Garage Sale Vinyl
Garage Sale Vinyl: The Cars

Garage Sale Vinyl: The Cars

Candy-O / Elektra Records / June 1979

There I was, playing possum in the backseat while my fellow teenage compadre Jeff was in the front seat, engaging in a pre-dawn carnal encounter with a 30-something cashier working the graveyard shift at a 24-hour convenience store. Back in 15 minutes.

“But there’s a guy lying in the backseat,” the cashier observed nervously. “Ugh, trust me,” Jeff fired back with certain frustration. “He’s completely unconscious.”

Looks like I’m gonna be up all night, yeah!

It was the sizzlin’ summer of ‘79. Just 16 at the time, I’d embarked on a carefree, two-week getaway, flying from Orlando, Florida, to reconnect with childhood pals still living in my hometown of Springfield, Missouri, the “Queen City.” My compadre Jeff owned a late model Oldsmobile, known reverently to our crew as The Bomb. Jeff had just learned that the trade-in value of The Bomb was a mere $115; however, throw his kickass Jensen car stereo into the deal, and The Bomb was worth nearly $600.

Historically, it’s been the birthright of teenagers far and wide to do stupid stuff, and our crew excelled in “Stupidity 101” successfully and shamelessly.

Hey, we got a bag of M-80s! Let’s blow up some mailboxes!

Our late-night missions typically involved disturbing and terrorizing all sleeping residents within earshot, while blasting Jeff’s unapologetic car audio system as The Bomb chugged along throughout the Queen City. The soundtrack to our summer exploits was magical and memorable: Get the Knack, Van Halen II, At Budokan and Joe’s Garage, to name just a few.

But our go-to playlist headliner was Candy-O, the just-released sophomore set from The Cars. Not so coincidentally, Candy-O was the cassette playing during Jeff’s aforementioned pre-dawn carnal encounter. Truth be told, 87% of my current 74% hearing loss can be attributed directly to Candy-O being cranked on Jeff’s Jensen tri-axles at a stupid teenage volume night after night during my sizzlin’ summer of ‘79 experience.

A quirky name, ‘til they MADE it cool, The Cars was one of the first bands associated with the budding “new wave” sound to roll onto my radar. As their self-titled 1978 debut started gaining traction on the radio, it also began racing up the charts. The band looked cool, and the songs were fresh and fun. By comparison, many of my longtime rock heroes suddenly sounded stale.

If I leave here tomorrow…

Expectations for the second Cars album were high, and the band dodged the dreaded “sophomore jinx” famously and with gazelle-like swiftness. Overseen by legendary producer Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, Journey, Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper), Candy-O was (and is) sonically superb, and it checked all of the boxes with a fat-ass Sharpie. The songs were catchier than ever, the pin-up girl cover was a total tissue tosser, and the band had become even cooler looking. Heck, in 1979, bassist Benjamin Orr personified “cool.”

Step aside, “Space Ace” — there’s a new sheriff in town!

Opening with the urgent and infectious lead-off single, “Let’s Go,” the Ric Ocasek-penned, 11-song collection felt like an instant pop to the privates. Equally irresistible standouts “Since I Held You” and “It’s All I Can Do” proved David Robinson to be the perfect drummer for the perfect songs on a perfect album. The triple-threat combo of “Double Life” and “Shoo Be Doo,” along with the title track was a heart-racing banger, to be sure. To this day, the eight-and-half-minute super-sweet suite gives me palpitations, and it remains a qualified infomercial for keyboardist Greg Hawkes and lead guitarist Elliot Easton’s ball-busting brutality.

Candy-O snapped and popped. It beeped and buzzed. The only thing rivaling the record’s massive musical performance was Ocasek’s masterful word-crafting, pointing to pictures of “holiday romance,” “cadmium cars,” and those “ruby rings.”

I’ve bought Candy-O numerous times since its initial 1979 release: my original LP copy, then on cassette, then on CD. In recent years, I’ve scored additional used vinyl copies at various thrift stores and flea markets. Not too long ago, the GF and I spotted a ravaged vinyl copy at a neighborhood garage sale for just 25¢. The darn thing looked SO sad — like it actually had been pee’d on (see photo). For a quarter, I had to buy it. Oddly, it plays great!

Candy-O
photo by Christopher Long
Candy-O

Nearly 45 years following that sizzlin’ summer of ‘79, Candy-O is as tasty (and vital) as ever. In fact, my lifelong pal Dingus called me the other day, as he’d picked up a used copy recently at a joint in Arkansas. Something of an audio nerd, Dingus cleaned the record up and gave it the ol’ studio-quality headphone test. He was flabbergasted by how fresh the songs (still) felt and by how “such an old album could sound so new.”

(6/5) ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Candy-O
photo by Christopher Long
Candy-O

Candy-O Track List

SIDE ONE

  1. Let’s Go (3:32)

  1. Since I Held You (3:16)

  1. It’s All I Can Do (3:46)

  1. Double Life (4:11)

  1. Shoo Be Doo (1:41)

  1. Candy-O (2:37)

SIDE TWO

  1. Night Spots (3:14)

  1. You Can’t Hold On Too Long (2:47)

  1. Lust for Kicks (3:52)

  1. Got a Lot on My Head (2:59)

  1. Dangerous Type (4:30)

The Cars


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