This past Thursday, March 13, marked the 30th anniversary of The Cars' "Heartbeat City," their biggest album in terms of sound production and success of the 1980s.
While not as well known by name as say Def Leppard's "Pyromania" or Van Halen's "1984," "Heartbeat City" released some of the best known hits of the 1980s and for many, the ones that are often assimilated as the greatest hits for The Cars. Produced by Robert John "Mutt" Lange, (the same producer as the recently released - at that time - "Pyromania" by Def Leppard), "Heartbeat City" captured the latest trends in terms of music production, radio friendliness, and music video progress. The most electronic album of The Cars' career up to that point, "Heartbeat City" featured the hits "You Might Think," "Magic," "Hello Again," and "Drive." In fact, because of the heavy use of synthesizers, sequencers and drum machines, many of these tracks became dance hits as well, with my favorite song off the album "Hello Again," being treated to some cutting edge remixes for the time. Although not necessarily the intention of the band to release this many radio hits, thus disappointing some of the band's fans who preferred The Cars' artier background, the members of the band took their success with a grain of salt. Said guitarist Elliot Easton during a 1988 interview with Creem, “I don’t feel caught between the two (types of albums). We don’t go, let’s do a bubblegum one, then let’s do an arty one. We just make records and let the singles emerge. It’s elitist to only play for a certain, sophisticated audience. This band has always tried to bring out good music within a pop format.”
As innovative as the music was that created "Heartbeat City," the music videos for the singles were just as groundbreaking. While maybe prehistoric for some in terms of today's technological advancements, the videos for "Heartbeat City's" singles proved to demonstrate the latest in computer technology. The videos showed singer Ric Ocasek becoming a fly on the wall that annoys a female conquest in "You Might Think" to being able to walk on water in "Magic." The videos also helped Ric Ocasek settle down, as he was introduced to future (and current) wife, supermodel Paulina Porizkova, during the video for "Drive" (which was directed by renowned actor, Timothy Hutton).
I really like "Heartbeat City," although I never actually purchased the album. This was due to the fact that the album received so much radio and MTV play between 1984 - 1985, that I got a bit burned out on the tracks. However, every now and then, I'll hear one of those hit songs, and I won't turn them off or switch the channel. And remixes for "Hello Again" often find themselves being played through my speakers.
In 1985, The Cars released a greatest hits collection which contained all of the band's hits, including the singles from "Heartbeat City." They also recorded the hit (and at one time controversial) song, "Tonight She Comes," for this greatest hits album. The group went on to release one more record, with the original lineup of the band, which wasn't nearly as big in terms of sound production or sales called "Door to Door," in 1987.
The band officially split up in 1988, and the remaining members of the band, Greg Hawkes and Elliott Easton teamed up with producer/songwriter extraordinaire, Todd Rundgren, to tour as The New Cars with Ric Ocasek's blessing. Ric went on to enjoy success as a solo artist and producer, although he did wind up rejoining his band mates to record and release "Move Like This." Unfortunately guitarist and occasional Cars vocalist, Benjamin Orr, was unable to take part in the new album, as he had passed away in 2000 after fighting a battle with cancer.