When the Cars first broke big in 1978, no one really knew what they looked like or where they were from. I thought they were from England. They sounded British to me. Nope, they were from the home of the Red Sox. That’s Boston for you non-baseball fans. Nonetheless, their sound was incredibly fresh, and even more so, their songs were intensely addictive. Their first two albums stand as their best work. However, one can’t disregard the popularity and success of 1984’s Heartbeat City. Ultimately, most of our favorite Cars songs come from the band’s first two albums.
# 10 – Since Your Gone
We open our Top 10 Cars songs list with the band’s track “Since Your Gone.” The song was released on the band’s fourth album, Shake It Up. While the album was not a fan favorite, it spawned their first top 10 single with “Shake It Up.” Most Cars fans weren’t thrilled by that song either. However, the song of choice was the album’s opening cut, “Since Your Gone.” It sounds like something that could have been released on one of the band’s first two albums. Ric Ocasek nails the vocal on this one wonderfully.
# 9 – Dangerous Type
When you listen to the Car’s music outside of the band’s melodies, lyrics, and arrangements, one should notice just how perfectly this band was mixed. Every instrument stands out perfectly, never overwhelming the other. The intro to “Dangerous Type” defines this perfectly. The sound of the drums, bass, keyboards, and guitar all blend together so nicely without losing their distinctive sounds. It’s just a joy to listen to. “Dangerous Type” was the closing track on the band’s second album, Candy-O.
# 8 – Touch And Go
The band’s third album was a letdown for many of the group’s fans. There are not a lot of songs on the album that stand out among their best. The album’s lead single was an interesting one. The verse was defined by a robotic groove that would segue into a sweet summer-like swinging groove. It sounded like two separate songs, which is probably why we liked it. There are a lot of better Cars songs in their catalog than this one that we could have put on the list. However, as a history site, we felt trying to represent their third album with at least one song was essential.
# 7 – Good Times Roll
Even though the song “Good Times Roll” was the opening track on the band’s debut album, many fans who brought the record had already heard the song “Just What I Needed.” Still, “Good Times Roll’s” forceful driving beat and loud vocal harmonies hit the listener hard in all its new wave rock and roll glory. It would become the album’s third single release, just missing the Top 40, stalling at number forty one on the Billboard Hot 100.
# 6 – My Best Friends Girlfriend
It’s fitting that we follow up “Good Times Roll on this list with the song “My Best Friends Girlfriend” because that’s how the two songs lined up on the band’s debut album. It just feels right to do it this way. This was one of Elliot Easton’s shining moments on record. His opening guitar riff became so memorable. Those handclaps became a part of rock history. The song has such a happy, good-time feel; you would think it’s a song about being happy in love when it’s really all about seeing one’s ex-girlfriend with the guy’s best friend. Maybe he was happy to get rid of her in the first place.
# 5 – You’re All I’ve Got Tonight
Our celebration of the best Cars songs and their first album continues with the third one in a row from their debut. The cranking song “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” was the opening track on the album’s second side. Rock bands always put a strong song as side two’s opener, and this was no exception. The opening drum and guitar riff on this one set the mood for something really exciting. This was one of those songs that just kept getting better with every passing measure. Elliot Easton’s guitar riffs in between Ric’s vocals were to die for. These are Elliot Easton’s best moments on the album. The harmonies are exceptional in the chorus. Interestingly, this was Ric Ocasek, only lead vocal on side two.
# 4 – Candy-O
One of the reasons we love this band so much is that their music was so original sounding. They were not copying anyone. There are not many bands in rock history that you can say that about. “Candy-O” was one of those songs. The way Elliot Easton and Greg Hawkes bounced off each other with their licks and fills was mesmerizing. This song serves as a perfect example of that interaction. “Candy-O” was the title track of the band’s fabulous second album.
# 3 – Drive
“Drive” is the outlier in the band’s catalog. It sounds like nothing else the band ever did. The video that came out with the song was stunning. It lent itself to the song’s popularity. “Drive” would become one of the Car’s most loved songs. The song also became one of the band’s most commercially successful on the charts, as it went all the way to number three on the Billboard Hot 100. The band also recieved the biggest compliment any musical artist could ever ask for when Paul McCartney stated that it was songs like “Drive” that inspired him while he was working on a new album.
# 2 – Just What I Needed
This is the one that got the wheels turning. It was the first Cars song I ever heard. The moment I heard it on the radio, I knew I had to have the album. It defined the sound of what people were calling New Wave. It was a combination of Benjamin Orr’s original-sounding voice, Greg Hawkes’ fascinating keyboards, Elliots Easton’s sparkling guitar, and that rock meets dance meets punk groove set up so perfectly in the rhythm section of Benjamin Orr and David Robinson. At the heart of it all was a superbly written song by Ric Ocasek and production that only someone like Roy Thomas Baker could deliver.
# 1 – Moving in Stereo / All Mixed Up
We close out our Cars songs list with the dynamic duo “Moving in Stereo” and “All Mixed Up.” If you’re a Cars fan, you get it. You can’t separate these two songs. On the Cars’ debut album, they blend right into each other. I have never heard any radio station playing just one. It’s like trying to separate Elton John’s “Funeral For A Friend” from Love Lies Bleeding or Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker” from “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman). ” I have been a Cars fan since I bought that album when it was first released in 1978. Every Cars fan I have spoken with has always said the same thing. Their favorite Cars song was “Moving in Stereo.” No argument here.