top 3. And this isn’t nostalgia -- bands have always wanted Cars' frontman Ric Ocasek to produce them. He’s helmed records for Weezer, Suicide, Hole, No Doubt, Nada Surf, Bad Religion, Bad Brains and many others.
It’s not just that Ocasek produced a bunch of records. He helped mentor bands into greatness. His work with Weezer on their debut Blue Album added just the right amount of gloss to break the band globally without turning them into a pure pop act. He also perfected wearing sunglasses 24/7 back when Bono was still Paul David Hewson, has been happily married to supermodel Paulina Porizkova for a quarter century and let bassist Ben Orr sing many of his best songs.
In 2011, the band released Move Like This, its first album in 24 years and first without Orr, who died of cancer in 2000. The disc sounds like the band walked offstage in 1987 and right into the studio. What’s most striking about Move Like This is how modern it sounds. You could swap Strokes singer Julian Casablancas’ vocals for Ocasek’s and everyone would think it was the Strokes. This is because the new Cars sound like the old Cars, who sound like new Strokes or Killers or any number of recent artists attempting to get the detached New Wave feel the Cars mastered.
Cue the song and hit play. Now wait for it. Over that hot-rod riff come the claps: a syncopated, schoolyard beat that sets the stage for one rock’s immortal gems. Now comes that fiery rockabilly guitar lead and Ric Ocasek’s always hip vocal delivery. The song sounds like Elvis and Interpol all at once. It makes you want to go to sock hop and listen to New Order B-sides. The Cars have dozens of songs with this retro-modern aesthetic: “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Let’s Go,” “Magic.” But none of them has hand claps like this one.