Top 10 Benjamin Orr Cars Songs
Ric Ocasek’s icy-cool vocals got most of the attention, but this list of Top 10 Benjamin Orr Cars Songs shows just how important his warm, inviting voice was to the band. Born in Lakewood, Ohio in 1947, Orr plunged into music at an early age, playing in local bands like the Grasshoppers, who had a local hit with the song ‘Mod Sox‘ in 1965. After a chance meeting with Ocasek in the late ’60s, the duo formed a musical partnership that would serve them well in the coming decade. Their two distinct voices couldn’t have been more different, but – as this Top 10 Benjamin Orr Cars Songs makes clear – it would take styles to define the Cars’ sound.
‘Don’t Tell Me No’
This rocker from the third Cars album oozes attitude, with a forceful Benjamin Orr vocal riding on top of a slightly dark groove. Exactly what “It’s my hopscotch, light the torch” means, we’re not sure, but Orr convincingly makes it seem important. Though “Don’t Tell Me No” never really cuts loose or breaks the tension, it holds your ears nonetheless. The electronic drums, which often add a dated element to records from this era, actually decorate this one nicely.
‘It’s All I Can Do’
One of the Cars’ most straightfoward love songs, “It’s All I Can Do” has all the signature elements in place: linear keyboard, simple drums and shiny yet gritty guitars. Despite being released as a single (a missing the Top 40 by a hair), it has been somewhat forgotten over the years. Give “It’s All I Can Do” another spin and you’ll see it stands proudly alongside the band’s best material.
‘Don’t Go To Pieces’
This gets our vote for the best, yet least known, Cars song. “Don’t Go To Pieces” appeared only as the b-side of their 1981 single “Gimme Some Slack” and was never heard from again. An incessantly catchy guitar riff is the star here, but everything else falls right into place. Benjamin Orr’s bass part is the lifeblood to the rhythm, and truly makes it all work.
One of the Cars’ biggest hits, “Drive” is also one of Orr’s signature vocals. This ballad from the 1984 album Heartbeat City scored big time at radio and MTV, pulling into the No. 4 spot in the Billboard charts that summer. Besides Orr’s voice, most of the usual Cars elements are missing, and the super gloss production of Mutt Lange ultimately makes it sound a bit dated. Fans ate it up though, making it a genuine worldwide smash hit.
Another in a long line of catchy-as-can-be songs, “Let’s Go” kicks off album No. 2 for the Cars. The simple keyboard line, crunchy guitars and driving rhythm make for a great pop song. It’s very much of its era, and would come to stand as a prime example of what many thought of when the words “new wave” were uttered. The teen appeal lyrics, sung to perfection by Benjamin Orr, seal the deal.
‘Bye Bye Love’
The entire second side of the Cars’ debut unfolds in much the same way as the second side of the Bealtes‘ Abbey Road, with each song flowing right into the next. “Bye Bye Love,” the second track, shares not only the title of a great Everly Brothers classic, but also the same great pop spirit. The song bounces along with surging verses and irresistible chorus. Though never released as a single, the song has been a mainstay at classic-rock radio since it was released.
‘Moving In Stereo’
It wouldn’t be stepping out of line to call the first Cars album perfect: It is one of the most focused and complete debut albums of all time, featuring bouncy pop rockers and headier numbers such as this piece de resistance. “Moving In Stereo” features a dynamic lead vocal from Benjamin Orr. He sings obscure lines like, “Life’s the same, except for my shoes,” but somehow delivers them convincingly. The atmospheric mood of the track puts the listener in a late night, post-psychedelic haze. Of course, the song is forever famous for its use in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
The title cut from the Cars’ sophomore album is a short, but oh-so-sweet little rocker. Bursting out of the preceding, Suicide-influenced electronic tune “Shoo Be Doo,” “Candy-O” jumps out and immediately grabs you. Benjamin Orr’s vocals are caught somewhere between a Jim Morrison croon and a John Lennon snarl, which fits the song like a glove. Add another superb guitar solo from Elliot Easton, and we have a winner!
‘All Mixed Up’
The ending track on the Cars’ debut LP remains one of their finest moments. The haunting mood created on this track has no equal in the band’s catalog. Orr’s vocal is full of yearning, confusion and drama. Throw in some layered Queen-like back-up vocals (no coincidence since producer Roy Thomas Baker was behind the board) and you have a perfect ending to a perfect album. The smoky sax solo at song’s end sends us off into the night.
‘Just What I Needed’
“Just What I Needed” was probably the first thing most listeners heard from the Cars, and a better starting point would be hard to find. Released as a single in the spring of 1978, the song made it up to No. 27 and paved the way for what would follow. It is still, in many ways, the definitive Cars song and has lost none of its zest over the years. Benjamin Orr’s perfect vocal completes a piece of three-minute pop perfection, the way it was meant to be.