The Cars were one of those bands I just didn’t understand until I was a little older. I didn’t get the appeal of these skinny, funny looking guys. Didn’t understand the depth carefully hidden beneath the cool 80s synths and self-deprecating delivery. I didn’t see that they were a lot more than image.
To be fair, image makes up a pretty significant portion of what made The Cars good. It’s why they made the transition to music videos so well, in spite of not being Duran Duran pretty. They understood that one of the things that made a band really good was how it presented itself. (Not a new idea, of course. The Beatles were successful in the beginning partly because of the clear identity they had as a band and individuals. Thanks for that, Brian Epstein.) The Cars had the skinny ties and the checkered shoes and all the other cutting-edge 80s fashions. For the record, I think most 80s style was hideous, but I’m willing to ignore it with The Cars because they pull it off so freakin’ well.
“Since You’re Gone” is one of the rare really good songs that had a really interesting video to go with it. The video, in fact, adds dimension and substance to the song. It’s a typical break-up tune, with the guy feeling really sad and lonely since his girl packed up and left. He’s confused, his world suddenly thrown into disarray, feeling “since you’re gone, the nights are getting strange.” The video shows the girl packing up her make-up and flimsy undergarments, with movers taking care of the furniture while Ric Ocasek (minus his trademark shades) does a good job of looking like he has no idea what the hell is going on. It’s also a surreal take on the aftermath of a break-up: the empty shower, the guitar in the bed, and the shoes that walk off on their own (nice bit of stop-motion there). Near the end, Ocasek wanders the empty house like a ghost. There’s a haunted, empty feeling to the song that the video does a great job of emphasizing.
Nothing is ever the same when a relationship ends, at least for a little while. Things don’t look or work the same anymore. Food tastes different; songs sound funny. Your whole life feels like someone just set off a bomb, or took everything you had and disappeared. Or as the song puts it, “Since you’re gone, moonlight ain’t so great.”