Tonight (September 14th) on the world famous Classic Album at Midnight on Radio Nova we’re playing The Cars’ self-titled debut album.
The album is presented in full with no commercials or interruptions.
Pulling musicians from various bands, The Cars formed in Boston in 1976 with an original line-up of Elliot Easton (lead guitar), Greg Hawkes (keyboards), Ric Ocasek (rhythm guitar), Benjamin Orr (bass) and David Robinson (drums).
From the off, The Cars embraced the New Wave sound that was growing in popularity in the late ’70s, combining rock n’ roll riffs with synthesizer melodies. While spending a year touring, they began working on what would become their debut album. A demo tape found its way to local radio DJs, who selected the track Just What I Needed for airplay. This led to the band being snapped up by Elektra Records, who were keen to have a New Wave act on their books.
In the studio, with the aid of producer Roy Thomas Baker, The Cars established their sound, a radio friendly mix of rock and pop. The template of a typical Cars song sees the track open with the traditional rock instruments of guitar bass and drums kicking things off before Greg Hawkes’ synths, percussion and sometimes saxophone takes it fully into New Wave territory. In typical New Wave fashion, Ric Ocasek’s lyrics give an ironic and sarcastic spin on the preoccupations of traditional rock n’ roll tunes.
The original release of The Cars features nine songs. Side A gives us Good Times Roll; My Best Friend’s Girl; Just What I Needed; I’m In Touch With Your World; and Don’t Cha Stop. Side B consists of You’re All I’ve Got Tonight; Bye Bye Love; Moving in Stereo; and All Mixed Up.
Released on June 6th, 1978, The Cars peaked at number 18 on the US Billboard chart and number 29 on the UK album chart. While never cracking the US Top 10, it would spend 139 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart and become the fourth biggest selling album of 1979 in the US.
While the album fared better in the US than the UK, the opposite was the case with its singles. My Best Friend’s Girl could only manage number 35 in the US but reached number three in the UK, while Just What I Needed peaked at 17 in the UK and 27 in the US. Along with the singles, many of The Cars’ album tracks became favourites of radio DJs.
The album was popular among the critical fraternity too.
“Easy and eccentric at the same time, all are potential hits,” was how Rolling Stone’s Kit Rachlis described the album’s nine songs in his review. “The pop songs are wonderful,” he beamed.
Now The Cars is considered one of the classic albums of the New Wave era. Rolling Stone currently rank it at number 353 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
The Cars themselves are big fans of their debut, acknowledging it as their finest work.
Lead guitarist and backing vocalist Elliot Easton admitted that “We used to joke that the first album should be called The Cars’ Greatest Hits.”
The Cars’ eponymous debut certainly contains some of the band’s greatest hits, and you can hear them uninterrupted at midnight tonight on Radio Nova.