The Cars

You're All I've Got Tonight

Composed by Ric Ocasek

Song Review by

One of the keys to the success of the Cars is that, like Steely Dan, they knew how to use the studio as an instrument to give what would make their often sarcastic music a slick sheen palatable to a wide audience. A great example is "You're All I've Got Tonight," one of the highlights from their debut album. On paper, it plays like a parody of a love song: the lyrics chronicle a terminally indifferent fellow who tells his abusive lover "I don't care if you use me some more/I don't care if you abuse me some more" because "you're all I got tonight." The music behind these sarcastic sentiments has a rhythmic pulse, dividing its time between verses built on ascending note patterns and a chorus that delivers the title in a harmonized fashion before closing out with a little call-and-response between the lead and background vocal lines. However, what might seem like a tongue-in-cheek pop tune becomes a thumping fusion of new wave and hard rock in the studio to the one-two punch of a clever arrangement and a slick production job by Roy Thomas Baker. The Cars' recording of "You're All I've Got Tonight" starts with a throbbing drumbeat and fuzzed-out guitar riffs that give it a hard rock punch but quickly adds waves of ethereal synthesizer and an arch vocal from Ric Ocasek that lend it a new wave edginess. Baker's production adds hanger-loads of echo and phasing effects to the guitars and drums that give the song an intense sense of swing, yet maintain a crystal-clear soundscape that leaves room for Greg Hawkes' delicate keyboard flourishes and allows Ocasek's vocals to take center stage. The result is a powerful but inventive rocker that leaps out of the speakers with three-dimensional vigor. Surprisingly, "You're All I've Got Tonight" was never issued as a single but got frequent radio play and continues to pop up on classic rock station play lists today.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Cars 1978 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab 4:14
No Image 1984 Vestron
No Image 198? Elektra
D.I.Y.: Mass. Ave.: The Boston Scene (1975-83) 1993
Various Artists
Rhino 4:13
Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology 1995 Rhino 4:16
No Image 1999 Tendolar 4:07
Candy-O/Heartbeat City/The Cars 2001 WEA International 4:12
Complete Greatest Hits 2002 Elektra / Rhino 4:15
The Definitive 2002 Elektra / Rhino 4:14
Heartbeat City/The Cars 2008 Warner Music
Rhino Classic Albums Collection [f.y.e. Exclusive] 2009 Rhino 4:13
Original Album Series 2009 Elektra / Rhino 4:15
Studio Album Collection, 1978-1987 2014 Elektra / Rhino 4:15
The  Elektra Years: 1978-1987 2016 Elektra / Rhino 4:13
Moving in Stereo: The Best of the Cars 2016 Elektra / Rhino 4:14
Classic Rock [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino
No Image Elektra / Rhino 4:14
blue highlight denotes editor's pick