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

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

1987 WNEW Interview

Scott Muni was a DJ Icon in New York Radio at WNEW and he sat down with Ric in 1987 to interview him just before the Door To Door tour. Ric was surprisingly stoked for upcoming Cars World Tour in support of the album. He was also rock solid in his faith the Cars would be around for a long time.

Take a Listen

Ric Ocasek: 1987 WNEW Interview

The Rat

I think it always come back to The Rat. It's where Ric's later bands ended up playing. I had a chance to talk to Alan Vega's wife and she said it was incredible, talking me to as If i were Old enough to remember it. I'm not that old but its about the first time I wish I had been born in Boston and not NYC. The place was certainly a dive (which is often a good thing) but it was tied into a music scene that had a real sense of community.

I recently came upon a website called Boston Groupie News.com which documented the going's-on of the Boston Music scene in the 70's and 80's. Thats where I came upon the above Pictures. They were taken By Joanie Lindstrom sister of New Models guitarist Casey Lindstrom.

Her brother Casey as most Ocasek fans know appeared on Ocasek's first release Beatitude. Casey also was the lead guitarist in Ocasek's three man band that played at Perkins Palace where Ric's 1983 appearance on Rock and Roll Tonight was taped.

Enjoy these old photos of Ocasek and his bandmates. Also check the Boston Groupie News website out it's quite cool.

Boston Groupie News


Sometimes It Don't Work Out

Ric worked with Motor City Soundtrack on their latest effort Even If it Kills Me on some tracks and apparently they thought Ric was going to sparkle and polish their tunes up, then turn them into pop behemoths.

But often Ocasek's approach is to tweak the demos he hears and capture the band sound as he first heard it on the demo. Ric who even played Keyboards on Motor City Soundtracks latest effort got slammed by the bands guitarist Joshua Cain according to The Maneater.com

Cain said working with Ocasek, who produced landmark albums like Weezer's Blue Album and Bad Brains's Rock for Light, was a disappointment.

"We were kind of bummed afterwards because he really didn't do much with it," Cain says. "We were really stoked before, but we wish we would have done the record without him."

This really is the first time a band has not been happy with Ocasek in the studio. The only thing close has been a disdain for Ric's production of Guided By Voices 2001's Do The Collapse by GBV fans not the band itself.

The full Motor City Soundtrack article can be found here Maneater.com