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"The Cars" Americas best guitar/synth symbiotic relationship?


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Ok guys I read this forum everyday and always hope for new topics to read so its time I put one forward just to create a read. Good or bad.

 

Ive just been bingeing on Cars videos today. My favourite guitar/synth band which was highly influential to me as a young gigging muso. I loved how they were able to symbiotically merge synth and guitar without grandstanding either instrument.

 

As a young man i was forced to learn piano as my father was a singing teacher. I hated it and rebelled and quit. Even not listening to new music so as to distance myself from dads push on music.

 

After leaving HSC (year 12) I started Art college and on orientation camp i watched a fellow student play Beach Boys (a huge fav of mine) on piano. She impressed me so much i said i can relearn piano and did. She will never know how much she influenced me.

 

Not long after that a cousin asked me to be lead singer in his band and I introduced piano and organ to them. With my dads blessing and help. Good old dad.

 

Anyway i was finally being introduced to modern music, mind you a very early AC/DC and Angels style guitar band.

 

I joined another band and they introduced me to The Cars song "My best friends girlfriend". Wow heres a song i can sing easily and play organ on at the same time. Wow it sounded like my Vox Jaguar too i had sitting on My yamaha CP30 piano. It worked and a bit of a hit with our limited fans. 

 

Heres the start of my love affair with The Cars.

 

Next i purchased a Korg Trident to attempt to do other songs that used synth. Singing lead vocals and playing lead synth at same time was daunting for a newbie player but i got there.

 

Thanks to "The Cars" and their influence I evolved. 

 

Although the Cars were a big hit here we never saw too many videos here in Australia only what "Countdown" allowed us to see but it was great to see those again and others Id never saw.

 

To those who lived in US tell me your experiences with seeing them live or if they influenced you in a big way. They certainly influenced me big time along with with many other eclectic styles which are completely different to theirs. 

 

 

 

 

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I had a gig the night the Cars played in Fresno so I missed them. I was told they played a straight 50 minute set and nailed everything.

 

The first album was iconic, Best Friend's Girl, Just What I Needed and Good Times Roll all climbed the charts, unusual for a debut album to have three songs do so well.. It went 6x Platinum, a huge hit for certain. 

 

Elliot Easton and Greg Hawkes were both absurdly talented and inherently musical. Neither of them over-played in the context of the tunes. Ric Ocasek was a great songwriter, his tunes hold up well today and will hold up well decades from now. 

 

I was in an all original band at the time and have never played in a band that covered The Cars in any sort of authentic fashion. I WAS influenced by Elliot Easton's interesting blend of styles, fusing Pop Rock, Shred and Country riffs together melodically and seamlessly, he was brilliant. Greg Hawkes had a great melodic style that made their songs instantly identifiable and took great solos as well. That said, nobody in that band was slacking. 

 

They had a great run but both Ric and Ben have passed on, pretty hard to do a reunion without your lead singers. When they hit the scene in 1978 there was nobody else quite like them. 

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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Indeed those 3 songs were big hits here in Aussie.

 

Cant say we covered them Authentically in that band but later i formed an original band that did covers too but the Cars went down well in that band too and musically a much better band.

 

Maybe it was cause not many aussies were covering them in the early days. Id say later when there were actual cover bands they did exact copies but those early years aussie bands hadnt evolved into the tribute type cover bands 

 

Edit: as i realized my own timeline incorrect

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2 minutes ago, AUSSIEKEYS said:

Indeed those 3 songs were big hits here in Aussie.

 

Cant say we covered them Authentically as we were actually an original band that did covers too but it went down well.  Maybe it was cause not many aussies were covering them in the early days. Id say later when there were actual cover bands they did exact copies but those early years aussie bands hadnt evolved into the tribute type cover bands 

 

 

I had friends who were in a band that had many great originals and they had 5 members so they tackled Just What I Needed and nailed it. They also did some Rocky Horror Picture Show tunes, the lead singer would play drums and the drummer dressed up like Dr. Frank N Furter. 

 

More recently, I've done an acoustic reggae-ish version of Best Friend's Girl and the band has played it a couple of times. People still remember that song and it goes over well, close cover or not. 

 

Most of the bands I've been in were not sufficiently populated to pull off the covers they were playing and in my experience the audience really doesn't care. If it has a beat they can dance to and a chorus they can sing along with, they are happy. So both the Top 40 Country band and the Motown Cover band fell short of sounding "just like the record". Six pieces just can't do everything that is on a Shania Twain or Four Tops record, it's not possible and it didn't matter at all. 

 

Now that I think on it, I was in a 3 piece band (guitar, drums and keys w/bass - all sang) and we did a pretty respectable version of Shake It Up by the Cars. I copped the solo, we had the harmonies down and it got the dance floor moving. 

 

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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2 minutes ago, KuruPrionz said:

Now that I think on it, I was in a 3 piece band (guitar, drums and keys w/bass - all sang) and we did a pretty respectable version of Shake It Up by the Cars. I copped the solo, we had the harmonies down and it got the dance floor moving. 

 

Thats impressive for a 3 piece.

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Just now, AUSSIEKEYS said:

Thats impressive for a 3 piece.

The keyboard player was one of those weirdos who can successfully play both bass keys and up higher while singing lead. He had 2 boards, used a monophonic Moog for the bass parts.

 

Made my brain hurt!!!!

End result since all 3 of us sang was that we sounded like a 4 piece band. 

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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Just now, KuruPrionz said:

The keyboard player was one of those weirdos who can successfully play both bass keys and up higher while singing lead.

Yep thats amazing i couldn't sing play the lead and play bass (only octaves on bass) so i was glad to have a bass player. 

 

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4 minutes ago, AUSSIEKEYS said:

Yep thats amazing i couldn't sing play the lead and play bass (only octaves on bass) so i was glad to have a bass player. 

 

It's a difficult thing to wrap one's head around. 

I've always thought that having a dedicated bassist is probably the best idea anyway, somebody who can do that is not easy to find. They took me on, not the other way around. I've know a keyboard player up here in B'ham that can play a bass line, do the right hand thing and sing but she's another "ain't gonna find one" sort of player and her husband plays bass so it sort of gets in the way when she does it. 

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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Never got to see them or a lot of the 80s bands I love(d).

 

But for me, as good as they were, there were other bands that I prefer.  Missing Persons, Duran Duran, Devo and Depeche Mode spring to mind.

Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: âNinety percent of everything is crapâ

 

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The 80s were kind of a golden age for synth players getting in big bands.  Besides the explosion of New Wave bands, look what happened in rock:  Journey, Montrose, Yngwie Malmsteen, Rainbow, Tony Carey/Planet P Project, Asia, Europe!

Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: âNinety percent of everything is crapâ

 

My FLMS- Murphy's Music in Irving, Tx

 

http://murphysmusictx.com/

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Thanks guys thats what i wanted to learn/ hear about other US synth/guitar bands as in Australia we missed a lot of them. And your thoughts on The Cars.

 

I remember Styx but dont count me as a good example of an Aussie with a wide musical appreciation as I had a very cloistered musical knowledge. Example when i joined here 17 years ago i had never heard of Journey which i believe is one of your super bands like Foreigner (which was a huge hit in Aussie). Infact Mega.

 

I dont remember seeing Journey on TV here and was not introduced to them through bands i was in but saw so much reference to them here.

 

But dont count me as a good example of an Aussie with wide musical appreciation as I had a very cloistered musical knowledge. Pretty crap diversity but deep on those i do know/appreciate.

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I think the other band from that era that embodies what I like about the Cars (pop hooks + interplay between guitar and synths with good use of “space”) is from your neighborhood: INXS

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16 minutes ago, Sam Mullins said:

I think the other band from that era that embodies what I like about the Cars (pop hooks + interplay between guitar and synths with good use of “space”) is from your neighborhood: INXS

Hi sam yeah interesting to hear. Yes i guess you are right never looked at it that way in the day ...funny

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Great topic! The Cars are pretty much my favorite band ever. One of the very first songs I learned on synth way back in the early '80s was Just What I Needed in one of my HS bands. I've worshipped their entire catalogue for years and my current cover band does at least a half dozen of their songs.

 

I love every album and am really sad that I never saw them live. The license plate of my Subaru is THE CARS

 

Brother dB will probably be along soon to share about his band Police Cars that did some great Cars covers - I recall one video of Bye Bye Love that was incredible.

 

Here's an older video of my cover band doing Let's Go. It's still on our set list for every gig. Great song.

 

 

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For me, the Cars are a sound of my childhood.  I would scrounge quarters from my dad’s bowling buddies to spin their tracks on the juke box along with other hits of the day like Queen’s Crazy Little Thing and the Knack’s My Sharona.   Then I’d wait for the big kids to leave the pinball machine alone for a moment so I could give it a try. Otherwise get a game of Asteroids in.  That’s how I recall it either way.  No complaints.  Let The Good Times Roll! 

Live: Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700

Home: Rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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A long forgotten band from the vein of The Cars is the 80s power pop band The Producers.  Their big hits were She Sheila, I Love Lucy, What's He Got, Operation.  MTV embraced them.  If you listen to their debut and second albums, the other songs grow on you.  Not the typical copycat songs either, they wrote refreshing stuff.  Their only weakness was the lack of a lead guitar player -  keyboard player does some solos, Steve Lukather is credited on most of the guitar solos.  Great songs, insane harmonies, stellar recordings... then something happened and their label disowned them, stopped promotion, stopped everything.  You won't find CDs of their albums, I found them on YT.  They should had been the next big thing.  But their songs are still popular and they occasionally reunite for shows.

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CP30 is iconically tied to Cars first 2 albums.  I had to buy a CP30 library when I was doing a Cars tribute band because there is no other EP that works for what he did with it.  Greg was a magician in sound sculpting, I think Rick kept note-count and complexity in check and it drove that vision of overall instruments interplay and complimenting in their sound.  He envisioned an Andy Warhol of rock.  Eliot was amazing in he was not a strict “rock” guitar player but always maid it fit perfectly in a rock band envelope.

 

i would spend 20x or more on sound design vs note learning for their material.  Completely different challenge vs any other bands I’ve covered.

I saw Greg’s sound sculpting gradually ran out of ideas that worked as he didn’t like reusing the same thing over the years - their last albums lacked the fidelity to what made Cars so great.  Jmo.  The first two albums were brilliant.  Third I did not like at all.  They came back with their biggest success in ‘84, then … nothing interested me beyond that.  But those first two forever seal a legacy of genius.

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The baiting I do is purely for entertainment value. Please feel free to ignore it.
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Hi guys just woke up and I am playing David's Cars cover at 5 am. Loved it and a Police song. David I'm subscribed now. Very impressed Mr Bundy. Ill follow your antics now.

 

Ahhh.. your replies bring up many memories of the old days.

 

Eric our backgrounds seem similar except perhaps for the "Big Boy Shorts" hee hee. ie: we are both huge lovers for The Cars and playing Ska

 

Indeed strangely that originals band i was in incorporated both genres. We had a very Ska sound in originals as when i wrote on piano I was Ska but when I wrote songs on synth I was Synth band and when I wrote on organ I was very Split Enz or Men at Work (famous Aussie band) 

 

Mixed in with the other writers (who were good) and a ska sounding guitarist (later replaced by a rock guitarist after he left) we had a very eclectic sound including covers of mixed styles. Some says thats wrong thing to do but "stuff it" we enjoyed it and people loved it.

 

Having said all that the Cars song Best Friends Girlfriend was the song that introduced me (of cloistered musical knowledge) to a new world to explore. From there i discovered Ska, Split Enz , Mental as anything etc. If i had never joined in a band I would never had my mind opened. (And ears destroyed hee hee)

 

Motidave i never knew they used a CP30 and there I was actually being authentic but never knowing it in the 2nd band but Ironically by the time of the original band (3rd band) I had already dumped it for an Arp 16 voice (in the second band) because i hated the weight of the CP and the guitarist of the second band told me the CP sounded like a carnival which It did not an authentic piano for sure. Hated its sound. Probably my crappy playing hee hee.

 

Never giving praises he praised me once when playing the Trident when i introduced the rest of the band with an impromptue fanfare intro while they walked on stage. With a stunned look he said " why cant you play like that always"  a back handed compliment. Hee hee but for him that was good. Perhaps the newly acquired synth awoken something in me?

 

so the above ramble says I was never happy with the CP but loved the Arp. So much lighter and prefered the sounds (I know they get a bad wrap on here) hee hee but I loved it.

 

i think in the original band I eventually dumped lugging a piano in favour of just the Trident adding a Yamaha Boomchikka keyboard that fit a slot in the top (eventually only using it on one song maybe with a very weird but pleasant sound). I know the Trident piano sounds were just as woefull as the CP30 (probably worse) but if i remember rightly the keyboard did have a flanger built in). So i could do all on one keyboard due to it being an ensemble synth

 

ahh Elmer the Cars invoke good memories for you and I hope the boys realised how important their music was to a generation of people.

 

The Real MC. Yes i have not heard of them but Ill look them up. re: your mention of Andy Warhol. I saw yesterday a Cars video with a bartender i thought looked like him. Was that actually him or a "look a like" or just coincidence??

 

thanks guys again another of my long winded replies but I try to reply to most peoples stories. Thanks

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6 hours ago, eric said:

 

 

 

Great Eric i missed the video first time. Just played it. Wow.

 

I commented but didnt subscribe as i wasnt sure if it was your own channel. If it is please advise so i can subscribe.

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I don't intend my next statement as a slam on The Cars, but my sister saw them live while they were on tour for their first album, and told me later the live show was pretty bad. It might have been that the venue they played at had bad acoustics (I went to the same University later on, and large band shows were done in a gymnasium with bad acoustics).

 

As far as The Cars as a band overall, I think their first album was excellent, and part of its power was in how well produced it was. I would expect that a lot of their songs would have been tricky to duplicate live. I also think their best songwriting was on their first album. Songs like "Let's Go" and "Candy-O" did not move me.

 

In a previous generation of our band, we played "You're All I've Got Tonight" and I actually sang the lead vocal. It was a really fun song to play.

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11 hours ago, The Real MC said:

A long forgotten band from the vein of The Cars is the 80s power pop band The Producers.  Their big hits were She Sheila, I Love Lucy, What's He Got, Operation.  MTV embraced them.  If you listen to their debut and second albums, the other songs grow on you.  Not the typical copycat songs either, they wrote refreshing stuff.  Their only weakness was the lack of a lead guitar player -  keyboard player does some solos, Steve Lukather is credited on most of the guitar solos.  Great songs, insane harmonies, stellar recordings... then something happened and their label disowned them, stopped promotion, stopped everything.  You won't find CDs of their albums, I found them on YT.  They should had been the next big thing.  But their songs are still popular and they occasionally reunite for shows.

My favorite band, ever.

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1 hour ago, StevieDeepD said:

My favorite band, ever.

 

 

Wow The Real MC and StevieDeepD thanks for this headsup

 

FFFAAAAAARKKKKK what a band.

 

Totally different from The Cars..totally but fantastic too.

 

Someone mentioned on utube it was power pop?

 

I find it hard to put names to styles but if thats what it is Id call it "frenetic power pop"

 

Ill be trying to hear all their songs i have found looks like maybe the 2 albums worth by the number of them on goooooooogle.

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1 hour ago, Dannyalcatraz said:

Split Endz was an amazing band.  Loved their music and their vids.

 

Australia had a lot going on back then.  Several bands broke through.

 

Yep they sure were. Was just checking out a few of their songs today. I so love them. 

 

To give the Enz hometown credit they were actually New Zealanders who like most New Zealanders made their way to Australia once they got too big for home town they had to try and grab the next ring.

 

Many New Zealanders made it big in Australia so Aussies claim them as their own because of that. But New Zealand is a great musical country to give us these and other great musos.

 

They certainly grabbed my Art college mind at the time. I even dressed up on stage wearing what one journalist who wrote an article about us said was...props... i never thought of them as props more like physical and wearable statements about each original song. Hee hee. Thats how much the Enz werecan influence. God i had too many influences.

 

I was a bit looney on stage being a goody goody offstage who changed persona onstage so I really dug the enz costumes and antics. They epitomized the zaneous I wanted our band to attain but alas i was the only zany one. 

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On 4/9/2022 at 11:39 AM, The Real MC said:

A long forgotten band from the vein of The Cars is the 80s power pop band The Producers.  Their big hits were She Sheila, I Love Lucy, What's He Got, Operation.  MTV embraced them.  If you listen to their debut and second albums, the other songs grow on you.  Not the typical copycat songs either, they wrote refreshing stuff.  Their only weakness was the lack of a lead guitar player -  keyboard player does some solos, Steve Lukather is credited on most of the guitar solos.  Great songs, insane harmonies, stellar recordings... then something happened and their label disowned them, stopped promotion, stopped everything.  You won't find CDs of their albums, I found them on YT.  They should had been the next big thing.  But their songs are still popular and they occasionally reunite for shows.

 

I'm a HUGE fan of The Producers, ever since the early MTV days when She Sheila and What's He Got were "hits" for what that was worth in the early '80s on MTV. Absolutely loved those songs. I have all of their albums on vinyl and listen to them often.

 

My cover band has learned and played She Sheila and What's He Got. These were fun to learn and sadly, they are a bit too obscure for people to really know and ended up clearing the dance floor in most cases. This was a bummer to put them on the back burner though fun to have learned and played them.

 

On 4/9/2022 at 4:08 PM, AUSSIEKEYS said:

Eric our backgrounds seem similar except perhaps for the "Big Boy Shorts" hee hee. ie: we are both huge lovers for The Cars and playing Ska

 

Indeed strangely that originals band i was in incorporated both genres. We had a very Ska sound in originals as when i wrote on piano I was Ska but when I wrote songs on synth I was Synth band and when I wrote on organ I was very Split Enz or Men at Work (famous Aussie band) 

 

 

LOL about the "Big Boy Shorts" which were a thing for me in my ska band way back in my late teens into early '20s. That was my style at the time! I don't wear shorts on stage nowadays, aside from the rare outdoor gigs in 90+ degree summer weather.

 

That's so cool that we both love The Cars and ska music! I had the best time playing ska for so long and I still listen to a lot of ska. My old ska band does a few reunion shows each year.

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