I had no idea my first review of The Cars would be a hit here at Arena Rock and in the comments fellow blogger J asked for me to jot down some thoughts on one of J’s favourite Cars record and that would be 1984s Heartbeat City. This notes for you J!
HeartBeat City was the Cars 5th studio album since 1978s debut! That’s a pretty good run of material and well I’m sure some suits had something to do with Cars product being pushed out!
The big change for this record came in the producers chair! Roy Thomas Baker was replaced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and we all know Mutt Langes credits up to that point! (Pre 1984/3 AC/DC albums,2 Def Leppard Albums,Foriegners 4 Album) Pretty good rock run for Mutt I would say and here Mutt dabbles in some New Wavey Gravy Sonics called The Cars…
More impressive is the fact that the same 5 guys on the debut album from 78 are all still intact in 84! Kudos to Ric Ocasek,David Robinson,Elliot Easton,Greg Hawkes and Benjamin Orr(RIP).
HELLO AGAIN- the first 15 seconds of this tune with the vocals are right out of the Def Leppard Mutt Lange Songbook! This song has a quirky uptempo beat with Synthy piano,drums and Eastons guitar driving the chrous and at the halfway mark of the tune we got all the 80s bell and whistles and if you listen to Hello Again on the headphones you will be transported to a kinder gentler time we called 1984!
LOOKING FOR LOVE-Robinson’s drums set the pace for track 2 with Ocasek saying “c’mon lover make a switch!” Wowzers what’s going on here? Ha! The song shifts gears and picks up the pace only to shift back during the chorus! This had single written all over it but than agian when Mutt Lange puts his mitts on songs they are geared for the radio! (Except for Given The Dog A Bone by ACDC! Ha!) For The Cars though the sonics on Heartbbeat City are Mutt Fueled and well oiled to drive The Cars!*
MAGIC-dare I say it this is my fav Cars track ever!! Yep the snap happy Kiss Christine 16 like piano suckers me in Everytime! This is no exception! Orrs bass punctuates the end of each verse! Love the rhythm of Orr and Robinson! They are locked in tight! The chorus is splendid!(Magic!) Man,the backing vocals are so damn hooky and Eastons guitar Is allowed to be cranked up and he delivers! “Oh oh It’s Magic!” Easton rips out a great solo and the song ramps up to the end….Magic ,Yep call it a Arena Rock Classic! A song that you don’t want to end! Summer Time as Ocasek says in the opening sentence doesn’t matter if it’s summer 84 or 2015! This tune is Gold! Now watch the cool throwback video of Magic!
DRIVE-‘whose gonna drive the drunk girls home after the highschool dance?” This song was huge in 1984-85. Big slowly ballad but the drums kinda push it forward and Orr has the perfect vocal for this song! The sonics on this tune are huge 8 million things going on I the background during Hawkes key solo!
STRANGER EYES-Cars let it rip (kinda)on this tune! Big Easton power chords Rock the song at the beginning but he disappears during the verses! 80s bells and whistles take over and Easton joins the fray and i dig also Orrs bass line carrying the tune during the chorus!
YOU MIGHT THINK-whooooah! Who hasn’t heard this tune or seen the vid! Ha it’s awesome track! The chorus is catchy as heck with that ZZ Toppy 84 synth! This tune keeps the party going as Easton throws down a real cool laid back style solo!
ITS NOT THE NIGHT-a mixture of Easton and Hawkes mashing up the guitar and keys together. Orr sings this song and it’s a 80s technos wet dream complete with Synth,poppy hoppy bass,electronic drums and what nots of the day!
WHY CANT I HAVE YOU-a pretty heavy synth driven tune. That was there deal heavy on the synth sound that was big at the time but it’s in the songs! Ocasek could write tunes but he could write lyrically from a dark spot I mean it can’t always be happy,happy,joy,joy tunes all the time! Why Can’t I Have You is this dark place…tread carefully!
I REFUSE-The Cars pick up the pace with this track! Easton and the fellas tap into the ZZ Top synth and with the rumble of the keys this song is layered up in a 80s Sleeping Bag(ZZ anyone?) and spit out of the Cars blender!
HEARTBEAT CITY- Ha! How cool is that the title track is the last song on the album! Nobody ever does that! But the Cars did! Take me down to the Heartbeat City where the grass is green and the girls are geeky! Ok I’m being a smart ass but The Cars punch the gas a little and speed off into the distance on what would be there last mega huge selling album!
IN CONCLUSION-hard to believe like I mentioned earlier that this would be the Cars last big mega hit album and that it’s from 31 years ago! Of course thanks to Greatest Hits Compliations and Classic Rock Radio and other formats The Cars engine is still running today! ** This album I had not heard entirely until a few years ago when I picked it up at a Pawnshop along with Panorama and Shake It Up! ( will review those ones as well as Candy O at some point!)
Ocasek had a real flair for writing a memorable hook! Also what must be noted is that even Ocasek wrote all the songs on Heartbeat City he relinquished lead vocal duties to Orr on numerous songs throughout the Cars repitore!
* -Sap Comment 1
**- Sap Comment 2