photo & text by nacrowe
the follow-up to their absolutely STELLAR self-titled debut THE CARS (ELEKTRA, 1978), is another record CANDY-O (ELEKTRA, 1979) that likewise keeps the hits coming. being born in the 1980s, i feel like i was inevitably raised surrounded by and indoctrinated into NEW WAVE and POWER POP music, most of which today i am not a fan of. thats not the case with THE CARS, whom i absolutely adore for their SOARING pop melodies and TIMELESS song-craft. in fact id go further and state that i dont understand people who dont like THE CARS, along with other unassailably CLASSIC AMERICAN faire like the BUDDY HOLLY, THE BEACH BOYS, CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL, THE RAMONES, ZZ TOP or CHEAP TRICK. its almost un-AMERICAN to not like THE CARS.
the debut had ICONIC singles like "MY BEST FRIEND'S GIRL," "JUST WHAT I NEEDED," "YOUR ALL I'VE GOT TONIGHT" and "LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL" that all seemed centered around the ESCAPISM of new relationships and the potential of future parties hitherto unexplored. traditional lyrical conceits no doubt, but what i like about the singles on CANDY-O is that they seemingly fixate on the risk and reward of getting involved with someone you deep down know is not good for you, who may leave you high and dry and heartbroken. same INCREDIBLE pop sheen with those amazing INTERWOVEN harmonies by BENJAMIN ORR and RIC OCASEK, but here there is a bit of a sinister edge thrown in the mix on BULLETPROOF tracks like "DANGEROUS TYPE," "IT'S ALL I CAN DO," "CANDY-O" and "LET'S GO." it makes getting romantically taken advantage of sound THRILLING and INVITING. for me, both THE CARS and CANDY-O are perfect ROCK N ROLL recordings for the ages, and dont sound dated in the least despite being released nearly 45 years ago. thats INSANE.
i have to mention the artwork as the band commissioned ALBERTO VARGAS out of retirement in his 80s to create the album cover. they recorded the album out of the LEGENDARY CHEROKEE STUDIOS in LOS ANGELES and were surprised to learn that VARGAS still lived in the area. he had been making illustrations for HUGH HEFNER in PLAYBOY for almost twenty years after an extended sabbatical after running into trouble previously with the publication ESQUIRE in the 1950s (the postal service determined his work to be pornographic and denied such a postal permit). when THE CARS reached out to him, he had been retirement after his wife, who was his muse, model and inspiration for his paintings, had passed away. the female model for CANDY-O is drummer DAVID ROBINSON's then-girlfriend. arguably it is the most FAMOUS image VARGAS ever conceived and a fittingly flirtatiously EDGY cover to an absolute CLASSIC of an album.