Biggest Omission at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
by Scott Long
Looking at the members list at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Ron Santo of music who's looking in would be the group, The Cars.
Starting with their superior debut, The Cars melded Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, with Kraftwerk type music. In the late 70's and early 80's, when radio was dominated by the Journey/REO/Styx world, The Cars brought some alternative sound to AOR.
Every song on their debut is excellent and amazingly holds up well. The greatest music video of all-time came from this album. (Cameron Crow's direction of "Moving in Stereo" starring the moist charms of Phoebe Cates. OK, it was just a scene from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", but the song created a perfect hypnotic sound to the visuals.)
Their second release, "Candy-O", wasn't as consistent as their debut, but it contains their two best songs, "Let's Go", "It's All I Can Do". Overall it's still a great album, which sounds like nothing else out at the time.
"Panorama" is one of the most challenging albums a major rock group has ever released, as it is as experimental as Bowie was at the time. Next up came "Shake it Up", which is their weakest album, but still contains a classic in "Since You're Gone".
Finally, we come to "Heartbeat City", which was a huge commercial smash, but is flawed by the overproduced sound of Mutt Lange. Much like how in the late 70's most music had a disco element (see Kiss, Rolling Stones, etc.) the music scene in the mid-80's all had that Phil Collins' drum machine sound, which took a lot of edge from the music. Still, there are some excellent songs on the album and the Cars were the only band whose songs could be played next to Duran Duran or Boston and still not seem out of place.
Ric Ocasek has produced a lot of great alternative records, since leaving the Cars (Weezer, Nada Surf, Bad Brains, No Doubt) and I wonder if him not getting his musical due has anything to do with looking like Spock, but marrying Paulina Porizkova. (an overachievement of Lyle Lovett-proportions.)
Many of today's alternative groups like Fountains of Wayne, The Strokes, The New Pornographers, etc. have a debt owed to the Cars, not to mention New Wave bands of the 80's like Oingo Boingo, Wang Chung, and the Fixx.
I will admit that the first person I would put in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would be Elvis Costello, but if we are going to go on their accomplishments to the masses, The Cars should be the top on the list, as they were innovative, commercially and critically successful and have been a major influence on other bands that followed.