Just What I Needed
"Just What I Needed" is a song by American rock band the Cars from their self-titled debut album, released in 1978 on Elektra Records. The song, which first achieved radio success as a demo, took inspiration from the Ohio Express and the Velvet Underground. The song is sung by bass player Benjamin Orr and was written by Ric Ocasek.
|"Just What I Needed"|
|Single by the Cars|
|from the album The Cars|
|B-side||"I'm in Touch with Your World"|
|Released||May 29, 1978|
|Recorded||AIR Studios, London, February 1978|
|Producer(s)||Roy Thomas Baker|
|The Cars singles chronology|
|The Cars track listing|
"Just What I Needed" was released as the band's first single in 1978, hitting the top 30 in America and charting in several other countries. Appearing on numerous compilation albums, it has become one of the band's most popular songs and has been received positively by critics.
"Just What I Needed", like many other tracks on The Cars, originated as a demo tape recorded by the band in 1977. Ocasek had originally written the song in the basement of the commune he lived in at the time. Cars keyboardist Greg Hawkes recalled the first time he heard the song in an interview, saying, "I remember hearing 'Just What I Needed,' thinking ... 'Wow, that's pretty cool. It's got something sort of unique about it, its, like, nice and consise and ... fairly short pop song format' ... so I still remember hearing that for the first time."
The song first appeared in 1977 on Boston radio stations WCOZ and WBCN from the said demo tape, along with its future follow-up single "My Best Friend's Girl". DJ Maxanne Sartori, who was given the tapes of these songs by Ric Ocasek, recalled, "I began playing the demos of 'Just What I Needed' and 'My Best Friend's Girl' in March during my weekday slot, from 2 to 6 p.m. Calls poured in with positive comments." Shortly thereafter, it became one of the stations' most requested songs.
The opening riff of "Just What I Needed" was borrowed from "Yummy Yummy Yummy", a song by the Ohio Express. It also features a prominent keyboard riff performed by Greg Hawkes. The lyric "wasting all my time-time" is a reference to "Sister Ray" by the Velvet Underground, a band Ocasek credited as one of his favorites. The song was sung by the Cars' bassist Benjamin Orr, in a performance that Ultimate Classic Rock described as "perfect."
"Just What I Needed" was released as a single in 1978 prior to the release of The Cars, backed with "I'm in Touch with Your World". The song peaked at number 27 in the US and number 17 in the UK. It also reached number 38 in New Zealand. The single was the Cars' most successful of the songs on The Cars in America, with follow-up singles "My Best Friend's Girl" and "Good Times Roll" charting at number 35 and 41, respectively.
"Just What I Needed" appeared on multiple compilation albums, among them being Greatest Hits, Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology, Shake It Up & Other Hits, Complete Greatest Hits, The Essentials, and Classic Tracks. It appeared on the soundtracks for the films Over the Edge and 200 Cigarettes. The song was also featured in an advertising campaign by Circuit City in 2004. "Just What I Needed" has since been covered by several artists, including by the Strokes with Jarvis Cocker in 2011, the Killers in 2018, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2019.
AllMusic reviewer Donald A. Guarisco praised it as "a clever pop song", commenting that "Elliot Easton's fiery guitar leads duel with Greg Hawkes' icy synth lines over a throbbing pop/rock backbeat while Benjamin Orr lays down a fey, detached vocal that captures the sarcastic edge of the lyrics with skill." Billboard Magazine said that it was energized by a "driving, propulsive beat" and enhanced by "feisty rock guitar lines" and "a winning harmonic vocal style." Rolling Stone named the song one of Ocasek's "essential songs", praising the "chugging eighth-note guitars marching along in crisp perfection" in the song. Ultimate Classic Rock named the song the best Cars song as well as the best Benjamin Orr Cars song, saying "On a near-perfect debut album, the Roy Thomas Baker-produced "Just What I Needed" was a near-perfect song." The site also ranked it the 35th best classic rock song of all time. The song was also ranked among the band and Ric Ocasek's best by the New York Times, NME, Esquire, and Inquisitr.
The song has a minimalistic power pop sound, although has been described as having a hard rock punch by Legends of Rock Guitar: The Essential Reference of Rock's Greatest Guitarists when talking about the band's lead guitarist Elliot Easton, and his notoriety as a rock guitarist.
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