The Cars — Moving in Movies (while thinking about Ric Ocasek)

When Eddie Money died last week, I thought about the Topher Grace movie that took its name from his hit Take Me Home Tonight. It was a fun movie, that got horrible reviews. Now, you don’t think of Eddie Money as having a lot of songs in film. You think of bar bands covering one of his hits. Money did write a few original songs for some films, but they were all flops.

When The Cars lead singer Ric Ocasek died today, I thought about all the albums and CDs of theirs I had, and the one time I saw them in concert. I also thought about how they’re one of those bands that’s so great, I put them in the category as some of my other all-time favorite bands in one sense. They’re so good, you can’t pick a favorite song. I can’t tell you my favorite Doors, Beatles, Zeppelin, Kinks, or Van Morrison track, because I love too many. And if I had to pick a favorite Cars song, I might say “Candy-O” (in fact I did today, on someone’s post of the story). Yet then I thought…well, I might like Dangerous Type more. Oh wait….Moving in Stereo and I’m Not the One are terrific.  No, Since You’re Gone. The way that guitar fades in and starts, and….wait, what about Gimme Some Slack? That might be one of the best rock songs ever, and it wasn’t even played on the radio!

Now, I can tell you my least favorite song — Good Times Roll. And thinking about that song made me think of how it ended the overrated Richard Linklater movie Everybody Wants Some!! (a movie named after a Van Halen song). That got me thinking about The Cars songs used in movies, because there certainly were a lot more than with Eddie Money. 

The first two movies that came to mind,  resonate with me because it was in my early teen years, and seeing a naked woman on a 40 foot screen in a darkened movie theatre…well, it’s something you remember. And in two of those movies, it involved Cars songs.

The first was Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which made the cast of young actors stars, and took a San Diego music writer (Cameron Crowe), and gave him a successful career in Hollywood.

Everyone remembers the scene. It was a little worse for me because I was in 8th grade, and everyone was always telling me I looked like actor Judge Reinhold (who I don’t think ever practiced law or was a judge). He watched Phoebe Cates at the swimming pool, taking her top off and jumping in. I won’t describe any more of the scene, because then this story gets the R rating the movie got. But I trust you all know the scene, and you’re all envious of Kevin Kline for making that long marriage to Phoebe work (they’re almost at 30 years, and in Hollywood, that’s like 75 years for regular couples).

During that scene, for some reason, they played The Cars song “Moving in Stereo.” Because it’s so iconic, I can’t think of any other song working at that moment.

That same year, 1982, had another raunchy coming-of-age teen comedy — The Last American Virgin. It had a great soundtrack, with my favorite U2 song (I Will Follow), and the beautiful ballad “Just Once” by James Ingram/Quincy Jones, as well as cheesy (but good) ballads by REO Speedwagon and Journey. There was the best Lionel Richie song ever (Oh No by The Commodores). It had a sexy Waitresses tune, and a track by The Plimsouls. So many great tunes, but the only band that had two songs on it was The Cars. When one guy was trying to take off a girl’s bra (he resorted to a pair of scissors from his mom’s sewing kit)… the parents came home. He ran out and as they jump in the car, we hear “Shake it Up.” Later, they play the wonderful, melancholy ballad “Since You’re Gone.”

A few different movies have used The Cars ballad “Drive” (sung by bassist, and part-time Cars singer Benjamin Orr, who we lost 19 years ago). The only movie I can recall using it at the moment is Transformers.

Actor Timothy Hutton directed the music video when the song was first released, which had 18-year-old model Paulina Porizkova. She would later become Ric’s wife (oddly, they divorced last year after a long marriage).

Adam Sandler used the song I’m Not the One in his movie Billy Madison.

There was an awful movie called My Best Friend’s Girl (Dane Cook, Kate Hudson). The best thing about it was using The Cars song of the same name.

Super 8 was a fun, retro 80s movie that J.J. Abrams wrote and directed. It used Bye Bye Love (not to be confused with the songs by Simon & Garfunkel, George Harrison, and The Everly Brothers, which all had the same title).

There are probably a lot more movies that used Cars songs that I just can’t remember now, because it’s midnight, and I had a full day of football before hearing the sad news — and realizing that the second Cars singer is now gone and we’d never get a tour or new music from them.

Bye Bye Love. Thanks for giving us just what we needed in the disco era, with your new wave, rock ‘n roll sensibilities. Tell Ben we miss him.

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