Unsung Guitar Greats: Elliot Easton
Emerging from the New Wave music scene of the mid-70s, the Cars line-up consisted of lead singer and rhythm guitarist Ric Ocasek, lead singer and bass guitarist Benjamin Orr, guitarist Elliot Easton, keyboard player Greg Hawkes, and drummer David Robinson.
With their highly polished, mechanically-tight pop/rock formula, the Cars burst onto the scene and ultimately became the most popular and successful American rock & roll band of the late '70s and early '80s--with a string of platinum albums and Top 40 singles to their credit. (They were also remarkably popular as solo artists.)
This popularity was due in no small way to the remarkably clever and tasteful guitar talents of Elliot Easton.
Having studied music at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, the left-handed Elliot wasn’t content to just emulate the styles of all the guitar greats of the 60s whose techniques he’d mastered, he sought--and well succeeded--in keeping the guitar a powerful element in the newly emerging synth-oriented pop music of the 70s.
From their entry into the rock music scene, the Cars debut album, The Cars, was deemed a "genuine rock masterpiece" by Allmusic Guide, with "Just What I Needed” giving listeners a taste of not just what the Cars were all about, but what creative juices were flowing in the 25-year-old Elliot.
Robert Palmer, music critic for The New York Times and Rolling Stone, described the Cars' musical style by saying: "they have taken some important but disparate contemporary trends—punk minimalism, the labyrinthine synthesizer and guitar textures of art rock, the '50s rockabilly revival and the melodious terseness of power pop—and mixed them into a personal and appealing blend."
By late ‘78, The Cars had gone platinum, with the spotlight highlighting the proverbial breath of fresh air Elliot brought to what many insiders had feared was the beginning of the end of guitar rock music.
Elliot released a solo album in 1985, Change No Change, featuring songs co-written with Pittsburgh singer/songwriter Jules Shear.
Following the collapse of the Cars in 1988, Elliot played with a number of bands including the New Wave supergroup the New Cars (with Todd Rundgren), and a touring reformation of rock pioneers Creedence Clearwater Revival, Creedence Clearwater “Revisited,” and also worked with Ric Ocasek as a solo artist.
Elliot then lent his creative talents to a number of projects by newer artists like the power pop band the Click Five, whose guitarist Joe Guese referred to Elliot as "the Boston connection.” Elliot played the lead break in the Click Five song, "Angel To You (Devil To Me).” A later project, Band of Angels, resulted in the album, Band of Angels, which was eventually shelved although selections were included in the 1996 CD release of Change No Change.
In 1998, Elliot’s guitar genius was featured on No Cats, an album from bass player Lee Rocker of Stray Cats fame (the two were boyhood chums), contributing guitar licks for "Rumblin' Bass" and "One Way or Another."
Currently, Elliot is a member of the New Cars, along with original Cars keyboardist Greg Hawkes, singer/songwriter Todd Rundgren, former Utopia bassist/vocalist Kasim Sulton, and Tubes drummer Prairie Prince. In June 2006, the band released a live album, It's Alive! that includes three new studio tracks.
King of Blues Concert
Elliot has played several signature model guitars over the years: a Kramer in the mid-1980s and currently a Gibson SG. He played a red Dean ML with white binding around the time of the first Cars album; he has also played a Gretsch Duo Jet, among many other makes and models.
Elliot made a cameo appearance in the 2009 Australian “mockumentary” musical film, Ricky! The Movie.
Elliot's Facebook page:
The Great Rock Discography, Martin C. Strong
Images via Wikipedia.org except where credited otherwise (with my appreciation)
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