December 1979: The Cars Release DOUBLE LIFE

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

The Cars are a classic case of a band whose debut album was simply too good. Ric Ocasek and company had all but rewritten the radio radio rule book with The Cars, careening all over the airwaves with turbo-charged instantly classic singles like "My Best Friend's Girl" and "Just What I Needed."

The band started to show off some unexpected modifications with sophomore studio effort, Candy-O, however, and some of it made the more traditional rock types carsick (zing!). They'd veered off of the main road into some pretty interesting neighborhoods on tunes like "Double Life" companion piece, "Shoo Be Doo," which had more in common with one of the many great bands Ocasek produced in his career: Suicide.

Still, lead single "Let's Go," cruised into the top 20 of the Hot 100, and the album crossed the finish line with a peak position of #3 on Billboard 200 for the week of August 25, 1979. The two albums that blocked Candy-O from the top spot: The Knack's Get the Knack, and Supertramp's Breakfast in America.

After second single, "All I Can Do," parked outside of the Top 40 with a top position of #41, the band shrugged and rolled out one more single from Candy-O: "Double Life," released on December 12, 1979. 

"When one of my songs goes to the band in barest cassette form, we sit around and talk about it. If I'm outvoted, we don't do it," Ocasek told Chicago Tribune at the time. "We almost didn't include 'Double Life' on the new album. It had been dropped."

Still, it was clear that the band's more esoteric leanings were starting to take over. Ocasek was absolutely fine with that: "I think everybody in the Cars is open-minded and creative enough that they would do anything: Nobody's holding anything back. Everybody appreciates the more radical, experimental kinds of music and likes it. But sometimes, when you're put together with five pieces, things are not as minimal as they could or should be. Everybody's developed a unique personal style, and we rely on their input. If they did it, it's good enough."

The creeping menace of "Double Life" was too much for the charts, where it declined to make an appearance.

FUN FACT: "Double Life" was the 21st music video shown on MTV after the cable channel launched in August 1981.