Ric OcasekIn fact, one of my first interviews ever as a journalist was with Ocasek, when he was promoting his 1997 solo release, Troublizing. As a freelancer at the time for the now-defunct Island Ear, I asked what he looked for in possible bands to produce (as he had produced the likes of Weezer, Bad Brains, Suicide, Romeo Void, and Nada Surf up to that point). "I look for their honesty, lyrics, and if they're doing something different musically than what's around at the moment," Ocasek told me. "For example, I wanted to do the first Bad Brains and Romeo Void records because they didn't already have records out. I did it out of heart. I've never taken a band that a record company has offered me. I've just done things that I loved and had fun with. And that's why I do it, 'cause I love the feeling."
Several years later, I was able to chat with Ocasek again - this time for Classic Rock magazine - when he was promoting what would be the last solo album of his career, 2005's Nexterday, and was also willing to answer some questions about The Cars' career - including how the band caught their first break. "Our demo tape got played on the radio - 'Just What I Needed' became a hit before it was even on a record. WBCN in Boston was playing it, and it became the most requested song. Record companies started coming around asking, 'What label are they on?' So then we had 20 labels chasing us around Boston."
From the get-go, it was clear that the Cars had one single songwriter in the band - Ocasek. "Our band never jammed - I wrote all the songs. I put them down on tape, with the parts on, and people learned the songs. I've never done a song by jamming with somebody else. I don't like the idea of it. I don't like to write with others, it's probably my least favorite thing to do. I started the Cars to play music that I wrote, just like I've started any band that I've ever had in my life - to do music I wrote. I form bands to play my songs."
And while the Cars would eventually become best known as a "video band," early on, they built a name for themselves the old-fashioned way: via hardcore touring. "We opened for about anybody in the beginning - we opened for bands that we really hated, like Styx. I remember opening for Styx for about a week, and we kept winning over the show, and they got mad. And that would keep happening for bands that we'd open for. And then halfway through the tour we started headlining. But in the beginning we took whatever we could get. Most of those bands would go watch us on the side of the stage to see what the fuck was going on. And it seemed that the people were relating to us and not relating to them. So they all got a little pissed."
Another memorable point Ric made during our original chat from '97 was concerning that he was always working on new material. "I'm always trying to write a song that will be my favorite track. And I haven't written it yet. If I did, then I could probably quit!"
Eddie MoneyThen, for my 2011 book, MTV Ruled the World: The Early Years of Music Video, I was able to conduct my sole interview with Eddie Money. When I asked him about starting out and how different the music business was during the late '70s/early '80s, he explained, "Now, you buy everything on the internet. But in those days, people used to go to record stores, and you'd have to have a diamond needle and a turntable that worked. They act like it's the age of the dinosaurs, but people used to buy albums. I used to work at a record store when I was a kid. In those days, I came out of Berkeley, California, which is a college town. We had a large college following - San Jose, Berkeley, Richmond, Oakland, Freemont, San Francisco."
"I think we were the first band to get a record deal off a VHS tape. We did a show called Sounds of the Cities - which is amateur night - at the Winterland. I told everybody, 'They're going to film us. Everybody - get up to the front!' It was a rainy Tuesday night, and it looked like the place was packed. We did a great set, and wound up getting a record deal with Columbia Records and Bill Graham Management."
He also told the stories behind his two classic videos, for "Shakin'" and "Think I'm in Love."
"We made two videos, I think it was $77,000 - the 'Shakin'' video with Apollonia and the cars bouncing up and down. That was the first thing Apollonia ever did in show business - before Purple Rain. She had a boyfriend that was a karate expert, and the guy was always ready to break my arms in half. He was a very jealous man. I never would have hit on her, because I had an old lady at the time. You know how it is - some people think you're hitting on the ladies even when you're not.
"'Think I'm in Love' was great, because the whole thing was me as Dracula, and my ex-wife was in the video - a very pretty girl. It turns out the whole thing twists around - where she's biting my neck instead of me biting her. It was a cute video - we shot it in a castle."
Lastly, Eddie explained how much MTV had changed from a channel that spun only music-related content, to one that seems obsessed with brainless, unbearable reality TV programming (in a funny twist, Money would eventually star in his own reality show, Real Money). "It's very dramatic - with a lot of kids crying on it and a lot of girls breaking up with guys. And girls beating each other up. It's come a long way from music, you know? My daughter is 21 - I feel like I'm living in MTV, because she's always breaking up with her boyfriends. It's crazy. I don't have to watch MTV anymore - I have five kids that are all teenagers, drive me out of my mind."
And nearly to the end of their lives, both Eddie and Ric continued doing what they loved. Money's final performance was May 26, 2019, while Ocasek appeared at a Wentworth Gallery art show (displaying his paintings) on April 27.
Thank you for all the great music and memories, Eddie and Ric.
September 18, 2019
Eddie Money Songfacts
The Cars Songfacts
More Song Writing