March 14, 2006

Rock reunion combines Cars members, Rundgren

By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Two former members of the defunct
new wave rock band the Cars have refueled the group, installing
singer-songwriter Todd Rundgren in the driver's seat and will
hit the road as the New Cars, they said on Tuesday.

The new model, featuring Cars lead guitarist Elliot Easton
and keyboardist Greg Hawkes, will be accompanied on tour by
fellow classic pop refugees Blondie, who were inducted into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Monday amid a tense stand-off
with former members.

Blondie singer Deborah Harry said from New York that the
tour would be the band's last.

Absent from the Cars reunion are singer/guitarist Ric
Ocasek, who wrote all the band's hits, such as "Good Times
Roll" and "Let's Go," bass player Benjamin Orr, who died of
cancer in 2000, and drummer David Robinson. The band broke up
acrimoniously in the late 1980s amid declining sales.

Ocasek and Robinson declined to participate in the reunion,
but "they've been actually pretty supportive," Easton said at a
news conference where the band played some of its big hits.

A source close to the band said Ocasek, not the most
charismatic frontman, recommended the more-gregarious Rundgren
as his stand-in.

Rundgren, 57, a maverick pop songwriter famed for such
tunes as "I Saw the Light" and "Can We Still Be Friends," said
he was "intrigued" by the reunion idea, and played with the

"And nothing went horribly during the course of that, so
here we are," said Rundgren.

By calling itself the New Cars, the band did not want to
risk misleading fans who thought they would be seeing the
original lineup, said Easton.

Rundgren joked that they considered calling themselves
Nazzcar or Autopia, references to his former bands the Nazz and
Utopia. As with Ocasek, Rundgren also has many producing
credits, including Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell," one of the
biggest albums of all time.


The New Cars tour will begin in low-key fashion, at a
casino in the Mississippi city of Tunica on May 12, and will
reach such key markets as Los Angeles (May 20), New York (June
7), its Boston hometown (June 9) and Toronto (June 21), before
wrapping on July 1 in Saratoga, New York, on July 1. Tickets
will cost between $50 and $75 (before Ticketmaster fees),
depending on the market.

The Cars, founded in 1977, were among the most successful
American rock bands to emerge from the remains of the
short-lived punk rock revolution. The group managed to appeal
to fans of both disparate genres thanks to radio-friendly pop
tunes flavored with a hint of detached irony.

Its self-titled debut album, issued in 1978, yielded the
hits "Good Times Roll," "My Best Friend's Girl" and "Just What
I Needed," and turned the band into FM rock staples.

The Cars became MTV favorites in 1984 with a slew of videos
stemming from its fifth -- and most successful album --
"Heartbeat City." But the belated follow-up, 1987's "Door to
Door" sold disappointingly, and the band broke up at Ocasek's
behest after a poorly received tour.

Also aboard the New Cars are bass player Kasim Sulton, who
played with Rundgren in Utopia, and former Tubes drummer
Prairie Prince.

Blondie, the rock-disco crossover act behind such tunes as
"Heart of Glass" and "Rapture," inadvertently stole the
spotlight at the hall of fame induction in New York. Three
former members joined the current lineup on stage, but were
rebuffed in their attempt to perform because of long-standing

"I actually sorta expected much worse, if the truth must be
known," said Harry, 60, who was speaking via a satellite link.