For such a great guitarist, there aren't as many examples of The Cars guitarist Elliot Easton’s prowess as a soloist as one might expect. Part of that is because Easton (born Dec. 18, 1953) had to share soloing duty with the band’s keyboardist, Greg Hawkes, who was a visionary in his own right (those “bow-bow-bow” synth patches were everywhere for a while in the ‘80s). Part of it, too, had to do with the way Cars frontmen Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr and their producers structured the band’s songs on record – every piece in its place, and every piece serving the needs of the song. And there were just as many Cars songs that didn’t need guitar solos (or whose solos were muted) as those that did.
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Still, when Easton was given the space to solo, you could hear his taste just as much as you could marvel at his technique. Check out these classics and hear what we’re talking about.
“Since You’re Gone” (Shake It Up, 1981): This rather dour lost-love song seemed an odd album opener, but it’s still a great song, and Easton’s fuzzy, sustain-soaked solo is something of a song within the song, providing a melodic counterpoint to the track that surrounds it.
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“Magic” (Heartbeat City, 1984): From its wild single-note opening to the speedy picking that closes it, Easton’s solo perfectly complements this sunny summer anthem, which topped Billboard's rock singles chart.
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“Down Boys” (Panorama, 1980): Some have called Panorama the odd entry into The Cars’ discography for its experimental leanings and production. This Orr-led rocker is probably the toughest-sounding thing on the record, and Easton clinically cuts through the track with precision and just a little bit of attitude.
"(Wearing Down) Like a Wheel" (Change No Change, 1985): Easton’s only solo album is an oft-overlooked power-pop classic, and this track – its only single – features one of the album’s best solo spots.
“Ta Ta Wayo Wayo” (Door to Door, 1987): The final album of the Cars’ initial incarnation (written a decade before it was released) was a largely low-key affair, but Easton’s work on this old-time rock throwback is exemplary, from the opening riffs to the new wave chicken-pickin’ solo.
"Tonight She Comes" (The Cars' Greatest Hits, 1985): This standalone single has all the hallmarks of the mid-’80s Cars and sounded very cool coming out of radio speakers. What sounded really great coming out of those same speakers was Easton’s solo, which had distinct sections and an overall sound that shattered the synth-y, metronomic quality of the rest of the song.
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