Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Ric Ocasek: Who's Gonna Drive You Home

Happy 61st Birthday to Ric Ocasek, leader, singer and songwriter of The Cars.

When I was in 9th grade or so, The Cars spent at least a year as my favorite band on the planet. Their first two LPs, The Cars and Candy-O, were in super heavy rotation on both cassette and vinyl. And the rest of the time they were on the radio.

They combined classic pop melodies and Beatlesque background vocals with an icy, postmodern emotional detachment that made them one of the true pioneers of the thrillingNew Wave movement of the late 70s/early 80s.

Their debut is one of the best of all time and one of the only records I can think of that has no weak tracks (even Rubber Soul has “What Goes On.”) Unlike most of their fellow New Wavers, The Cars spent a lot of time at the top of the charts.

Their influence can be heard in many later bands, from the Pixies to Pavement, Nirvana and Weezer, whose debut was produced by Ocasek. Yet despite their critical and commercial success and influence, The Cars, unlike Patti Smith, are still double-parked outside the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

I’m not really sure why but my guess is that the secretive geek-Masons who decide who gets into the Hall are incredibly resentful that someone even paler than them not only married the genetically perfect Paulina Poriskova, but has managed to keep her happy for 25 years, while she has remained as stunning as ever.

As those of us who grew up watching early MTV are well aware, the two met when Paulina, then the #1 supermodel in the world, appeared in The Cars' 1984 video for their lovely if overproduced ballad "Drive," directed by Timothy Hutton:

I used to work in the Union Square neighborhood where Ocasek lives with the Mrs., and he and I walked by each other a half dozen times. I always wanted to shake his hand and thank him for having such a huge influence on my musical development, and for creating a slew of songs that hold up wonderfully, but never mustered up the chance. So Ric, if you’re reading this, and I’m sure you are, HB and TCB.

Buy on iTunes:
The Cars

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