Tuesday, September 30, 2008

That New Cars Smell Part 1

This will Likely be the First and Last time you will ever see this addressed here. Mostly because The New Cars is not in anyway a Ric Ocasek related project. But over the last three years something has been going on within Cars world that frankly needs to be addressed. Mainly due to the fact I need to voice my opinion on it and equally so that their basically isn't that much happening on The Ocasek front these days. I also want to add this is my opinion alone and not Ric's in any way.

First off, it is naive to think The New Cars was done for creative reasons since only three "songs" were new. Not One single song was penned solo by Rundgren. I frankly only listened to the one song “Not Tonight” and it sounded like a band trying to imitate the Cars from the HBC-D2D era. Even the lyrics are crafted in a poorly mimicked Ocasek style and delivery. I am guessing this was Rundgren’s only contribution to at least that song.

This project was done for financial reasons only, for all the parties involved. Now I don't begrudge people making a buck, but do it with integrity especially when you have a tie to its past musical credibility and are given the real opportunity to do so with Ric Ocasek's blessing. His only stipulation was that THE CARS not be the name of the band.

Most people who even still care frankly don’t know the facts as I have been following this story since Easton signed his deal with Paid Inc right around Live 8 where he and other Paid Inc. members were showcased in one of worst Supergroups I have ever seen perform live.

Easton was the catalyst in restarting the NEW Cars. Previous to this, Easton and Hawkes had asked Ric to let Circuit City use “Just What I Needed” for their commercials. Ric had never authorized a song for a TV ad before that and did this as a favor to his former bandmates who would benefit from any residuals that would come their way. Ric even in some interviews used the word “Pressured”.

Ric has also gone on record saying that he justified this move to himself by saying, “If Dylan has used a song for a commercial, I guess I can too.” He also stated in more than one interview that he did it for a few guys in the band who approached him who wanted to see some benefit ($$$) from their old tunes through sync rights.

So basically we have Easton and possibly Hawkes with some financial problems. Now in both Easton's and Hawkes defense they have been pestering Ocasek for years about playing again. But from all accounts Ric hates touring. He loathes it. He is a studio geek and really loves NYC and doesn’t want to leave. Plus he is in his sixties. Ric is stubborn and unmovable on the subject. Dozen dates-No Big venues. Studio album yes. Major tour in support of an album absolutely not. Also, without Ben Orr the possibilities grow even slimmer.

David Robinson did not join for several reasons. He is not a drummer anymore. He doesn’t even have a kit. He had a small bistro at the time he was running which he has since sold. He was also taking care of his ailing mother. But his main reason was that it wouldn’t be the same without Ben Orr.

As Easton was tinkering with forming the New Cars in 2005 , Robinson who lives in Rockport MA showed up at Ocasek’s gig at Harpers Ferry in Boston. To me this was a sign of solidarity or just plain friendship between the two. I found it peculiar that Greg Hawkes was nowhere to be found even though he lives even closer than Robinson did to the venue. But who knows, maybe he was busy. From my encounters with Hawkes, I don’t think the guy is capable of any malice.

Now enter Rundgren. Just before the announcement of joining the New Cars, he is in financial ruin. His tour in support of his album “Liars” left him almost bankrupt and owing the IRS back taxes. Rundgren himself, on his fan based TR connection, addressed this himself and informed his fans of his joining the New Cars to pay his taxes, fish himself out of debt, as well play with some long time friends.

The Theme of this whole get together is MONEY. This is not done for the Fans or to get the Cars Music back out live for people to enjoy. It has nothing to do with musicians who just wanted to play their old band’s old tunes and be on the road. It was about cash. Why would Rundgren even be interested in a project like this ? He is about as opposite of Ric Ocasek as they get.

The band is announced and then this shitty New Cars website appears. It’s all about Cash packages just to join etc. This is all before The New Cars even play a gig. Then it finally happens the product is launched. The New Cars do a showcase in L.A. longtime Fans were in attendance. They said it was god awful. Rundgren was not prepared. He stumbled on many lyrics. He flat out didn’t know some of them. At the showcase were both fans as well as people from the industry; they flat out were not impressed to say the least. I can forgive Rundgren’s faux pas, I mean learning 12+ songs you never wrote is a hard thing especially with Ric’s wacky word play. But to many die hard Cars fans it just seemed this product was rushed to the public, and the music and the set itself was not painstakingly taken care of before being unleashed onto the public.

Soon after the New Cars showcase debacle Easton starts making comments that are so arrogant and ludicrous it alienates most of The Cars fan base, what’s left of it after all these years. The following are quotes from Easton when asked about the New Cars and the fact that Ric Ocasek isn’t participating in it.

1) The Cars Music were His and Greg’s musical legacy as well as Ric’s

2) Ric just wrote the skeletons of the songs the others in the band especially he and Greg gave the songs their meat.

3) During one of his numerous Rockstar camp sessions Easton previewed “Not Tonight” for his students. After the song was surprisingly applauded, Easton smugly said, “ I betcha Ric ain’t gonna like that.”

Over and Over Easton has shown a smugness and real arrogance since he launched the New Cars. The Luke-warm reception he and Rungren created from Cars die-hards right from the start as well as the cash oriented approach in which eager Cars fans were greeted immediately and the grim fact both Orr and Ocasek would not be present doomed this “project” from the start.

It is very hard for me to be unbiased when it comes to Rundgren fronting a band that is doing songs that Ric Ocasek wrote and predominantly sung, But I will try my best to try and critque what I thought when I actually went to see The New Cars out of some morbid curiosity at Jones beach in New York.

Todd Rundgren was simply awful. His voice, his shtick and his solo material was not enjoyable at all. Greg Hawkes was fantastic and so was Easton. Kasim Sulton the bass player that night was very capable and able to pull off the vocals on Drive, to where it was enjoyable. It just frankly wasn’t worth the 80 bucks to see. I got severe douche chills when the band did an acoustic ukulele version of Rundgren’s “ Bang On The Drum” all day. It’s kind of amazing that with a set of some of the greatest Pop/Rock tunes that a concert could suck. But it did.

I give credit to those people who embraced the New Cars concept with excitement and support. They hung in with that band until the end. Their poorly run website which screwed people out of money and time wasted waiting around for the junk they were supposed to send out proved to me that the fans of this new entity The New Cars were dedicated to putting up with a lot of Bullshit. The Bullshit never ended over there. The non-notification of Cancelled shows, the horrible customer service. The laughable Forum moderator who wouldn’t allow any dissenting posts the remotely criticized The New Cars. The Posting of Easton himself on the site, which we will never know if it was actually Easton doing the posting but from the arrogance, it probably could have been.

End Of Part One


Anonymous said...

Why doesn't anyone ever visit this gay site? Jebus I can't believe a man is actually this in love with Ric "Fuggin' Ugly" Ocrapek.

Anonymous said...

"The laughable Forum moderator who wouldn’t allow any dissenting posts the remotely criticized The New Cars."

You don't either you idiot, I am sure this will be deleted soon.

westwardbound said...

I've loved The Cars since day one. I've never been privvy to the personal issues involved with the band, other than Ric and Ben had issues sometimes, as longtime close friends do; however, I was really put off by Elliot and Greg when I viewed the last interview with all of them just before Ben died. They both seemed obnoxious and self-important to me; jumping in the split second a question was asked. Elliot, in particular, seemed to monopolize the conversation quite a bit. They just seemed at odds with the quiet dignity and reverence that Ric and David had sitting next to the dying Ben. It doesn't surprise me in the least that those are the two that started the "new" Cars. If those two were the huge talents they think they are, they would have had their own material and wouldn't have pimped all the old Cars stuff. In short, they would have come up with something of their own....but they couldn't and didn't.

There is no question that Ric is a superior songwriter, and my favorite Cars' songs are mostly ones that Ben sang. I just love the sound of his voice. Greg and Elliot can say and think whatever they want. "The Cars" was Ric and Ben's band. Period. End of Story.

Anonymous said...

Seems awfully late in the game to be posting a diatribe on the New Cars. But since you started it:

I saw The Cars in 1979 when they were just about the hottest new band on the planet. They were one of the most boring live acts I have ever witnessed. And the epicenter of that boredom was Ric Ocasek, who so clearly didn't want to be there it was obvious to any one of the assembled 70,000 people sober enough to notice.

Much of what you say about the New Cars is true: sure it's done for financial reasons. What can a poor middleaged man do, but to sing in a rock & roll band?

But I think that in Hawkes and Easton's case, it was also done out of a pent-up longing to play those songs again in front of an audience that really wanted to hear them. Isn't that why musicians get on stage in the first place?

And by the way, the New Cars blew the originals off the stage. As many others have commented.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you. The New Cars were not something I could support as a longtime fan. When you are missing 3 guys and 2 of them are the lead singers. Ben Orr can't be replaced. That voice - no one can touch it. The New Cars were no more than a cover band. PERIOD. It was clearly a cash grab.