Album #43: “Heartbeat City” — The Cars (1984)
Thanks to MTV and their videos, the Cars hit their zenith in 1984 with their biggest commercial success, “Heartbeat City.” It was thanks to those videos that lead singer Ric Ocasek met future wife, model Paulina Porizkiva, (who starred in the video for “Drive”and who, one wag famously put, ruined it for all the models out there because now every grotesque geek thought they had a shot with a supermodel). It would also mark the start of the decline of the band, as long-simmering personality conflicts would end the group after their next album, the forgettable Door to Door.
There was nothing forgettable about Heartbeat City, however. Thanks to it’s five Top 40 hits — with one video directed by Timothy Hutton (the aforementioned “Drive”) and another by Andy Warhol (the cheestastic “Hello Again“) — they were a constant and pervasive presence in 1984.
“Magic,” the music video with Ocasek walking on water across a swimming pool, neatly summed up both the band’s creativity and the source of it’s creative tensions in one smooth metaphor. That song was forever cemented in my mind as well as we got drunk around my friend Rusty’s pool one perfect summer evening before going to see The Cars on tour. So too “Drive,” which, while it got played waaaay too often after my college girlfriend broke up with me that spring, reminds me more of Pittsburgh. “Drive” hit the charts just as I transferred to the Art Institute that fall, and even now I can’t play it without seeing the mercury-lit glow of the Pittsburgh skyline in all it’s Blade-Runneresque glory as we drove about after the clubs closed looking for Primanti Bros. I put this album on and I feel 20 again — and hungry.