Planet Stahl

All Stahl, All the Time


Ric Ocasek has left the building

I say that title with the greatest reverence…  If Elvis was king to kids in the 50’s…  Ric Ocasek was “king” to me in the 80’s.  I have had a heavy heart since hearing of his passing a few days ago.

I threw a few bits on Facebook this week talking about it…  Here is that post.  (because someday… Facebook is going to delete everything you all post on it!!!)

I actually have a lot to say about my love for the cars and Ric Ocasek. But it’s late and this week is going to be tough to blog about it. Here’s a few thoughts as they fall out of my head.

The Cars were an odd band on the fringe, and that was how I thought of myself as a middle school and high school kid. They were my soundtrack to life for a decade.

My kids know Candy-O front to back because it’s one of my favorite travel albums in the car.

I am stealing this line from Bob Walkenhorst… “there was a time when I did believe that I could remember every day I had lived. (Well, at my class reunion a few months ago, I found out that I have forgotten more than I remember since HS!). But! I still remember strange things like where I picked up certain albums…

To illustrate one instance of this… I can tell you that I remember gong to Tower Records in NYC when I was 11 or so… And picking up Ric’s first solo album… Beatitude. I played the hell out of that cassette. (Also picked up Elliott Easton’s solo record “change no change”). I was listening to Beatitude last week on Spotify!

(It’s not just this record… if I pull up my CD collection, I can tell you were I bought most of them. Who I was with etc)

I didn’t idolize sport stars or astronauts as a kid. Ric was my childhood hero… I read Rolling Stone every week for any news on the band (no mtv in Fairbury back then). I bought their book to know everything about them.

Ric was geeky… socially awkward and had looks that would never get the homecoming queen (but he did). If he could be successful in this superficial world that rewarded looks and celebrity… The rest of us misfits all had a chance!


I would love to tell you that I was a hardcore debut album guy when I discovered The Cars.  But I would have been 8 at that time.  No, I was a fan of the band like most people when the video for “you might think” came out.  I had no idea who these guys were.  And frankly…  The videos from Shake it Up looked a little scary when going back and looking at them after the Heartbeat City videos.

I had a solid foothold in the new stuff for a long time.   It wasn’t long before I started going back into the catalog to check out other “cassettes”.  I think the debut album was next…  Then Candy-O.  When I picked up Panorama… I was a little let down.  The music is great, but the production is muddy as hell.  I am a geek that way.  (Too Much Joy’s third album “Mutiny” always drives me nuts with its production as well)  I digress.  Panorama slowed me down.  I dont think I picked up Shake it Up for many years.   Then again…  Childhood memories are tricky to pin down…  It was probably 6 months.

Over the years…  In college especially, I was enamored with the debut album and Candy-O.  The production and clarity of those early records are a far cry from the nosiy and overproduced later works.  They made for CD’s that could be played at a very loud volume over my Polk Audio Monitor 10B’s.

As I have moved 30 years past those days…  Candy-O is the album that stands up the best for me.  Its all over the place.  Ric, Ben, David, Elliott and Greg (I know all their names without looking it up!)  are at their masterful best in 1979.  Rocking, quirky and strangely distant in its feel.  Its a timeless album that I think will be with me till I die.  Let that not be too soon.

Also, Beatitude… Ric’s first solo album has been on my Spotify rotations a lot over the past few years.  Not sure why.  Its a bit of a dated synth and electronic drum period piece… But it seems I can overlook that electronic sound because I still know all the lyrics and great memories fill my head when I listen to it.

One last thought… If I wanted to visually remember Ocasek at his masterful best…  I think this video for “Magic” probably is it.  Full 80’s garb…  Walking on water to a crowd of freaks and geeks.  It was very symbolic of his persona and power to kids like me during the 80’s.  (Plus Easton and Orr are rocking in the background!)