Patterico's Pontifications


Ric Ocasek, 1944 – 2019

Filed under: General — JVW @ 10:56 pm

[guest post by JVW]

When I was a teenaged boy growing up in my little Southwest town in the early 80s, you listened to one of two genres of music: country & western or rock & roll. The New Wave hadn’t quite made it to our corner of the world, apart from the handful of girls who had older sisters attending hip universities and were thus clued in to the Cure or the English Beat or other groups like that, and perhaps a few guys who wanted to hang out with those girls. As for the rest of us dudes, if it wasn’t Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin or Iron Maiden, then it had better be Johnny Cash or Alabama or George Strait. I confess that there wasn’t a whole lot of horizon-broadening going on in those formative years.

But for some reason even if you worshipped AC/DC or thought that Waylon & Willie was where it was at, it was perfectly acceptable to think that the Cars were a pretty cool group. For whatever reason, a bunch of small-town teenagers took to the quirky pop sound of these rather geeky guys, even if they did use synthesizers a little bit more than we thought necessary. Maybe we heard a little bit of heroic guitar playing from Elliot Easton, similar to what our idols like Tony Iommi and Jimmy Page were doing. Maybe we liked the weird and funny videos, especially the magnificent one for their big hit “You Might Think” which seemed to be in nonstop rotation on MTV (back when that station played music videos) for my entire freshman year. Maybe we just recall the scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High which made such great use of the band’s “Moving in Stereo” and therefore automatically loved the band by default. In any case, there was no shame in being a Cars fan, even if you were playing their cassette tape in your Sony Walkman in rotation with Ozzy, Bruce, or Dolly.

Until I saw his obituary earlier today, I had no idea that Cars guitarist and main lead singer Richard Theodore (“Ric”) Ocasek was 75 years old (six months younger than my mother) and that he and Cars bassist and occasional lead singer Benjamin Orr first started playing together in 1968, a year before I was born. They just seemed so perfectly Eighties to me that I can barely fathom that Ocasek actually predates the Baby Boomers and that by the time the band was at its commercial zenith he had reached middle age. The Cars came together as a band sometime in the bicentennial year of 1976, and they didn’t last beyond 1988, the year I graduated from high school and set out for college. They had one brief reunion in 2010-11 which produced a new album and a tour, though Orr’s death ten years earlier had left a large hole in the original lineup, and then once again went their separate ways. In a year where both the Rolling Stones and the Who have celebrated their 55-plus year anniversaries with massive world tours, the relative brevity of the Cars’ run is notable and perhaps in its own way poetic.

Ric Ocasek fronted one of the most memorable bands of the New Wave era with a catalog of catchy tunes, pretty much all of which are love songs which is ironic considering the band came off as so arch and emotionally detached. He married one of the most beautiful supermodels of the day, making him a role model for geeky boys going through that seemingly never-ending awkward phase. He had the good sense not to join the new model of the band after Orr died, showing respect for the Cars’ past and refusing to cash in for a quick buck. When he did get the original guys (minus Orr) back together, he did so the right way: by first recording a new album rather than flogging the reunion as an oldies act with a four-week residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. And whenever I hear his music to this day, a part of me is once again that fifteen-year-old kid with his whole life ahead of him. May he rest in peace.

You might have forgot
The journey ends
You tied your knots
And you made your friends
You left the scene
Without a trace
One hand on the ground
One hand in space


26 Responses to “Ric Ocasek, 1944 – 2019”

  1. One cruel aspect of getting old is seeing all of your favorite entertainers from your youth die.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  2. Another icon gone. Multi-talented artist.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  3. Yes, it does suck, JVW. No other way to describe it. I remember wearing out my cassette of Candy-O, loved it.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  4. I have to confess that I didn’t consider The Cars much more than pop radio fodder – some of the more listenable and less irritating pop radio fodder, to be sure, but still.

    But their songs were tightly crafted and aged well, and that’s an indication that maybe I underrated them.

    Sorry to see another legendary artist pass, and condolences to his children and family.

    Dave (1bb933)

  5. A beautifully written post, JVW.

    mg (8cbc69)

  6. Sad, the Cars did age well and well P.P. was a great prize who doesnt hooch around on the gram like Liz Hurley for example. And don’t forget the came out of a great 70s Boston music scene that gave us the eponymous band and Peter Wolf/J. Geils Band.

    urbanleftbehind (e008cb)

  7. Titanic talent. such hook-laden music. Nobody else was doing what they were doing. Ocasek/Orr was a terrific partnership.

    JRH (52aed3)

  8. good post; I remember the videos from a fledgling, music-oriented MTV, even if I was already too old to be in their target market; always enjoyed the sound

    rcw3000 (dbe57f)

  9. JVW, I found out that Ric Ocasek produced “Never Say Never” by Romeo Void. THAT was 1982, friends.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  10. “And don’t forget the came out of a great 70s Boston music scene that gave us the eponymous band and Peter Wolf/J. Geils Band.”

    But please don’t hold that against them.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  11. I did leave one notable dinosaur act out on purpose, Col.

    urbanleftbehind (5eecdb)

  12. Teh Standells?

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  13. I did leave one notable dinosaur act out on purpose, Col.

    Aw, the guys from New Edition aren’t that old.

    Uh, that is who you meant, right? It’s not as if there are any Masshole oldie acts fronted by giant-mouth white guys bedecked in scarves or anything.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  14. Ding ding ding, JVW. And I’m not risking a beatdown by age-appropriate potential female companions by impugning New Edition’s even more famous white boy counterparts either.

    urbanleftbehind (880a4c)

  15. Great post.

    DRJ (15874d)

  16. Wasn’t heavy into their music but I do own a nice white vinyl EP of Good Times Roll.×300/filters:strip_icc():format(jpeg):mode_rgb():quality(40)/discogs-images/R-522746-1128348730.jpeg.jpg

    harkin (58d012)

  17. Nice!

    Here are two of my faves live… both showcase the band, especially guitarist Easton…

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  18. I’m fascinated by couples that are physical mismatches–Ric Ocasek and Paulina Porizkova, Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts, Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie. Men and women sure are wired differently.

    norcal (2d0ff6)

  19. norcal, I cannot really understand such things. But in grad school, there was a woman who worked at the student newspaper who was simply stunning, funny, and was kind and thoughtful. So one Friday night, a bunch of us were out at a Mexican restaurant. And I had too much to drink.

    I was seated next to her, and I couldn’t help it. “Why are you with him?,” I asked, meaning her missing boyfriend. Her boyfriend (later husband) was completely average.

    I’ll never forget what she did next.

    She patted me on the arm, looked into my eyes, and said “It’s the way he looks at me, no matter what.”

    I have never forgotten that.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  20. Simon I hope you were past the legal limit bro because lol that question is horrible.

    And Paulina Porza-azure-eyes was an 11.

    harkin (58d012)

  21. 18 — Many years ago I read Paulina quoted as saying that she had always been fascinated by Spock, and she said “I kinda married him.”

    Radegunda (1ad3e8)

  22. She patted me on the arm, looked into my eyes, and said “It’s the way he looks at me, no matter what.”

    And here I thought it was going to be the punchline to the infamous story of when Louis B. Mayer asked Ava Gardner what she saw in Frank Sinatra.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  23. Some things you’re better off not Googling:

    When director John Ford asked what [Ava Gardner] saw in the “runty, 120 lbs.” Sinatra, she supposedly replied, “110 lbs. is cock,” a remark she later disowned.

    My dear comrades, if men knew women’s minds, we’d still be in the Garden of Eden.

    nk (dbc370)

  24. Oh, I thought it was Louis B. Mayer who had asked Ms. Gardner that question. Thanks for the correction.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  25. I’m sorry I let my curiosity get the better of me.

    nk (dbc370)

  26. Simon,

    I love that story.

    norcal (2d0ff6)

Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.2232 secs.