Fast Times with The Cars

“You know how cute I always thought you were” -Linda Barrett- Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  Queue The Cars, “Moving in Stereo”.  One of the most ruined VHS tapes in the universe.  Stop, rewind, pause…missed it, damn it rewind, pause and there she is Phoebe Cates opening her tiny red bikini for uber-nerd Brad Hamilton played by lovable and goofy Judge Reinhold.  The ultimate fantasy of the girl out of your league coming to her senses.  Fantasy being the key word here as moments later reality steps in as we see Brad caught in the throws of passion with his hand when Linda interrupts his moment of self pleasure.

That scene though…that fucking scene, but that song though; eerie, creepy kind of.  If it were any other song I am not sure the scene would have been the same.  You can’t think of that scene with out that guitar riff, the blips and beeps of the synth, then that fat bass comes in and the the voice of Ric Ocasek almost ghoulish, not of this world “Life’s the same I’m moving in stereo”.  What in the fuck, who are these guys?

So, that was my first taste of The Cars that I can remember.  Fast Times came out in 1982, I probably saw it when I was 13 on VHS.  Pretty sure at my friend Staci’s, since they had the VCR back then.  I’d rent it a few times after I am sure because who didn’t want to be Jeff Spicoli?  I remember almost immediately buying that self titled Cars record at K-Mart the next week.  I remember it because I bought the wrong record.  I bought Panorama.  Panorama is a great record too, with “Touch and Go”, and “Give Me Some Slack”, but I made the rookie mistake of picking up the cool looking cover with the flag, I don’t think K-Mart carried Candy-O because of the tits on the cover and all.  K-Mart was wholesome.  When I did get the self titled record I wasn’t impressed as much with the cover,  It sure wasn’t as cool as the Shake it up either.

What was contained in the grooves of that disc though is nothing short of one of the best debut albums by a band ever.  It starts off with Let the Good Times Roll, so you know this entire album was going to be a party.  Next up My Best Friend’s Girl, then plowing into Just What I needed.  Throw in Don’t Cha Stop, You’re All I Got Tonight, and then Moving in Stereo and that is a fantastic record.

The thing I dug the most about The Cars was (a) kind of a Cleveland band or  had the “Cleveland connection” at the very least (b) these guys were fucking nerds.  There were no rock stars in that band.  They were just a bunch of lanky nerds making some great music.  Over time they would go from post punk to mainstream pop and with quirky videos on MTV it wasn’t long before they became full on rock stars.  Then Ocasek gets married to Paulina Porizkova which gave hope to every nerd musician in the world that all things are possible through the power of rock and roll.

So I got to see The Cars get inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tonight and it brought back all these memories of how this band impacted my life.  The Cars could be one of the most unlikely bands to get into the Rock Hall.  I was honestly surprised by it.  They didn’t have a ton of commercial success early one, but then again I never caught on to them until they were almost done.  The majority most people know of The Cars comes from “Drive”, “Shake it up” and “You Might Think”, at least in my head.  They always seemed just below the mainstream enough to be cool with me.   They sounded tight, Ocasek’s voice was never Pavarotti to begin with but he struggled at times, but the dude is 74 years old.  I’m not going to bitch.  They honestly looked like they were having a great time and truly appreciated the award they received unlike those dickhead Knopfler brothers in Dire Straits who didn’t show up because the one guy couldn’t get a continental breakfast comped or some shit by the rock hall.

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