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"
Just What I Needed.jpg
Single by the Cars
from the album The Cars
B-side"I'm in Touch with Your World"
ReleasedMay 29, 1978 (1978-05-29)
Format7-inch single
RecordedAIR Studios, London, February 1978
LabelElektra 45491
Songwriter(s)Ric Ocasek
Producer(s)Roy Thomas Baker
The Cars singles chronology
"Just What I Needed"
"My Best Friend's Girl"
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.[4] 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.[4] Ocasek had originally written the song in the basement of the commune he lived in at the time.[5] 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."[6]

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".[4] 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."[7] Shortly thereafter, it became one of the stations' most requested songs.[8]

The opening riff of "Just What I Needed" was borrowed from "Yummy Yummy Yummy", a song by the Ohio Express.[4] 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.[9] The song was sung by the Cars' bassist Benjamin Orr, in a performance that Ultimate Classic Rock described as "perfect."[10]


"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.[11] 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.[12] "Just What I Needed" has since been covered by several artists, including by the Strokes with Jarvis Cocker in 2011,[13] the Killers in 2018,[14] and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2019.[15]


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."[16] 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."[17] 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.[5] 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."[18][10] The site also ranked it the 35th best classic rock song of all time.[13] The song was also ranked among the band and Ric Ocasek's best by the New York Times, NME, Esquire, and Inquisitr.[19][20][21][22]

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.[3]

Chart performanceEdit


  1. ^ Prato, Greg. "The Cars - The Cars | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  2. ^ Runtagh, Jordan (8 April 2014). "Catchy, Loud and Proud: 20 Essential Power Pop Tracks That Will Be Stuck In Your Head Forever". VH1. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  3. ^ a b Prown, Pete; Newquist, Harvey P. (1997). Legends of Rock Guitar: The Essential Reference of Rock's Greatest Guitarists. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 178. ISBN 978-0-793-54042-6.
  4. ^ a b c d Milano, Brett. Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology. Rhino.
  5. ^ a b Dolan, Jon; Doyle, Patrick; Hiatt, Brian; Hoard, Christian; Leight, Elias; Sheffield, Rob; Schteamer, Hank. "The Cars' Ric Ocasek: 17 Essential Songs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  6. ^ "The Cars interview".
  7. ^ Myers, Marc. "The Story Behind the Cars' 'My Best Friend's Girl'". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  8. ^ Scott, Jane. "The Cars take off fast in record derby" The Plain Dealer 9 June 1978: Friday 28
  9. ^ Sheffield, Rob. "Why Ric Ocasek Was the Ultimate New Wave Voice". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  10. ^ a b Swanson, Dave. "Top 10 Benjamin Orr Cars Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  11. ^ "Just What I Needed". Hung Medien. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  12. ^ Elliott, Stuart. "Circuit City Uses an Old Song to Personify Customer Advice". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  13. ^ a b Zalenski, Annie. "No. 35: The Cars, 'Just What I Needed'—Top 100 Classic Rock Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  14. ^ Graves, Wren. "The Killers honor "king" Ric Ocasek with cover of "My Best Friend's Girl": Watch". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  15. ^ Reilly, Nick. "Watch Red Hot Chili Peppers cover The Cars' 'Just What I Needed' in tribute to Ric Ocasek". NME. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  16. ^ Guarisco, Donald A. "Just What I Needed - The Cars | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
  17. ^ "Top Single Picks" (PDF). Billboard Magazine. June 10, 1978. p. 82. Retrieved 2020-07-10.
  18. ^ Zalenski, Annie. "Top 10 Cars Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  19. ^ Tannenbaum, Rob. "Ric Ocasek's Essential Songs: Listen to 11 Tracks". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  20. ^ McMahon, James. "The Cars' 10 Best Songs". New Musical Express. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  21. ^ Vankin, Jonathan. "Ric Ocasek's 5 Best Cars Songs: Legendary New Wave Band Turned Out More Than A Dozen Hit Singles". Inquisitr. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  22. ^ Miller, Matt. "The Best Songs From the Cars' Ric Ocasek". Esquire. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  23. ^ "Australian Charts > The Cars". australian-charts.com Hung Medien. Retrieved June 17, 2011.
  24. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 29, No. 26 Sep 23, 1978". Library and Archives Canada. RPM Weekly. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  25. ^ "The World's Music Charts (Album artist 310 - The Cars)". Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  26. ^ "New Zealand Charts > The Cars". charts.nz Hung Medien. Retrieved June 17, 2011.
  27. ^ "The Official Charts Companys > The Cars". Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 17, 2011.
  28. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Just What I Needed". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  29. ^ "The Cars - Charts & Awards - Billboard Singles". AllMusic (Rovi Corporation). Retrieved 4 November 2009.
  30. ^ "Top 100 1978-09-16". Cashbox Magazine. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  31. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1999). Pop Annual. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-142-X.