Metal Guru

There is a great likelihood that Paloma and I will be purchasing a new vehicle between now and when the Mayans zap the planet with a giant ray gun.

(or something like that)

I confess that the process – the considerations and calculations of buying a new car – isn’t one that blows back my hair.

I can’t help but think of Jim, the father of a Chris, a high school buddy. Jim had a gig that often consisted of long hours and considerable stress, but he went about his days dutifully.

We all dug Jim and he seemed to envy our youthful antics, wistfully watching us engage in hi-jinks that we took for granted.

(not that he allowed anarchy, but he seemed to understand our need for room to screw up benignly)

He was an educated man who had been in school with Bob Dylan and the quiet of reading seemed to be his one indulgence.

So, my friends and I took note when his demeanor became more relaxed and his his banter with us became more lighthearted.

“He’s buying a car,” Chris explained.

More importantly, the car would essentially be Jim’s car with Chris’ mom getting dibs on the family Volkswagen (which she preferred).

I accompanied the two early one Saturday morning on a trip into the city. Jim was positively giddy.

We picked up the car – an early ’80s Volvo – and Chris and I drove the family car back home.

The transaction took place in a dodgy, decidedly un-Volvo part of the city and under rather sketchy circumstances, resulting in my friends and I amusing ourselves for years discussing the purchase.

(in truth, any possible illegalities were mere figments of our imaginations)

Jim loved that car and, behind the wheel, he was serene with an undercurrent of whimsy.

My friends and I referred to it as “Jim’s Car.”

But Jim was not possessive. It sometimes seemed that we had the car more than he did those last couple years of high school. He rarely balked when Chris asked to borrow it if we’d snagged tickets at the last minute to see Rush or if we simply wanted to be mall rats and roam record stores.

Then, Jim’s car was gone. He’d gotten some nondescript mid-’80s sedan as part of a job promotion and the Volvo was sold.

Perhaps fittingly, Chris and I totaled the new Interlopermobile while home for Christmas break as college freshmen.

Paloma once declared The Cars to be a perfect band for summer and I’m inclined to agree with her. So, in honor of cars – past, present, and future – here are four songs by The Cars…

The Cars – Moving In Stereo
from The Cars (1978)

I asked Paloma for some of her favorite songs by The Cars and Moving In Stereo was the first one that she named.

It’s a classic track by the band and one that I haven’t been able to hear since 1982 and not immediately picture Phoebe Cates climbing out of a pool.

The Cars – Touch And Go
from Panorama (1980)

Moody and menacing, Touch And Go wasn’t one of The Cars’ biggest hits, but Paloma also named it as a favorite from the band and it’s always been a favorite of mine, too.

The Cars – Since You’re Gone
from Shake It Up (1981)

Shake It Up was released right around the time that music was becoming a casual obsession for me and though the title track was a massive hit that got played into the ground, I rarely heard Since You’re Gone, the album’s follow-up single.

The chant-like chorus is just one of the things that hooks me in this pop masterpiece of melancholia and, though many of The Cars’ songs have temporarily worn out their welcome, I’ve never tired of Since You’re Gone over the past thirty years.

The Cars – Magic
from Heartbeat City (1984)

The Cars seem like such a summer band to me because during the summer of 1984, Heartbeat City was – with Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA and Prince’s Purple Rain – the sound of that summer.

And nothing on Heartbeat City was more summer than Magic. The song was released as school was ending and it seemed to be on the radio constantly.

And if Magic wasn’t on the radio, the video – which climaxed with lead singer Ric Ocasek walking on pool water – was on MTV. Even now, no matter what the season, I hear Magic and it’s summer for four minutes.

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3 Responses to Metal Guru

  1. kblumenau says:

    “Drive” is the Cars song that most evokes that year for me — though I think it was an early fall hit more than a summer hit.
    “Since You’re Gone” is probably my favorite of theirs, though.

    • barelyawakeinfrogpajamas says:

      Yeah, I’d put Drive high up on my list of songs by The Cars, but I’ve posted it before and thought I’d go with some different songs.

  2. J.A. Bartlett says:

    I also came here to cast a ballot for “Drive,” and just as “Magic” typifies the summer of ’84, so “Let’s Go” does the summer of ’79 for me.

    “Moving in Stereo” was the first song we played on our college radio station after we started broadcasting in stereo.

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