The Police and The Cars: New Wave All Those Years Ago

They made New Wave mainstream.

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I feel very fortunate. At the height of my teen years, The Cars and The Police were on the radio. They were refreshing and interesting to listen to—it sure was better than listening to Disco!  Their sound was way ahead of their times and influenced Alternative Rock of the 90s. Even when both groups grew too commercial by the late 80s, I forgave them. Both groups have a long list of iconic pop songs. Of course I love them, they are a part of my personal history, but it’s when they were in the early stages of their popularity, when they mutated Rock with a string of New Wave, that’s when I admire them the most. When they were artists. Here’s a few songs that grabbed my heart and did not let go.

Have you listened to an album of the The Police lately? I’m struck by how timeless and clever they are. It’s a testament to their craftsmanship and innovative style. Yes, Sting is probably an egomaniac, but his voice and lyrics were unusual and heavy combined with silly and boyish. Their songs were charismatic. Stu Copeland is still a great drummer while guitarist, Andy Summers, no doubt is still on the shy side.

The Cars, “Moving in Stereo”

Front man and bassist, Ben Orr’s voice was smooth and pitch perfect while rhythm guitarist, Ric Ocasek’s quirky looks and voice was a nice contrast. Their sound was synthesizer-heavy played by Greg Hawkes. While they diverged to the super-saccharine and bubble-gum pop world and lost their edge, I still think of the explosion they made in the late 70s.

I miss Ben Orr.

Looking at their wrinkled faces doesn’t bother me a bit. They came back out in 2010 with a new album and tour after a long hiatus.

Take The Cars and mix in The Police and Wow! What a great pocket of time to listen to some heavy hitters in Rock music.


Yes, Rush me Genesis

No one disputes that The Beatles or Rolling Stones aren’t iconic. Did you know that Rush formed in 1968 and is third behind them by amassing 24 gold records and 14 platinum records? They are the best export from Canada, starring bassist/tenor Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart—the BEST drummer out there. I just saw them in Phoenix in late November, and I was stunned watching them play such powerful, complicated pieces. Even after forty years, you’d think their joints would keep them from playing so effortlessly. Forty years! It’s about time they will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

I have an affinity for any music, any style, when musicians play their instruments well. I admire complexity, layers fused together, an expression of an idea—hhmm, wouldn’t you say that’s the definition of art? Progressive Rock born in the 60s and 70s bowls me over and gets my undying respect.

Here’s three of my favorite examples.

Listen to the cadenza in Würm, from “Startrip Trooper”. It was recorded in stereo when instruments flipped-flopped from the left to the right stereo channel. “Würm” is an ad-lib containing the electric guitar on the right, then acoustic guitar, bass pedals and drums from the middle channel, followed by an electric keyboard, and then the guitar solo flight to ecstasy. It’s the layering until you hear a chorus of instruments that makes it great. Like classical music, it’s best to listen to this piece in the dark. Allow your ears to hear the complexity without your other senses competing. It’s a wonderful ride!

I never get tired of hearing “YYZ”. Even if you dislike the sound of electric guitars, watch this video and marvel at their dexterity. I dare you to alert me of any band out there today who can play their rock instruments like Rush!

I think Tony Banks was underrated. Was he as good as Rick Wakeman? The members of Genesis were leaders of progressive rock and I loved all their albums. I was not introduced to Genesis until the early 80s after they shifted toward pop, and it was okay—but when they showed off their musicianship from the late 60s and 70s, when they created their compositional albums, they were fantastic story tellers. I never tire of “Firth of Fifth”.

When Rock veered down the progressive path, it was a beautiful detour.