The Cars (album)

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The Cars
The Cars - The Cars.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJune 6, 1978 (1978-06-06)
RecordedFebruary 1978
StudioAIR Studios (London, UK).
ProducerRoy Thomas Baker
The Cars chronology
The Cars
Singles from The Cars
  1. "Just What I Needed"
    Released: May 29, 1978
  2. "You're All I've Got Tonight"
    Released: June 6, 1978
  3. "My Best Friend's Girl"
    Released: October 10, 1978
  4. "Good Times Roll"
    Released: February 20, 1979

The Cars is the debut album by the American new wave band the Cars. It was released on June 6, 1978, on Elektra Records. The album, which featured the three charting singles "Just What I Needed", "My Best Friend's Girl" and "Good Times Roll", as well as several album-oriented rock radio hits, was a major success for the band, remaining on the charts for 139 weeks.


Formed in Boston in 1976, the Cars consisted of Ric Ocasek, Benjamin Orr, Elliot Easton, David Robinson, and Greg Hawkes, all of whom had been in and out of multiple bands throughout the 1970s.[1] After becoming a club staple, the band recorded a number of demos in early 1977. Some of these songs later appeared in finished form on The Cars, such as "Just What I Needed" and "My Best Friend's Girl", while others were saved for a later release, such as "Leave or Stay" and "Ta Ta Wayo Wayo" (both of which later saw release on their 1987 album Door to Door).[1] The demos for "Just What I Needed" and "My Best Friend's Girl" were often played on Boston radio by DJ Maxanne Sartori, giving the band frequent airplay.[1]

Both Arista and Elektra attempted to sign the band, but in the end, Elektra was chosen, due to its lack of new wave acts, allowing the band to stand out more than they would have had they signed with the new wave-heavy Arista.[1] David Robinson said of the choice, "Here they had the Eagles and Jackson Browne, and along comes this crazy Boston band who wanted a black-and-white photo collage on their cover."[1]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Musically, The Cars has been described as new wave,[2][3] power pop,[4] and synth-rock.[4] It featured a large amount of technology on many of its tracks, due to the band's appreciation for new equipment. David Robinson said, "We'd always get the latest stuff from music stores even if it would be obsolete in two months. It reached the point where I'd have 10 or 12 foot switches to hit during a short set."[1] The album also is notable for front-man Ric Ocasek's use of irony and sarcasm. Keyboardist Greg Hawkes said, "There was definitely a little self-conscious irony in there. We started out wanting to be electric and straight-ahead rock, and it kind of turned into an artier kind of thing."[1]


The cover model was Nataliya Medvedeva, a Russian-born model, singer, writer, and journalist.[5]

Unlike many of the Cars' album covers, the cover for The Cars was designed by the record company, rather than drummer David Robinson.[6] Robinson said in an interview that he "had designed a very different album cover [for The Cars] that cost $80.00 to design." He continued, "I remember the price exactly. It was completely finished and everything, but it was a little more bizarre than the cover that they had in mind, so they changed some of it because of copyright problems and put it in as the inner sleeve. But I think that was way more how we envisioned who we were then."[6] The cover was not well liked by the members of the band, however.[6] Robinson said, "I thought that when the Elektra came out it was way too slick. The pictures of us I didn't like."[6] Guitarist Elliot Easton expressed dislike for "that big grinning face," saying, "Man, I got tired of that cover."[6]


The Cars sold one million copies by the end of the year and steadily climbed the charts. It peaked at number 18 on the Billboard 200 chart in March 1979.[7] The album remained on the album chart for 139 weeks. The record was also ranked number 4 on Billboard's "Top Albums of the Year" chart for 1979.[8]

Three singles were released from the album: "Just What I Needed" in (#27 in America, #17 in Britain), "My Best Friend's Girl" (#35 in America, #3 in Britain), and "Good Times Roll" (#41 in America) all of which enjoyed heavy airplay on AOR radio stations.[9] Aside from the singles, album tracks "You're All I've Got Tonight", "Bye Bye Love", and "Moving in Stereo" all became radio favorites.[10]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[3]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[11]
Q4/5 stars[12]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[13]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4.5/5 stars[14]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[15]
The Village VoiceB+[16]

Critically, the album was well received. "The pop songs are wonderful," Rolling Stone critic Kit Rachlis said in his 1978 review, adding: "Easy and eccentric at the same time, all are potential hits."[13] He found that "the album comes apart only when it becomes arty and falls prey to producer Roy Thomas Baker's lacquered sound and the group's own penchant for electronic effects."[13] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice said, "Ric Ocasek writes catchy, hardheaded-to-coldhearted songs eased by wryly rhapsodic touches, the playing is tight and tough, and it all sounds wonderful on the radio. But though on a cut-by-cut basis Roy Thomas Baker's production adds as much as it distracts, here's hoping the records get rawer."[16]

In a retrospective review, AllMusic's Greg Prato praised The Cars as "a genuine rock masterpiece" and stated that "all nine tracks are new wave/rock classics", concluding: "With flawless performances, songwriting, and production, the Cars' debut remains one of rock's all-time classics."[3] In 2000, it was voted number 384 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[17] Rolling Stone ranked The Cars at number 282 on its 2003 list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time",[18] and the album also placed on 2012 and 2020 updates of the list.[19][20]

Elliot Easton said of the album, "We used to joke that the first album should be called The Cars' Greatest Hits. We knew that a lot of great bands fall through the cracks. But we were getting enough feedback from people we respected to know that we were on the right track."[1]

Track listing[edit]

Side one[edit]

All tracks are written by Ric Ocasek, except where noted.

1."Good Times Roll"Ocasek3:44
2."My Best Friend's Girl"Ocasek3:44
3."Just What I Needed"Benjamin Orr3:44
4."I'm in Touch with Your World"Ocasek3:31
5."Don't Cha Stop"Ocasek3:01

Side two[edit]

1."You're All I've Got Tonight"Ocasek4:13
2."Bye Bye Love"Orr4:14
3."Moving in Stereo" (Greg Hawkes, Ocasek)Orr4:41
4."All Mixed Up"Orr4:14

1999 reissue bonus tracks[edit]

10."Good Times Roll" (live at the Paradise Theatre, Boston, 13 November 1978)Ocasek3:39
11."My Best Friend's Girl" (demo)Ocasek3:52
12."Just What I Needed" (demo)Orr3:27
13."I'm in Touch with Your World" (demo)Ocasek/Orr3:28
14."Don't Cha Stop" (demo)Ocasek3:19
15."You're All I've Got Tonight" (demo)Ocasek4:05
16."Bye Bye Love" (demo)Orr4:07
17."Moving in Stereo" (demo)Ocasek5:02
18."All Mixed Up" (demo)Ocasek4:50
19."They Won't See You" (demo, previously unreleased)Ocasek3:56
20."Take What You Want" (demo, previously unreleased)Ocasek6:04
21."Wake Me Up" (demo, previously unreleased)Orr3:52
22."You Just Can't Push Me" (demo, previously unreleased)Orr3:27
23."Hotel Queenie" (demo, previously unreleased)Ocasek3:08


The Cars


  • The Cars – arrangements
  • Roy Thomas Baker – producer
  • Geoff Workman – engineer
  • Nigel Walker – second engineer
  • George Marinomastering at Sterling Sound (New York, NY).
  • Ron Coro – art direction
  • Johnny Lee – design
  • Elliot Gilbert – photography
  • Fred Lewis – management



Chart (1978–80) Peak
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[21] 35
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[22] 5
UK Albums (OCC)[23] 29
US Billboard 200[7] 18


Title Released Position
"Just What I Needed" May 1978 27 17 96 38
"My Best Friend's Girl" October 1978 35 3 67 40
"Good Times Roll" March 1979 41


  • "–" denotes it did not chart or was not released in that territory.


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[27] 2× Platinum 200,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[28] Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[29] 6× Platinum 6,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Milano, Brett (1995). Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology (liner notes). The Cars. Rhino Records. R2 73506.
  2. ^ Zimmerman, Lee (September 8, 2016). "The 50 Best New Wave Albums – 13. The Cars: The Cars (1978)". Paste. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Prato, Greg. "The Cars – The Cars". AllMusic. Retrieved February 17, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Zaleski, Annie (August 4, 2017). "They were just what we needed: Why The Cars matter". Salon. Retrieved October 26, 2019.
  5. ^ Bratersky, Alexander (February 7, 2003). "Writer, Singer Medvedeva Dead at 44". The Moscow Times. Archived from the original on March 11, 2015. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e The Cars Live – Musikladen 1979 (DVD). 2000.
  7. ^ a b "The Cars Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  8. ^ "Top Albums of the Year". Billboard. Vol. 91 no. 51. December 22, 1979. p. TIA-12. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  9. ^ a b "The Cars Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved November 4, 2020.
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Rock Tracks. Record Research Inc. p. 325. ISBN 0-89820-153-5.
  11. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Cars". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  12. ^ "The Cars: The Cars". Q. No. 155. August 1999. p. 122.
  13. ^ a b c Rachlis, Kit (June 17, 1997) [September 21, 1978]. "The Cars: The Cars". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on December 24, 2007. Retrieved February 17, 2012.
  14. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "The Cars". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 140. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  15. ^ Sheffield, Rob (1995). "Cars". In Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (eds.). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. pp. 76–77. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  16. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (September 4, 1978). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  17. ^ Larkin, Colin (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 146. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  18. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: The Cars – The Cars". Rolling Stone. November 18, 2003. Archived from the original on December 20, 2010. Retrieved November 4, 2020.
  19. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. May 31, 2012. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  20. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. September 22, 2020. Retrieved November 4, 2020.
  21. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  22. ^ " – The Cars – The Cars". Hung Medien. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  23. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 4, 2020.
  24. ^ "Cars | full Official Chart history". Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  25. ^ "Discography The Cars". Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  26. ^ "Discografie The Cars". Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  27. ^ "Canadian album certifications – The Cars – The Cars". Music Canada. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  28. ^ "British album certifications – The Cars – The Cars". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved November 4, 2020. Select albums in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type The Cars in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  29. ^ "American album certifications – The Cars – The Cars". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved September 19, 2019. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 

External links[edit]