Visiting the Heartbeat City: The Cars Magnum Opus
By Richard Foreman
If the iconic imagery of a ’74 Plymouth Duster and Rosie the Riveter’s spunky, gear-head little sister didn’t reel you in back in ’84, then chances are, you overlooked the finest album the 1980′s had to offer. Rick Ocasek and the band said “Hello Again”, but after losing ground with Panorama and having to go into overdrive with Shake It Up, The Cars crowning achievement became a musical phantom of the radio.
“Magic”, with a few guitar and synth licks that would find success on other band’s spell-binding albums that decade, was followed by the MTV hit video-producing “Drive”, was the perfect complement to 1982′s hit, “Heat of the Moment”, with deeper lyrical content, but failed to set the mind of the listener aflame. “Stranger Eyes” baritone, pulsing beat, perfect for midnight speed contests with memories and the mysteries of life, only garnered a glance as it played at local record stores.
You might think I’m crazy, but the opening line of side 2, accompanied by the quintessential 80′s radio hit synthesizer turned bass, did not keep it going for this group, five albums into their successful contract with Elektra Records. It wasn’t for lack of effort for either party.
The dramatic riffs that carried “It’s Not the Night” never found their way onto blockbuster soundtracks featuring the top guns of Hollywood, just the mood.
Decades later, Heartbeat City stands testament to the inspirational, forward-thinking genius of a band never truly given its due. Any one of these songs could be released today, and would obtain Grammy nominations within a minute of its streaming online. I’ll always recommend vinyl, but even a casual listening on Youtube would sufficiently hook you on the addicting compositions that 1984 may have been able to suppress, but not this listener’s memory. I do refuse to stop the trip through Heartbeat City.
By Richard Foreman
Sometimes, a record will reveal something to you in its seductive vinyl grooves that an aluminum disc never could, and that the interference-ridden radio waves never will. And that magic is found in the dark creases of The Cars’ Candy-O. Not only is the Pin-Up style of the calendar-sized cover an invitation to teenage fantasies of steel beasts streaking burnt rubber to orgasm, but the music of Rick Ocasek and Co. lead you down the flashing pinball arcade lights of Classic Rock, upgraded to a super sport custom of Post-Punk speed and the smooth-shifting flair of New Wave. If you’ve never given this Mach 2 model a spin, then you’ve never experienced the glory of ’79.