Forming in the mid-1970s, Boston band the Cars went on to practically reinvent the rock and roll songbook. Led by guitarist/singer Ric Ocasek, the band's 1978 self-titled debut kicked open the doors on radio stations across the country, packed with timeless hits like "Just What I Needed" and "My Best Friend's Girl." Over five more albums, the Cars would become one of the biggest bands in America.
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The Cars' guitarist, Elliot Easton, spoke with Vulture about his time in the band, taking a bird's eye view of the group's highs and lows. According to Easton, it was pretty much all highs. The only time it got really bad, he remembered, was when the the Cars' drive finally stopped.
"I loved being in the Cars. It was a great band to be in," he said. "It was sad when it started going away, but it happens. People drift or fall in and out of love; you don’t know why, but it’s a natural occurrence. We’d been working hard for ten years, and it was rough to see it all go away. That one hurt."
Most of the interview finds Easton fondly reminiscing about life as a legit rock star, armed with hit records and sold-out tours. He's quick to shout out the band's biggest and most recognizable hits, but when pressed about his personal favorites, the guitarist is eager to talk about all things Panorama, the band's third album.
"After the success of the first two records, I didn’t expect Panorama to not sell as well," Easton pondered. "It did fine but not in relation to The Cars and Candy-O. That was a glitch. At the time, music writers considered it our experimental album and a departure from our first two albums. I still wouldn’t call it a failure, but I guess it was the wrong record for the wrong moment. But who can ever guess what people want at any moment? The tour was great, though. That’s one of those records that when people discover the Cars and want to go deep, they go to Panorama."
Panorama got more of Easton's love when asked which Cars album cut he wished had been a single.
"We had a song on Panorama called 'Misfit Kid.' Still wondering what I did!," he revealed, quoting the song's chorus. "I thought it really caught something and captured a certain moment. It shows you that the guys in the band have no idea what the label will pick, but I always wish the label had picked that song for radio."
Ultimately, Easton makes being in the Cars sound like the dream job it would seem to be.
"What a lot of people don’t realize about Ric is that he was a really funny guy, one of the funniest guys I’ve ever known," the guitarist recalled. "We’d have silly, surrealist conversations. Like one time he called me and said, “Hey, my father didn’t make that sock.” Instead of laughing, I’d give it right back to him. [Laughs.] We’d be roaring with laughter."