The Cars Reform, With Rundgren

Seminal Eighties pop outfit to tour minus Ocasek, plus Blondie

By |

The Cars have returned -- well, the New Cars, now fronted by Todd Rundgren. Gathered with founding members Elliot Easton and Greg Hawkes to make the announcement at Los Angeles' House of Blues on Tuesday, Rundgren may have sounded deeper than enigmatic Cars frontman Ric Ocasek, but he had the look down, in glued-on dark shades and a sharply cut sports jacket.

The band -- with a lineup rounded out by Tubes drummer Prairie Prince and bassist Kasim Fulton -- revealed that it will release a compilation of covers of the Cars' greatest hits in May. The newly configured band will also hit the road with recently inducted Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Blondie, for the Road Rage Tour, set to kick off May 12th in Mississippi.

Formed in Boston in 1976 the Cars' original lineup had Ocasek on vocals, Elliot on lead guitar, Hawkes on synthesizer, Benjamin Orr on bass (he died in 2000) and David Robinson on drums. The New Wave act released seven albums before calling it quits in 1988.

The New Cars then launched into a mini-set of Cars pop classics, including "Just What I Needed" and "Candy-O," as well as the first single from The New Cars: It's Alive (due May 9th), called "Not Tonight." The number waxed even more nostalgic, with Rundgren's vocals recalling a darker version of Ocasek's sound.

"The first person I spoke to was Elliot," Rundgren explained. "It's evolved more or less naturally at least in terms of the internal dynamics of the band. We are familiar with each other's work from years of listening to each other and playing on stage with each other."

Easton and Hawkes insisted that Ocasek harbors no ill will towards the band. "Elliot and I did talk openly to Ric initially and [he and David] both felt that they did not care to participate," Hawkes says. "Ric has a career as a producer and does his solo records and I think he's quite happy doing that. And probably touring is one of his least favorite things."

Adds Easton, "They've been actually pretty supportive."

Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry, beamed in via satellite, announced that this would be the last Blondie tour. But that's not cause for worry, as Harry slipped that the band may record again.

"As far as being a bigger band than the original group, I don't think that's really utmost in our minds. The whole point of it is this is a new band with a new lineup with new influences brought into the music," said Easton. Then, bringing to mind the Doors' recent outing, added, "I'd like to think this is our version of it in the 21st century."