There was a while when picture disc singles were all the rage. This was the first one I ever bought. A single that hit the charts in February 1979, peaking at #17.

The thing was, nobody meaningful in the UK seemed to take The Cars all that seriously, (by that I mean music journalists – the fact they got a couple of Top 40 hits means enough people liked them to buy things – or maybe we were all suckers for the picture discs).

They did however, do quite well over in their own country. I suppose that we Brits had enough of our own home-grown new wave singers and bands to talk and write about that we could ignore what was happening over on the other side of the big pond. Maybe it was also the fact that the early releases were produced by Roy Thomas Baker who had a close working relationship with Queen. But they were never really hip or trendy in the UK despite the early singles and LPs being a great mix of spiky guitars and pop-orientated synths.

Just What I Needed had in fact been the band’s first success in the States in 1978, but was only released over here as the follow-up to My Best Friend’s Girl. After that, more or less nothing. But back home, they continued to greatly outsell the likes of Blondie and Talking Heads, both of who had emerged around the same time, but both of who enjoyed great critical and commercial acclaim in the UK and across Europe.

Most people nowadays think of the hit song Drive when any mention is made of The Cars, which is a dreadfully dull and dreary song that conquered the charts, not once but twice, both pre and post-Live Aid (the second time being when when it was used as the soundtrack to a particularly emotive video appeal associated with the fundraising)

The Cars broke up in 1988. While most of the lead vocals on their songs were handled by guitarist Ric Ocasek, it is bassist Benjamin Orr, who died of cancer in 2000 at the age of 53, who sings on this great wee bit of pop:-

mp3 : The Cars – Just What I Needed

There’s no way I’m not going to make any case for The Cars being a band that should be in everyone’s record collection, but I will defend the greatness of their early hit singles in the UK. They sound a bit like Squeeze…….

(Originally posted in June 2009)


  1. I remember buying My Best Friend’s Girl on picture disc and getting preferential treatment to my mate, who only got the black vinyl version. Later, I remember another Dave of Bruce’s Records Dundee branch pulling this very Cars picture disc apart, to reveal the actual make-up: cardboard for the body, a thin print on both sides, and a clear plastic coating which actually carried the music. We were all dumbfounded: Could this Cars picture disc that we all desired actually only be a vehicle for a money making operation? Had we fallen for it? The answer was just what I needed..

  2. The very first picture disc I remember seeing was ‘Best Friend’s Girl’. My cousin John had it. I’m sure it was shaped like the car in your pic above…

  3. Spot on about them receiving little attention. Despite being an avid music press reader I had no idea who what when they appeared on The Old Grey Whistle Test playing this very song. Bought the album that week, and I still think it’s a great album of singles

  4. remember buying this – could of been my first pic disc too. gonna put the LP later!

  5. Cars = Squeeze? You are more right than you’ll ever know! Both were bands highly regarded by people I knew, with solid sales appeal, but they were each kind of run-of-the-mill for me. Only recently did I get the first Cars album when my wife picked up the DLX remaster in a thrift store [for way less that its street value] recently. It is pretty good commercial pop/rock. Like what I’d say about Squeeze, but neither band were compelling enough to drive my purchasing, though I’d always liked “Take Me I’m Yours” as an atypically cool Squeeze song. The Cars had one, too. Ever hear “Shoo-Be-Doo” from their “Candy-O” album? It was drowning in baleful synths, and the production was insanely and relentlessly inhuman. Now if they all sounded like that I’d have been a believer!

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