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Drive by The Cars

Album: Heartbeat CityReleased: 1984Charted:
3
4
  • A very melancholy song by The Cars, this is written from the perspective of a guy who's watching a woman (who he presumably used to date) "going down the tubes," trying to get her to take a hard look at what's going on in her life. (thanks, John - Washington, DC)
  • This was the Cars' highest-charting US single and their second-highest charting UK single, the highest being "My Best Friend's Girl."
  • In the UK, this hit #5 on its initial release. It was reissued one year later, and reached #4. The royalties from its reissue were donated to the Band Aid Trust.
  • Cars bass player Ben Orr sang lead on this one. Orr died of Pancreatic cancer in 2000. When he died, this was played in his honor at a memorial service at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  • At the Live Aid concert, this was used as background music to film clips of famine stricken Africa.
  • The video was directed by a 23-year-old Timothy Hutton, who had won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the movie Ordinary People. Hutton aspired to direct, so when Ric Ocasek of The Cars suggested he do it, Hutton jumped at the chance.

    Hutton's cast the Czechoslovakian model Paulina Porizkova as the female lead in the clip. Auditioning for the role was the first time she met Ocasek, who she married in 1989.
  • The Cars performed this on Saturday Night Live on May 12, 1984. (thanks, John - Colorado Springs, CO)
  • The song was covered by Sixx: A.M. on their 2014 album, Modern Vintage. Regarding the decision to record their own version, Nikki Sixx said: "We had started going down the street of [the Elvin Bishop hit] 'Fooled Around And Fell In Love.' One day I called [vocalist James Michael] up and just sang the opening line to 'Drive', and [he] said, 'That's a Sixx: A.M. song!' I think it was an opportunity to cover a song that is so defined that you have to be very careful not to wreck it. That song is so loved by so many people, including us, that we really wanted to pay a real tribute to it, and I believe we have."

    "It's such a simple song - the original version was so simple, but that's what was exciting about it," Michael added. "In a way, it's a blank canvas, but you need to respect the simplicity … that's what was so fun about the version we did, especially when [DJ Ashba] started doing his guitar solo. Even that had to be carefully structured around what the original song was."
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Comments: 44

This song is an interesting mashup of several other, less well-known songs by other artists, especially Godley & Creme's song "I'm Not in Love." "You can't go on thinking nothing's wrong" is almost a complete lift from Bad Company's song "Crazy Circles," with their lyric and melody "Oh I will face the sun, leaving shadows far behind, and together we'll go on..." Drive's a great song and the Cars are a great band, but they definitely let their influences show.Thomas - Wellington, New Zealand
For Mary, Darby, MT - I spent trying to work out what he's singing as well. It's definitely not "But, bye" or "Bye Baby".
It's just something musical like Michael Jackson's "Schamon ".
For this song, Benjamin Orr simply says something "woah hi"
I got this by watching a live performance if the song (link below)
http://vimeo.com/45356136

It's an absolutely brilliant & touching song. I think like many of the people on this forum, we've all been in a relationship
With someone exactly like the person the song is about.
In my case, her issue was alcohol & bad company.
Finally, I had to leave.
I hope she gets out of it
Clifford Kumar - London, United Kingdom
Someone PLEASE tell me what Orr is SAYING in the lyrics. Someone said it was "Bye baby" but if you look closely at the video and Orr's mouth, it is definitely not words which start with a "B." He speaks twice during the song and I can't even tell if he is saying the same thing both times?Mary - Darby, Mt
For Frank in Ontario, according to VH1's Pop Up Videos:

Ric: "Why did you say it in front of me?"
Paulina: "Because they hollered at me, that's why!"
Ric: "Don't worry if that's wrong."
Paulina: "I didn't mean it!"
Brian - Edinburg, Va
- Frank, Brampton, Ontario, Canada - I'm going to tell you the same thing that I tell my daughters when they ask me why something happens in a video: Don't overanalyze it! It's just a video. It's done that way because the director & writer said it is.Karen - Manchester, Nh
I always associated this with my mom who had a drinking problem back when this song came out.
It also reminds me of Phil Hartmans wife too since i got the feeling she is similar to the lady in this song.
Daniel Wheeler - Tulsa, Ok
I think there's some confusion about how this song is connected to Live Aid. Firstly, it had been a hit in the UK, reaching no 5 in 1984. At Live Aid, David Bowie cut his set short by one song and introduced a video by CBC which featured Drive over some dreadful footage of starving children in Africa. One tiny girl - Birhan Woldu - looked close to death, but has since become world famous because she survived. The BBC reports with Michael Buerk were shown before the Wembley show and were unrelated to the CBC film. The song then returned to the UK charts, reaching No 4, and in the UK is forever associated with that CBC video. The Cars played at Philadelphia after the Wembley show finished, but few in the UK know that. In fact there aren't many Brits who would know Benjamin Orr or Ric Ocasek.Colin - London, United Kingdom
I love Ben Orr's voice - he was one of the best natural vocal talents of that era.

This song is a rewrite of two other songs - "I'm Not In Love" by Godley & Creme, and "Crazy Circles" by Bad Company. It uses the electronica mood, arrangement, and some melodic material from the first, and the start of the bridge from the second. Still, it's a great song. I'm sure the other bands were flattered, not insulted.
Thegripester - Wellington, New Zealand
This song was written way before "Live Aid" and had nothing whatsoever to do with any natural disaster. That might be YOUR first exposure to it, but it was around a long time before 'Live Aid'. Obviously about a person with some problems written by someone who loves them and feels responsible for their well being. Could be anything that would prevent someone from being able to drive home or take care of their self. Try keeping your mind open (just because you might have a heroin addiction, alcohol problem, schizophrenia, etc. doesn't mean this song is about that). It's is about someone with a problem written by someone who has feelings for them and is not going to be around to 'drive them home'. Not that hard to figure out.William - Seattle, Wa
Someone told me the lyrics have nothing to do with the video they where written by a guy who had an argument with his girlfriend in a Bar one night and she ran off out of the bar started walking home and someone gave her a lift that was the last he ever seen her alive her body was found she was murdered he felt to blame knowing it would never have happened if they had not had a fight they felt that making a video of a girl being picked up etc would bring bad memories to many out their with similar situations so opted for this to look like something elseJustin - Brisbane, Australia
i love the sound of the layerd synthesizers iin the first begining of the song witch sounds did they use?Andrew - Lafayette, La
I always heard "Drive" as a song to a female he was in love with. One evening, while driving in my car, "Drive" came on the radio. I, then, heard the song in a completely different way. For the first time, out of all the times I'd listened/sang this song, I heard it as a love song to "SELF"! I realized the song is saying, "I'm ALL I really have to depend on!" To me, it's about a relationship with myself. To, either, get through ANY situation or make ANY changes in my life, I am the ONLY one that can/will do it! Others may support/help us, BUT....NO-ONE can change your situation except YOURSELF! "Who's gonna drive you home.....?" YOU!Jessie - Seattletime Of The Season, Wa
I love the melody driven sythn in this record, the bit after the main chorus is really powerful. The lyrics are great too, but 80s records were (for me) all about the sound.Chunks - Bristol, United Kingdom
Gripping from the first note, this song has it all: an iconic synthesizer line that oozes sorrow, mysterious though plainly written lyrics, and vocals full of desperation and lost love. This is an all time great 80s song. One of those rare songs that never seems to get old no matter how many times you hear it.Shawn - Green Bay, Wi
I am glad that none of you (who see this as just another love song) have ever been in a deep relationship with an addict/alcoholic. It is painful to walk away from someone you care about, realizing that your being with does not help them and is destroying you. I hope you never "get" this song.Edee - West Winfield, Ny
This song reminds me of a man I really liked in a relationship gone wrong...pretty much broke my heart. I think he may have been my soulmate.Frances - New York City, Ny
'Drive' is one of the most moving pieces of music I've ever listened to. The melody and arrangement are absolutely captivating; from the first moment you hear it's opening you know whats coming -- just plain knocks ya out. Obviously the lyrics can mean a million things to a million people (thats what makes it a classic).Larry - Plano, Tx
You all are wrong about the meaning of this song. It's about drug abuse. Not only does it say that on Wikipedia, you can also see it in the lyrics "Who's going to hang up - When you call?" and "Who's going to plug their ears - When you scream?"Landon - Winchester, Oh
I'm sorry to say you are all out of your minds if you think this is about "driving your baby home" or "not dumping your significant other" because of this song. If that is the case, you have bigger issues that this song.

Read the lyrics of the song and you know exactly what it is about. The song refers to a man who is in love with a woman that is battling drug abuse and mental illness. He can't take it anymore and is going to leave.

The last paragraph sums it all up:

"Who's gonna hold you down,
When you shake?
Who's gonna come around,
When you break?"

If you listen to the lyrics VERY carefully, you can hear Ben Orr sing the words "Bye Baby" after the second and last verse. The final "bye baby" is after his last plea to her, as she is in denial.

Ho..., you know you can't go on, thinkin',
Nothin's wrong,
(Who's gonna drive you)
(Who's gonna drive you home)
Who's gonna drive you home, tonight?

(bye baby)
(bye baby)
(bye baby)
My Family - Atlanta, Ga
This song reminds me of the person who is, in my opinion, my soul mate. He is getting married in a month and it absolutely crushed me. It's my fault though and I put myself in that bind, but I wish I still had him in my life to "take care of him" and "Drive him home." By the way, this song totally reminds me of transformers now! You all remember that scene with the "beat-up" 1976 Camaro? SSSWWWEEETTT!!!!!Courtney - Salt Lake City, Ut
i do have this song in my mobile phone. it makes me feel guilty for lying to my girlfriend. i don't love her anymore but if i leave her who'd take care of her because she needs me like hell. this song is the reason why i'll never dump her.Fulu Thompho - Limpopo, South Africa
Sorry to break it to anyone who associates some kind of socio-political baggage to it, but the others are right, without a doubt. Watch the video. It's a love song, albeit a very unhappy one. Has absolutely nothing to do with famine.John - Washington, Dc
'Drive' is, to me, synonymous with the report on BBC News of the Ethiopian famine In Oct.'84. The lyrics just sum up what I felt at that time and still do. Whenever I hear the song I see BBC reporter Michaeal Buerk walking through those crowds of dead and dieing, that donkey just standing there, head bowed,and the hopeless expressions on the faces of those poor people.I seldom get through listening to the song without a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat.Colin - Polis, Cyprus
I'm surprised no one has got this yet. It's about a girl Rick (singer of The Cars) met at a party - he insisted he offer her a ride home as she was about to leave with a guy who had been drinking (and was going to drive) - she went with the other guy and had a serious accident on the way home where she ended up being in a wheelchair. Rick was really upset about it (hence the song) and originally another member of the band sung it because he found it really hard. I remember being told at the time ('85) by the presenter of a program 'Ready to Roll' which featured all the latest and greatest music vids at the time.Ian - Wellington, New Zealand
One of the best songs ever written.
Its about someone tapping you on the shoulder and saying have a good look at you, evaluate, are you really being honest with YOURSELF.
Mark - Ballarat, Australia
This is one of my all-time favorites. I first heard it in West Germany after my German boyfriend and I had separated...I was feeling quite alone at the time in a foreign country. I was driving somewhere and it came up on the radio. I just remember hearing the lyrics and drawing strength from the words. The lyrics told me no one was going to take care of me, that I would have to take care of myself. It was also a recognition of the ultimate aloneness that we all must face.Sherry - Seattle, Wa
Has anyone seen the video to this one? If you have, you'll notice in the middle of it the girl and Ric are arguing about something. What do you all think that argument was about despite that you couldn't hear what they were saying?? If anyone knows, please do tell. Thanks alot!Frank - Brampton, Ontario, Canada
This song is about an alcoholic and it is sung from the perspective of the person who loves them.Marge - Atlanta, Ga
Jammie, do you know what you're talking about...? The Cars are one of the most popular bands from the 80's.

Anyway, this song may not have any set meaning, like most, but it''s still a wonderful one.
Adam - South Lyon, Mi
good point pete...it seems everyone thinks everything is about drugsSpencer - Mcbride, Canada
This was a huge hit for the band. Ironic, since it was one of the few Cars singles that did not feature a brilliant Elliot Easton guitar solo.Paul - Marysville, Wa
This is a great song. It weird that hardly anyone knows who The Cars are.Jammie - No Where, Mi
A beautiful song, no doubt about that. Benjamin Orr really hit this song out of the park, no question.Amay - Edison, Nj
Steph, I totally agree and the band once said the song was about living with someone with a mental condition.Kevin - Newcastle Upon Tyne, England
For me this song brings back memories of my schooldays. I remember my mum picking me up in the car after school and this playing in the background! I still love this track. Their best.Paul - London, England
This song is about heroin addiction.Bill - Southeastern Part Of, Fl
I'm not sure that the song was written with the Ethiopian famine in mind (you'll have to ask Richard Ocasek), but it fit very well when they put the song to famine images a year after its release. I think it could be applied to many tragic human conditions. That (on top of the haunting music) could explain its huge popularity; most people can relate to the lyrics, directly or vicariously.Eric - Cincinnati, Oh
Alright, any belief that this song is about alcoholism, drug-addiction, world-hunger...perfectly understandable. But the "You can't go on thinking nothing's wrong...who's going to drive you home tonight?" line says it all. Who's going to look out for someone who is down and afflicted. It makes me want to be a better person! *sniffle*Tom - Toronto, Canada
truely one of the most beautiful and mis-interpeted songs ever. This song could be used for any global mishapJoe - Ocala, Fl
I joined this group specifically so I could comment on this song. I don't give a tinker's cuss about drugs et al, but I watched (in stunned silence) the video made for the first Band Aid concert by journalists... in which the Cars tune meshed beautifully with the video. In the line "Whose gonna listen to your screams" a starving baby sreamed... I defy anyone to turn away from that.
"Whose gonna drive you home tonight?" was seen as a stab at Western values where we enjoy heating, lighting, sheltered transfers between home and work, etc. And it really stabbed home at me...I have never been able to suffer whingers ever since.

The people shown in the video were lucky to have a blanket to wrap around them. To me. "Drive" signifies the chasm between "haves" and "have nots" So let's not cheapen it by "Are we talking drugs here?" references. "Drive" get a lot of people digging deep in their pockets. I cannot listen to this tune without a lump forming in my throat. God Bless the Cars.
Colin - Hook, England
lets face it, not ALL song are about DRUGS ..
why do we have to think....ooh must be about drugs..maybe it's some other reason
Pete - Nowra, Australia
This song is obviously about someone with a chemical dependency, likely to be alcoholism. "Who's gonna drive you home tonight?" seems to point to a person who can't "Drive" because they are too drunk. Or perhaps this person doesn't have the "Drive" to get better. I think Rik Ocasek may have written this about a former girlfriend who he had to eventually split up with because she couldn't get clean and sober.Dave - Marieta, Ga
RIP Ben Orr...this will always be his greatest moment in the band.Justin - Felts Mills, Ny
"My Best Friend's Girl" may have held a slightly higher chart placing, but The Cars' signature tune in the UK will always be "Drive" - no one who was alive during the Live Aid era could ever forget the heart-wrenching sight of the people dying in Ethiopia coming up on the video wall while this song was playing. David Bowie was so moved by this sight that he actually agreed to obliterate one of his songs from his Live Aid performance in order to make sure that "Drive" was included. Talk about coincidences - they were called The Cars, their biggest hit was "Drive", and, for once, it was not intended as a marketing ploy!Dave - Cardiff, Wales