This week, I actually picked a song that was not released during my senior year of high school. But it was close.
By 1984, The Cars had been on the national scene for six years. Their fifth album, Heartbeat City, was released that year and proved to be their most successful album. Lead single “You Might Think” won the first ever Video of the Year award at the MTV Video Music Awards. Other singles “Magic,” “Hello Again” and “Why Can’t I Have You” all made the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. But it was today’s song that was the album’s, and the band’s biggest hit.
Today’s 80’s Mania Monday song is “Drive” by The Cars.
In doing research for this post, I did not know that the band was still active with four of its original five members (Bassist/vocalist Benjamin Orr passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2000). I had lost touch with the band after “Tonight She Comes” was released in 1985. Actually, that’s not quite true: I did purchase the band’s Greatest Hits album so they were still around; just not with any new music. Their early songs are still staples on rock and pop radio stations that play songs from 70s and 80s. Who hasn’t thrilled to the songs mentioned above, along with “Shake It Up,” “Good Times Roll,” “Just What I Needed,” “Let’s Go” and “My Best Friend’s Girl”? Okay, maybe you haven’t; but I remember those songs, and they are always welcome to my ears when they are playing.
As for “Drive,” the song missed debuting on the Hot 100 in my senior year by about two months. Its debut date was August 4, 1984—meaning that I was enjoying my last few weeks of summer before heading off to college in the fall. By the time I had settled in at college, it was on its way to #3 on the chart, where it would stay for three weeks. The song was written by Cars frontman Ric Ocasek, sung by Orr, and produced by superproducer Robert John “Mutt” Lange and the band. The video was directed by actor Timothy Hutton, who got the job by telling his neighbor, the Cars manager, how much he was impressed with the song and what kind of video would work for the song. After Elliot Roberts, the group’s manager, discussed Hutton’s concept with Ocasek, he got the job. The video also features model and actress Paulina Porizkova, who eventually married Ocasek in 1989.
I think “Drive” is one of the more memorable and best-sounding ballads of the decade. Your mileage may vary, of course. Either way, I hope you enjoy today’s 80s song, and as always, thanks for reading and listening.