Almost Hits: The Cars, “Since You’re Gone” (1981)

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This is, even more so than the title track hit from 1981’s Shake It Up, the exact midpoint between the harder-edged new wave of the Cars’ classic 1978 debut and the sleek MTV smash Heartbeat City still to come.

Beginning with a tap-shoe cadence, the determinedly disconnected “Since You’re Gone” is defined by Elliot Easton’s guitar — which moves from nervy riffs to desperately sad swoons over the course of things. But listen closely, as Ric Ocasek begins a weird tale of romantic nihilism (one only accentuated by a note-perfect early video where the departed girl transforms into a dead-eyed mannequin), and Greg Hawkes’ sharp keyboard stabs. Taken together, they give the track its atmosphere of decade-defining modernity.

Still, when Ocasek lovingly chirps the line “you’re so treacherous,” it sounds simultaneously hilarious and truly creepy. In that way, “Since You’re Gone” isn’t the perfect distillation of this still-evolving aesthetic. It remained a little too offbeat and, thus, could only rise to No. 41 on the pop charts upon its release in 1982.

That might just be what makes it so lastingly intriguing, though. “Since You’re Gone” feels like the last truly weird thing the Cars ever did.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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