The Cars

Just What I Needed

Song Review by Donald A. Guarisco

One of the most appealing elements of the Cars' sound is that their combination of garage band energy and new wave cool makes their best work feel classically styled and forward-thinking all at once. A great example of this unique dichotomy is their debut single, "Just What I Needed." Ric Ocasek's deadpan lyrics turn the love ode format inside out by damning the object of his affections with faint praise: "I don't mind you standing here/And wasting all my time/Cause when you're standing oh so near/I kind of lose my mind." This ambivalent tone takes a more sinister edge on the chorus with lines like "I guess you're just what I needed/I needed someone to bleed." The song's melody delivers the goods in rocking style, contrasting mid-tempo verses whose notes slowly rise to build tension with an emphatic chorus that releases this tension in declamatory style. It's a clever pop song but the Cars' stellar performance really puts it over the top: 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. "Just What I Needed" further benefits from a stylish Roy Thomas Baker production that balances all these elements into a punchy yet crystal-clear soundscape that made it perfect for blasting out of a car stereo. It got frequent radio play as a result and became a Top 30 pop hit (not bad for a debut single). "Just What I Needed" remains a staple track on classic rock radio and can frequently be heard at dance clubs that have "new wave" nights.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Cars 1978 Elektra 3:44
Greatest Hits 1985 Elektra 3:44
Cars/Candy-O 198? Elektra
Sounds of the Seventies: 1978 - Take Two 1991
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:44
Classic Rock Box: WNEW-FM 25th Anniversary Box 1992
Various Artists
PolyGram 3:42
Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology 1995 Rhino 3:46
Only Rock 'N Roll 1975-1979: #1 Radio Hits 1996
Various Artists
Rhino / JCI Associated Labels 3:43
Ultimate Rock 'N' Roll Collection [EMI] 1996
Various Artists
Legacy / Sony Music Distribution
Ultimate New Wave Party 1998 1997
Various Artists
Arista 3:38
Whole Lotta Rock: 1978-1979 1997
Various Artists
BCI-Eclipse Distribution / Eclipse Music Group 3:43
Rock 'N Roll Relix: 1970-1978 1997
Various Artists
BCI-Eclipse Distribution / Eclipse Music Group 3:43
The Ultimate Rock Collection Gold and Platinum, Vol. 3: 1974-1979 1997
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:46
Chart Toppers: Rock Hits of the 70s 1998 Priority Records 3:46
Rock on 1978: Hot Blooded 1998
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3:46
200 Cigarettes 1999
Original Soundtrack
Mercury / Polygram 3:51
Millennium Party [Rhino Box] 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 3:45
Millennium: 80's New Wave Party 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 3:45
City Rocks: Boston 2000
Various Artists
Cityrocks 3:44
Classic Rock 70's 2000
Various Artists
Trans World 3:47
Candy-O/Heartbeat City/The Cars 2001 WEA International 3:43
Then: 1978-1979 2002
Various Artists
BCI-Eclipse Distribution 3:43
Complete Greatest Hits 2002 Rhino 3:45
Rock This 2002
Various Artists
Razor & Tie 3:45
Shake It Up and Other Hits 2003 Rhino Flashback 3:42
Essential 70's [Universal] 2004
Various Artists
Universal International 3:46
Classic Rock Gold 2005
Various Artists
Hip-O 3:45
The Essentials 2005 WEA International 3:45
Ultimate 16: The Very Best of Classic Rock 2005
Various Artists
Madacy 3:45
All 70s and 80s Mega Hits 2007
Various Artists
Madacy 3:45
Legends Informercial Set 2007
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:46
Rhino Classic Albums Collection [f.y.e. Exclusive] 2009 Rhino 3:43
Original Album Series 2009 Elektra / Rhino / WEA 3:43
70s: The Collection 2012
Various Artists
Rhino 3:44
Best Love... Ever!, Vol. 2 2014
Various Artists
Parlophone / Warner Music 3:45
Studio Album Collection, 1978-1987 2014 Elektra / Rhino 3:46
The Elektra Years: 1978-1987 2016 Elektra / Rhino 3:43
Moving in Stereo: The Best of the Cars 2016 Elektra / Rhino 3:43
100 Greatest Breakfast Songs
Various Artists
Rhino 3:45
100 Greatest Rock
Various Artists
Rhino / Warner Music 3:43
100% Rock Guitar Anthems [Mood Media]
Various Artists
Mood Media Entertainment 3:44
70 Hits of the '70s [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino
70's the Collection
Various Artists
Rhino 3:45
Born and Raised in the 70s
Various Artists
Rhino 3:45
Hits Of The 70s [2019]
Various Artists
Rhino 3:45
Make You Sweat
Various Artists
Razor & Tie
Oh What a Night: 70s Classics
Various Artists
Rhino / Warner Music 3:43
Playlist: Rock [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino 3:45
Rock [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino 3:45
Rockwiz: Uncovered
Various Artists
Universal Distribution / Universal Music 3:44
The Best Ever Rock
Various Artists
Rhino
The Heart of Classic Rock [Box Set]
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:44