Bye-Bye Ric

By BRETT MILANO  |  May 31, 2006

“Don’t think that we didn’t consider that name ourselves,” Rundgren pointed out during a recent phone interview. “We realized early on that this isn’t really me joining the Cars; it’s two bands getting together. But the Cars is a bigger brand name, and it’s one that we can leverage.” The jury’s still out on whether the New Cars will last beyond the current tour with Blondie, which brings them to the Pavilion on June 7. “It’s a band for the purposes of an album,” Rundgren says. “And it’s going to use up everybody’s resources for the next year. After that, if we’re all still friends we’ll discuss the possibility of some new music.”

The three new songs on the disc were written as collaborations, with Hawkes and Easton devising the riffs and chord progressions, and Rundgren handling the lyrics and vocal melodies. “In the case of ‘Not Tonight,’ the ideas that Greg and Elliot came up with were so inherently Cars-ish that it wasn’t a stretch for me to come up with something. A high degree of sexual innuendo was required. You don’t sing about world peace in a Cars song. And there had to be enough abstraction in the lyrics for the song to be open to wider interpretation. If I did anything wrong, I probably made the lyrics mean too much.”

If that sounds like a slam, it’s not. “He [Ocasek] was one of the originals. He did something that was highly imitated at the time. During the punk rock movement, you were supposed to sing about politics or society or how pissed off you were. You were never supposed to sing about girls. Ric took things back to the classic, Hoagy Carmichael mode of songwriting, where it came back to a boy and a girl. But he did it in a different way. It wasn’t just ‘Oh baby, you broke my heart.’ Detached college kids could relate to it.”

Rundgren’s already taken some flak from Ocasek, who put the substitute band leader “on notice” during a comedy bit on The Colbert Report. But Ocasek green-lighted the project months ago because he didn’t want to tour. And Rundgren explained his involvement with a posting on the TR Connection fansite: “Musicians have notoriously brief careers,” he wrote last winter. “So if someone gives you the opportunity to make a living for a year without violating your musical ethics . . . what choice do you have?”

It is odd that an artist with Rundgren’s credits has to make a living from someone else’s music. After all, you wouldn’t expect to see Prince fronting Earth, Wind & Fire. But Rundgren lost some fans with eclectic work over the past decade. Does his participation in the New Cars mean that he’s toning down his ambitious concepts? “No. It just means that I need to do things in which I’m able to get ahead. Once I’m able to make the expenses that my family and the IRS have become used to, then I can think about doing wild and crazy things by myself.”

THE NEW CARS + BLONDIE | June 7 | Bank of America Pavilion, Northern Ave, Boston | 617.228.6000

On the Web
The New Cars: http://www.thenewcars.com/

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