Why I Love… The Cars' The Cars – Billy Howerdel

The co-founder of hard-rock supergroup A Perfect Circle tells Why Vinyl Matters author Jennifer Otter Bickerdike about his early experiences buying vinyl, and recalls his very first time…

“I have four older sisters, so my first music came from whatever they were listening to. My oldest sister was into the Stones and Beatles, standard things. The second oldest, she was more into pop on the radio – REO Speedwagon and Styx. Lisa, my third oldest, she was into harder rock. She gave me AC/DC’s Back In Black. I remember being 10 years old when that came out. Lisa had hyped it so much. It was such a shock to hear something that heavy and complete all at once; it was such an incredible record.

“The music I got into at a young age was mostly from Lisa and the older brother of my friend Tommy – both boys lived next door to us. The whole post-punk British scene came to me from the brother. He was into all of the interesting stuff; I really owe a lot to him, because it really put me down the path of interesting artists. I still talk to the brother. He brought all of his family to one of my concerts. They live in a little town. Coming to a big rock show, getting backstage – it was a big deal for them. I told his kids: ‘Your father was one of the biggest influences – musically – on me’. They were like: ‘What?!? He only listens to talk radio, he doesn’t even listen to music!’. Tommy was the cool guy that listened to cool music. It’s funny, as you get older, tastes and interests change. I got into Elvis Costello, Blue Öyster Cult and all of those things from him. The first Elvis Costello records, I know every lyric and melody and nuance until Goodbye Cruel World [Costello’s ninth album, released in 1984]. His first record [1977’s My Aim Is True] – I was so deep into it. Listening to him and looking at the covers, it was like church for me.”

Island Records

“Around this same time, I discovered a radio station in Long Island that my mom’s clock radio picked up. I would just listen to that, write things down that I had never heard of, and go to the local music store called Sound Exchange in New Jersey and ask the clerks behind the counter if they had those records. They would curate their own list and I would go through stuff in there. It was amazing.

“That was where I bought my first record with my own money; money I had earnt from chores. It was the debut album by The Cars. We already had it on 8-track, but the vinyl was an upgrade. I literally remember walking down the aisle, I think it was $10. I have kids now, and try to explain what an album means – that it’s not just a random playlist, not just some random set of songs that someone thinks is interesting.
“For me, the album is such an important format. There’s something about sitting down with a collection of songs. Something front-to-back is so different to: ‘Oh, what’s that band with that song? What’s the band again?’.”