The Cars: Candy-O DLX RM US CD 
- Let’s Go
- Since I Held You
- It’s All I Can Do
- Double Life
- Shoo Be Doo
- Night Spots
- You Can’t Hold On Too Long
- Lust For Kicks
- Got A Lot On My Head
- Dangerous Type
- Let’s Go [monitor mix]
- Candy-O [Northern Studios version]
- Night Spots [Northern Studios version]
- Lust For kicks [monitor mix]
- They Won’t See You [Northern Studios version]
- That’s It [B-side “Let’s Go”]
When I received this CD as a birthday gift recently, I was most interested in revisiting the second Cars album. The first album I had been exposed to continually on the FM-Rock of 1978 so I knew it forwards and backwards. I’ve had the 2xCD DLX RM for many years now. I once owned this album on LP as well as the less successful followup, “Panorama.” The latter album didn’t get played a lot, but the songs themselves had enormous staying power. Looking at the titles almost 40 years later, it was effortless to recall each song. “Candy-O” was more of a mystery. I only owned a copy for four to five years before it met its fate in The Great Vinyl Purge of 1985. Since The Cars were a very popular group who got airplay, my attention was more focused on the core collection bands I favored in the late 70s/early 80s [you know the drill: Ultravox, JAPAN, OMD, John Foxx…] to the exclusion of bands like The Cars who I was less invested in.
The album began with its biggest hit right in the pole position. “Let’s Go” was the band’s first Top 20 hits, and looking back, it’s almost scandalous that for all of the airplay the first album got, they never cracked the Top 20 with any of its singles. This time they made it all the way to #14 in the US Billboard survey. It was a streamlined pop hit with the requisite New Wave backbeat that was all the rage in the late 70s. Greg Hawkes synth hook was direct and memorable so they were going for a hit here. At least they got a reasonable one with it. The production by Roy Thomas Baker was clean and less overstuffed with his penchant for stacked harmonies this time around. If the lyrical concerns of a guy obsessed with a teenaged girl who holds him at arm’s length was a little cliché, the band’s solid performance counted for something.
While all of the songs here, with the exception of “Night Spots” were fresh material written after the first album came out and was a hit, I would have sweared that “Since I Held You” had been something that had been kicking around since 1975 or so in the Ocasek or Orr notebooks. It sounded very pre-punk in its demeanor. As it sounded less modern than the first album, that left it the odd one out, here. The second single was another Orr-sung tune. “It’s All I Can Do” with hooky stop-start rhythm a lazy melody line that I can’t decide if it is a guitar or a synth. The plaintive pop of this one stalled just outside of the Top 40 at #41. That was America’s loss.
“Double Life” was where things started to get more interesting. Until I was reading about this album, I had no idea that this was even a single in America at all, but it was in several other territories, including Japan, from there the sleeve image next to this paragraph came from. It’s been noted that The Cars were sort of America’s answer to Roxy Music. Yeah, so they had glammed out femmes on their sleeves, it’s true, but on this track is where the depth of that notion takes root. As much as Roxy pioneered post-modernism within rock, The Cars proved to be adept students of the masters since “Double Life” was very much the sound of the band mixing and matching from various eras of rock to create a brilliant pastiche of a loping, Everly Brothers sort of tune, right down to the lazy guitar lines of Elliot Easton at a little over a minute into the song. Yet the first two lines of the lyric had been cribbed from beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Lost Parents” and the song had its jaunty pace down to the CR-78 rhythm box that just chugged away as it does. And Ben Orr was playing bass synth further pulling the eras being referenced like taffy. Like Roxy Music, this song proffered the 50s, 70s, and prefigured the 80s coming like a freight train.
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I love The Cars, and Candy-O is my favorite album. Yes, the first one has *those* hits, but Candy is like candy to my ears. It’s so consistent.
The melody line on All I Can Do is definitely a synth. (I say this as one who has spent hours attempting Cars covers on my bank of vintage era-appropriate synths.)
jsd – “The Cars” sidles up to the New Wave line in the sand, but “Candy-O” refuses to play coy and goes all the way.
to me, the Cars had some new wave elements in some of their songs, their looks,
but other than that, they were much more a rock band. i spent several
pages of debating this with other people on forums, who insisted that
they were a ‘new wave band’. more like post-punk, but it depends
on the album and the songs. they were pretty much a pop-band
by the the time ‘shake it up’, and ‘heartbeat city’ came out.
their lack of remixes (except for ‘hello again’), lack of single releases
and b-sides, and heavy rotation on AOR and rock stations guarenteed
they weren’t play on top 40 stations until much later in their career.
never heard ‘moving in stereo’ or ‘best friends girlfriend’ or many of
their other singles on top 40 radio ever. not that the rock and roll
hall of fame inclusion cements anything, but thats where they
belong. not in any kind of ‘new wave’ hall, where i think they
used for the trend and looks, despite a few songs withy
they are almost never included on any new wave compilation
i’ve ever owned or seen. although i’m sure there are some out
negative1ne – I consider the debut a great Pop Rock album. Not really a New Wave record. In 1978 New Wave was DEVO, Talking Heads, Pere Ubu, Lene Lovich, and even The Police. It’s important to remember that context gives meaning and nuance to everything. In the context of 1978, The Cars were perceived as New Wave because next to Molly Hatchet or Led Zeppelin – it was practically Punk! I’m here to tell you that the first and second Tom Petty + The Heartbreakers albums were considered New Wave within the context of FM Rock because it was a new band in 1978… must be New Wave, right? Even Dire Straits [hey they were British in 1978 – New Wave again!] were viewed through that lens in the FM AOR radio business, but this was over and done with by 1979. Tom Petty and Dire Straits would be subsumed into AOR rock with forays into Top 40 going forward and no one would mistake them for New Wave in a thousand years going forward.
But The Cars second album was mostly New Wave. They consciously moved in that direction and boy, did it sound like it on “Candy-O” and also on “Panorama.” But “Panorama” sold poorly in comparison, so in an OMD-like move, they triangulated to move to the Pop Rock sound that they finished out their career with. So after 1980, I’d agree 100% with your hypothesis. Totally not New Wave. They had gotten that out of their system and had moved on. Remixes were’t much of a part of New Wave until the end [’81-’83]. The Cars did have a couple of non-LP B-sides. Not a lot, but American bands didn’t do that nearly as much as British bands of the era.
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Summer 1979, sophomore year in High School in the bag and time to spend time working in my grandfather’s (in)famous Indian Restaurant in midtown just off Broadway during the lunch rush. Changed out of my black and whites and onto the steamy streets of Manhattan with tips money burning a hole in my pocket, I would walk a few blocks up to Colony records and savage the stacks or take the N train down to 8th Street and hit the import record stores.
Everyday I would arrive back home in Queens with a record bag under my arm, causing my grandmother, on a fairly regular basis, to say, “…don’t you already have a record?” Candy-O was one of the first records I bought that summer and it got played every single day – so much so that my mother actually remarked she liked “that All I Can Do song.” This initially shocked and offended me, but I quickly put it to my ability to influence my parents, like any modern teen should.
Playing All I Can Do as I write this, I’m realizing I know every word, every cadence, every harmony. It’s a timeless Pop song.
Double Life is one of my favorite of all of The Cars songs. The steam engine sound of Dave Robinson Motorik drums, Elliot Easton’s effects laden guitar and the songs shimmy shimmy beat are brilliant. Greg Hawkes toys with some Peter Gabriel-esque synth rhythms and then the song dissolves into one of The Cars most fascinating musical moments…
Echorich – Sounds like a wonderful youth you had there, chum. I only got close to that sort of ideal when I worked two blocks up the street from Murmur Records in 1987 and would often walk there during lunch and invest in CDs. But to be in NYC with all of that import record action in the store that I could barely imagine the likes of right when things were popping big time must have been amazing. In Orlando, even the best stores I visited at the time, might have had 2-3 bins of imports at best. Of course, Record City Fern Park was an exception, but I only found out about that place [which might have been in the next state to my teenaged self] when I was a college freshman. I remember my friend Jayne taking me there [she worked part time there] and being amazed at a whole store row with nothing but imports!!! That was easily eight to ten times the volume of import stock I had been used to in bucolic South Orlando.