Cars principals Elliot Easton and Greg Hawkes are teaming with veteran singer/songwriter Todd Rundgren in a new incarnation of pioneering new wave rock act the Cars, which will tour and possibly record an album next year. Rundgren will step in for Cars frontman Ric Ocasek, who has no plans to participate in the project. Cars bassist/vocalist Ben Orr died of cancer in 2000.
The original band split up in early 1988, after a 12-year-career that spawned such classics as “Just What I Needed,” “Let’s Go,” “My Best Friend’s Girl” and 1984’s Orr-sung “Drive,” the Cars’ biggest hit at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Billboard.com has learned that the new Cars are eyeing a 2006 tour with another legendary new wave rock outfit, but no details have yet been announced. Reaction to the news that Easton and Hawkes were pressing on without Ocasek and Orr has been mixed, but Rundgren defended the decision in a recent post on the Web site TRConnection.com (http://www.trconnection.com).
“So now an opportunity has arisen for me to pay my bills, play to a larger audience, work with musicians I know and like, and ideally have some fun for a year. The catch is, a lot of people have been counting on something else,” he wrote, referencing the disapproval of fans that are clamoring instead for a reunion of the Rundgren-featuring ’70s band, Utopia.
“Let’s make this clear: the possibility of a Utopia reunion of any kind has always been extremely remote,” he said. “We disbanded for specific reasons that a previous reunion attempt (in 1992) only exacerbated. Despite whatever enjoyment we got from playing the music for our fans, the reformation left a sour taste. It would be ludicrous to Spinal Tap our way through a tour so fans could be satisfied that we simply showed up on the same stage. That’s a redefinition of Utopia I can’t personally handle.”
Speculation about a Cars reunion has increased in recent years, as the band’s influence has become apparent on such hit-making modern rock acts as Weezer and the Strokes. “We will be playing parts of the country we’d never get to otherwise, and hope to see you all there when we do,” Rundgren said.
And although he is opting out of the new band, Ocasek told Billboard.com this summer that he was involved in assembling a Cars documentary, tentatively titled “The Cars Unlocked.” No release date has been nailed down for the film.