On the way back to Philadelphia after the holidays, we took a side trip to Thompson, Ohio, site of Benjamin Orr’s grave. In case you don’t know, Orr was one of the frontmen (the dashing one) for The Cars, a rock-n-roll band that enjoyed great success from the late 70s to the mid-80s. A native Clevelander like me, he was the inspiration for “A Night at The Orr House,” a story from Here Is Ware, my new collection of stories.
My interest in the Cars goes back many years. Several of the tracks from their excellent first album were on the jukebox at the ice rink at the Brooklyn Recreation Center. A quarter got you three tunes, and “Just What I Needed,” Bye Bye Love,” and “Moving in Stereo” were in heavy rotation.
Candy-O, their second album, was very good as well, but the band became less interesting as time went on. Orr had a brief solo career, highlighted by a banal but commercially successful tune called “Stay the Night.” On the same album (I did not buy it!), there was this abomination as well, the first ten seconds of which should be ample evidence for why I lost track of the musician:
A few years ago–for reasons I can’t quite remember–I found myself listening to Cars tunes again. I became interested in Orr’s early career with the Grasshoppers, an obscure Cleveland group that was the house band for a local American Bandstand-like show. On Youtube, I came across his isolated vocals for “All Mixed Up.” I also discovered a video of Orr’s last interview, when he was dying of cancer. He sat among his bandmates in a Cleveland Browns jersey that only accentuated the amount of weight he’d lost. These and other details found a way into my short story.
Unrelated but worth relating: In the plot next to Orr and his parents, there was this humorous stone:
“Life is changed, not taken away.” In the afterlife, you’ll never lose your remote!