The legendary Boston rockers The Cars (and 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees) released six albums between 1978 and 1987, and a seventh, their 2011 comeback album, MOVE LIKE THIS. All seven were great albums, but not all had the huge success as their 1978 self-titled debut or 1984’s HEARTBEAT CITY.
Sandwiched inbetween 1979’s quadruple-Platinum CANDY-O and 1981’s double-Platinum SHAKE IT UP albums was the very underrated PANORAMA album from 1980. PANORAMA did manage to sell a million copies and was certified Platinum, but many folks these days seem to forget about it, and many other folks (mostly critics) in those days weren’t to jazzed about the album.
Unlike THE CARS and CANDY-O, PANORAMA had a more experimental and aggressive-sound than in previous albums. In a 1980 ROLLING STONE cover story about The Cars, guitarist Elliot Easton had this to say about PANORAMA: “If anything sits a little funny about success, it’s the feeling that we’re doing something creative and expressive, but the people we’d like to see it get through to dismiss it as plastic crap. Yet middle America acclaims us.”
In the same ROLLING STONE cover story, keyboardist Greg Hawkes had this to add: “I hardly saw a bad review of the first album, but the second one was a totally different story. And now, with PANORAMA, we’ve had reviews saying stuff like, ‘What happened to these guys?’ It’s as if we made one good record and then totally blew it.”
In a review that year by Deborah Frost of the BOSTON PHOENIX, she was unkind to her hometown music heroes RE: their third album: “Certainly, some of their fans will think they’re really putting their necks on the line this time. Bullshit. If they are, it’s not because the music or ideas behind it are so brainy, but because this is a slapdash job. This year’s model is a lemon….”
Well, I disagree with Ms. Frost and her 36-year-old review about PANORAMA. It may not have been their biggest or best album, but it did give us some great gems like “Touch And Go” (No. 37, BILLBOARD Hot 100, October 1980) and “Don’t Tell Me No.”
One more gem from PANORAMA was written by vocalist and rhythm guitarist Ric Ocasek, and it was the third song on the album – “Gimme Some Slack.” It was released as a single, but was not a hit anywhere, even here in America.
But, as I’ve prolly said here before, as much as I love being a singles chart nerd, a song doesn’t have to be a hit for you to love it. And, sometime somewhere, “Gimme Some Slack” was played on the radio here in Central Maine, and ever since, I’ve always loved it. It’s a straight-ahead Rock song, and I especially dig the song’s intro, where it sounds like The Cars are channeling The Rolling Stones through guitarist Elliot Easton. Then, Ric Ocasek’s vocals come on and Greg Hawkes’ keyboards kick in, Benjamin Orr’s and David Robinson’s bass and drums never miss a beat, and it’s The Cars again…