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Entry date: 3-20-2024 – Meetings to Meet and do Meeting Stuff – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

Wednesdays begin and end with meetings for me, at least while I am at work. It makes for a long-ish day. Our balance of meetings that are good and helpful to those that are just meetings for the sake of meeting is pretty outstanding based on my career history for meetings.

 

The first time I remember being part of meetings for the sake of meeting was when I worked for Courtesy Chevrolet. There were regular meetings that often had nothing to do with me, so I would devise ways to take the message of the meeting and spin it in a funny way with a label maker I found one day. If there was a slogan I could mock, I would make little labels and stick them in conspicuously inconspicuous places.

 

When I got to Casa in 1998, we would have meetings fairly often, too, but these were rarely a waste of time. At least the ones that were in-house. I went to a ton of meetings, though, with other agencies and with funders and potential funders. Many of these were abject lessons in how to doodle and daydream. Perhaps I should have paid more attention but I’m guessing I paid just enough attention.

 

Every once in a while, I could make a good connection at these things, but rarely were they worth the time or mileage to get there. I bet I spent 5% of my time at Casa in some sort of meeting that could easily have been an email. Those were hours I could have been way more productive.

 

I’m sure some of you, dear readers, feel my pain. When I was in corporate America, there were a ton of meetings that were completely unnecessary. Whenever I was the boss, I made sure that my folks got something out of our meetings, even if it was a safe place to bitch. Being a leader means taking it on the chin for the higher ups sometimes.

 

I’m sure today’s meetings will be very good, though, and fruitful.

 

*****

 

Day two of no Cocaine Baby was nice, although we took our class picture today and I would have loved to see him there and in the photo. I need proof of his existence. He is real, damn it.

 

*****

 

Somewhere out there, my old friend, Matt, is having a birthday today. We were friends in grade school and stayed in touch in high school, too. We lost touch after that, and I’ve mentioned him before a few times. Probably the last two years on March 20th.

 

It’s weird to think that on this day, for the last forty plus years, I have thought about him. That’s a long time to be wishing someone well on their birthday. Much of that time has been unrequited, I suppose, by definition. I hope he knows, though, that I still wish him well.

 

Today’s record choice was really inspired by him. Here it is:

 

*****

 

One of the best things a friend can do is share music. This is kind of one of those tales. My best friend in junior high was a dude named Matt. He hosted me for many a sleepover and he was a fan of quite a few bands, but the one I remember him liking the most was the Cars.

 

Now I liked the Cars a lot, but because of the friendly rivalry that friends sometimes have, I wouldn’t admit back then. I thought the bands I liked were better. It was kind of the same with several friends I had back in those days. I was a budding music snob, but I was blissfully unaware of the term. I would grow to embrace it, though, in a few short years.

 

 

When I think of the Cars, though, I think of sitting in Matt’s bedroom and him showing me his new copy of The Cars on vinyl. I think we may have giggled a bit about the picture of the pretty girl holding the opaque steering wheel. We also had to be a little late to the party, too, as it wasn’t 1978 at this point. It was more like 1981.

 

Flash forward to about a decade or so ago, I never owned a Cars record on vinyl, but Rhondi started picking them up. I had a Best Of CD, I think, that I got when I signed up for one of those 10 CDs for $1 schemes. I don’t even want to know how much I owe Columbia House. I’m so glad Rhondi added some Cars to our collection.

 

The Cars is a great record. From the opening riff of “Let the Good Times Roll” to the last notes of “All Mixed Up,” it is perfect example of a new, but great, band flexing its fucking muscles. If you think about it, this is really a rock and roll supergroup.

 

Ric Ocasek was such a great songwriter and unlikely front man, but he wasn’t alone in, pardon the pun, making the Cars go. When he passed away in 2019, he left behind a huge legacy of great and interesting songs. The Cars were never boring, that’s for sure.

 

Elliot Easton is an excellent, if underappreciated, guitarist. His leads on The Cars are instantly memorable and the guy jammed with a ton of great people over the years. The interplay between his guitar and Ocasek’s is as good as any lead and rhythm guitarists in rock and roll history.

 

 

Benjamin Orr was a tremendous lead singer in his own right and a more than capable bass player, although he was not flashy at all. Solid bass players who can sing are flashy enough, in my not so humble opinion. Apparently, he and Ocasek were great friends and met in the 1960s. I had no idea.

 

Rounding out the band were drummer David Robinson and keyboardist Greg Hawkes. Robinson was a member of The Modern Lovers (with personal fave, Jonathan Richman), and Hawkes’ keyboard work on The Cars is another reason the album is so freaking memorable. Hawkes set the standard for how the keyboard could be used in New Wave music in the 80s. Both Hawkes and Robinson, as well as Easton, provided backing vocals, too, which added an extra level to the bands’ refined sound.

 

It's really impressive to listen to the songs on The Cars and think that this was their debut album. These songs are fucking classics, for God’s sake. “Good Times Roll” is as great an opening song as there is, to be honest, and even if you are not a die-hard Cars fan, you can’t help but groove to it at least a little.

 

When “My Best Friend’s Girl” comes on next, it just feels seamless. Aside from the iconic guitar intro with handclaps, almost everyone can identify with the sentiment of this song. Teenage boys inevitably have some sort of feelings for one of their best friends’ girlfriends at some point and people have been known to go from one friend to another. I’m sure it’s the same for teenage girls. Imagine all the times this was requested at radio stations over the years with the intention of letting somebody’s girlfriend or boyfriend know they were admired and/or missed.

 

Orr takes over on “Just What I Needed” and there is nothing jarring at all about the change in lead vocals. What a luxury for a band to have two more than capable lead vocalists. I’ve always loved the timing of the intro, too. I don’t know how many times I counted it to make sure it was what I thought I was hearing. Hawkes’ keyboard work on this one is fantastic, too.

 

“I’m in Touch with Your World” is very DEVO-esque and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. It’s quirky and probably got skipped a lot back in the day by people who wanted to hear “the hits,” but I think it’s great, even with its silly rhymes.

 

“Don’t Cha Stop” has some killer guitar in it, too. It’s like proto-New Wave if that’s a thing. The Cars were so influential to the California new wave bands of the early 80s. This song could have easily been on the Valley Girl soundtrack if the Cars weren’t too big at the time. Another great contribution by Hawkes and Easton on this one and Robinson’s drums are pretty damn good.

 

Side Two starts off with another well-known Ocasek classic, “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” before a trio of Orr songs round out the record. I can remember this one being played on the radio when I was a lot younger and it seemed to be a favorite at junior high dances, too. There is something a little cheesy about it, I have to admit, but not in a bad way.

 

Orr’s “Bye Bye Love” is a really good song, though. Not cheesy at all and I dig Orr’s bassline here, too. He wrote this one in such a way that he could do interesting stuff when he wasn’t singing (bass player/singer trick) and the song seems a lot more intricate than it really is. The lyrics are great, as well.

 

 

“Moving in Stereo” might be my favorite Cars song. This could be a subliminal thing because of its use in the movie, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, when Phoebe Cates, well, if you know, you know. Cut me some slack, I was going on 13 when that came out. Anyway, though, “Moving in Stereo” is just a great song. Hawkes’ keyboards are all over this one and the interplay between Orr’s super stripped-down bass and Robinson’s subtle march beat is great. Apparently, it was one of the last songs Nirvana played live, too. I had no idea. Great. Fucking. Song.

 

The album closes with “All Mixed Up” which, at first, seems like a bit of an anomaly. It has a very different feel than the rest of the album, sounding like this big proggy anthem. It kind of is, too, with the style that Hawkes employs on the keyboards, but then it does rock it up a bit around the halfway point. Whoever adds the baritone backing vocal sounds a bit like Peter Murphy, too. I wonder what a Bauhaus cover of “All Mixed Up” would sound like? Sadly, we’ll never know.

 

What a great record, though. I should have got a copy back in 6th or 7th grade when I realized I liked it.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow. Let’s meet.



Night crawling.

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