The Cars were near their commercial peak when they agreed to perform at Live Aid in the summer of 1985, but there was so much talent packed onto the bill at JFK Stadium for the event that even a string of recent hits didn’t help them score a slot better than midway through the show. They came out at 5:39 pm, right after Kenny Loggins played “Footloose” and before Neil Young’s extended set.
They opened up with “You Might Think,” but the song wasn’t included on the official Live Aid DVD. Here’s video taken from the MTV broadcast, which chops off a bit of the beginning and then cuts away halfway through to show Phil Collins landing at JFK airport on the Concorde after performing at Live Aid in London. Within two hours, he’d be playing drums with Led Zeppelin during their sloppy reunion set.
The Cars were never known as an amazing live band, and their Live Aid performance didn’t do much to change that impression, even if things picked up a bit when Benjamin Orr took over lead vocals for “Drive” and “Just What I Needed.” Earlier in the day, “Drive” was played during a devastating video montage chronicling the human toll of the ongoing famine in Ethiopia. That helped the song rise up the U.K. singles chart, and the group gave all the new proceeds to the Band Aid Trust.
The attention surrounding Live Aid, “Drive,” and all the other singles on 1984’s Heartbeat City gave the group incredible momentum, but they wouldn’t begin work on their next record until 1987. The resulting album, Door to Door, failed to deliver any true hits (even if leadoff single “You Are the Girl” reached Number 17 on the U.S. Hot 100), and the band broke up after a brief tour that year.
Cars leader Ric Ocasek turned his attention to his solo career and and his work as a producer, though he would reunite his former band in 2011 to record Move Like This and he agreed to a quick tour to support it. He expressed mild interest in another Cars album when the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018, though his sudden death on Sunday means that the Cars saga is almost certainly over.