Whatever your feelings about the music of the Cars, they were impossible to ignore. In the late-‘70s sea of muted earth-tones, the band’s retro-techno-geek look was a revelation. And in an era when the charts were dominated by soft rock, disco and 1950s nostalgia – the Bee Gees, Andy Gibb, the Grease soundtrack – the Cars’ spiky, New Wave-inflected guitar pop signaled a coming sea change in popular music.
Of course popular taste didn’t change overnight and, in retrospect, it may not even have changed a great deal. If the wildfires of punk and art-rock had blazed through the underground music scene and left behind a very altered landscape, in the larger arena of the Billboard Top 100 it was a different story. In America at least, punk wasn’t quite ready for primetime (nor, it should be noted, were the Cars in any sense a punk band).