They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Ric Ocasek, who turns 64 today, may be best remembered for buzzing around in the “You Might Think” video, but between 1978 and 1988 he led the Cars to FM radio immortality with a string of successful singles and albums (and two quality solo albums to boot). After the Cars folded, Ocasek’s skills as a producer became much in demand, and he stood behind the glass for bands such as Bad Brains, No Doubt, Nada Surf, and Weezer’s multi-platinum Blue and Green Albums. In both musician and producer roles, Ocasek’s influence has proven huge and lasting; bands such as The Strokes, Weezer, Fountains of Wayne, and even Nirvana owe Ocasek debts of gratitude for his style and sound, melding ‘50s rockabilly to ‘70s new wave with ‘80s rock and pop sensibilities.
We’re here to celebrate Ocasek’s birthday the best way we know how – with other versions of the songs he wrote. Dozens of Cars covers exist around the internet (and on record shelves!); here are five unique examples of artists putting their own spin on an Ocasek classic… plus one more just for laughs.
Alkaline Trio – Bye Bye Love (The Cars cover)
Three-man Midwestern pop-punk didn’t end when Husker Du did; it’s alive and well in the hands of, among others, McHenry, IL’s very own Alkaline Trio. Matt Skiba’s unique vocal abilities, starting flat but carrying higher when the song requires, provide “Bye Bye Love” (the Cars tune, not the Everly Brothers one) with a sneer not present in most Cars covers.
Kris Delmhorst – Drive (The Cars cover)
Kris Delmhorst released an album of Cars covers a couple of years ago. This spare, live version of “Drive,” done with Boston-based collective Session Americana, helps highlight Ocasek’s sad lyrics and Delmhorst’s singing and playing beautifully.
Nirvana – My Best Friend’s Girl (The Cars cover)
Never a band to shy away from covering one of their influences (see: Bowie, David and Meat Puppets, The), Nirvana’s version of “My Best Friend’s Girl” shows them at their most brash and fun, putting their own slipshod spin on a Cars classic.
The Strokes and Jarvis Cocker – Just What I Needed (The Cars cover)
At 2012’s Reading Festival, The Strokes welcomed Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker onstage to rip through a rendition of the karaoke classic “Just What I Needed.” The crowd clearly doesn’t mind them coming there, and Cocker & Company’s cover certainly doesn’t waste all their time-time.
Fu Manchu – Moving In Stereo (The Cars cover)
Orange County’s Fu Manchu have been making music since before the Cars broke up. On their 2007 album We Must Obey, they riff through “Moving in Stereo,” the song that accompanied Phoebe Cates as she made her slow-motion way into the fantasy worlds of millions who never got to go to Ridgemont High.
This happened. God Bless the ’80s.
Ric Ocasek has a book out; Lyrics & Prose collects verse, old set lists and more.