Archive for the ‘cars’ Tag

Mad Men — Once in a Lifetime

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

My superfan mix, set to Talking Heads. Watch it now before it gets pulled! Final episodes start tomorrow!

[50/50] Song #36: “Cars”

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Song #36: “Cars” — Gary Numan (1979)

Barry: “You wouldn’t know our influences, they’re mostly German.”
Rob: “Try me. Falco? Kraftwerk? Hasselhoff?”— High Fidelity

thepleasureprinciple12I was always more New Wave than Punk. Not that I fit into either camp comfortably at the time, but give me a skinny tie, a DX-7 and too much hair gel any day. Whatever else I was listening to, I kept finding myself drawn back to Devo, Kraftwerk, Flock of Seagulls, The Vapors, The Flying Lizards and — Gary Numan.

Gary Numan arrived on the U.S. charts fully formed as a solo artist with “The Pleasure Principle” and it’s sole hit single, so we Americans completely missed out on the earlier, darker works of his British band Tubeway Army. Then again, “Cars” was designed to be a hit, tailor made to catch the lighter New Wave that had superseded punk, and heralding the arrival of technopop. It certainly didn’t sound like anything else on the radio. As blooger D. C. F. Pegritz put it:

…the Polymoog lead in “Cars” was the first truly alien, truly synthetic sound I ever remember hearing in popular music. It literally sounded like nothing else on Earth. The song was really quite basic, almost minimalistic…but it was built from shiny silver parts of seemingly alien manufacture. ….  “Cars” was indicative of a kind of music that seemed to come from a place much further away in space and time than England. Gary Numan was some kind of time-traveller from a bizarre, machine-dominated future cast adrift in the late 20th Century, but he’d brought back with him instruments from his own millennium.

Leaving a party at a nearby friend’s house one night, buzzed from drinking malt duck (that unfortunate beverage of choice of high schoolers at the time), “Cars” came on the radio just as I started up the Tank, and accompanied me on the short drive home. I blasted it out of my shitty, blown-out speakers with gusto, but I also knew I was listening to it in the wrong vehicle — I should have been driving this. “Cars” was from a universe I knew I’d never be allowed to live in, but could visit while the song was on.

[50/50] Song #48: “Sausalito Summernight”

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Song #48: “Sausalito Summernight”—Diesel (1981)

ford-custom-500-09Ahhh yes, the One-Hit Wonder. A band you’ve never heard of (and never will again) suddenly blasts out of your radio with a song made of pure earworm and instantly etches itself on a time and place. Such was “Sausalito Summernight,” which ironically peaked in the top 40 in the midst of a particularly cold winter my senior year in high school as I hauled around in a 1964 Ford Custom 500 I’d inherited from my grandfather. “The Tank” had a shitty transistor radio with speakers that blew out if you played it too loud — which was always the case when this tune came on — but I didn’t care. I had a car. I had a solid American car with a V8 engine that would go on to survive at least three crashes in a year, including the infamous drag race with Darrell Smith across the school parking lot. (A friend who was following us swears he saw the bottom of my car as I caromed off the low retaining wall that folded the right front wheel up into the engine block.) A tow job, a few replacement steering rods, and it was back in business. They don’t make them like that anymore.

They don’t make sweet, goofy songs like this any more either. Leave it to the Dutch to capture a perfectly American experience, the out-of-control road trip, with wailing rock ‘n’ roll guitar. While Diesel’s sole American hit had an infectious hook, clearly it was the lyrics that got to me, as it perfectly (and prophetically it turned out) captured my epic bad luck with cars.