Elliot Easton: The Cars

Why You Should Know Him

Although many of the artists on our list hail from across the Atlantic, the ‘80s certainly saw its fair share of successful American acts as well. In the late 1970s, as guitar-oriented rock began to blend with the synth-oriented pop that became synonymous with the following decade, The Cars became wildly successful. The spotlight certainly shined bright on these boys from Boston, as they enjoyed success with classic tracks such as “Just What I Needed,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” and “Good Times Roll.”

It was the ‘80s, however, that catapulted them from mid-sized venues to the arena, with hits like “Shake it Up,” “Magic,” “Drive,” and “You Might Think,” which rode the MTV wave and made them award-winning video stars as well.

As poppy as they were, guitarist Elliot Easton’s lead guitar playing and guitar solos were at the heart of the band’s sound and success. Some would even argue that The Cars were the most successful New Wave band of the era—certainly the most successful American New Wave band (though Blondie fans might argue otherwise). If this is true, then Easton absolutely ranks among the top guitarists of the time period.

The Gear

During The Cars days, Easton admits he was never too picky about his setup.

Easton has endorsement relationships with Fender and Gretsch, and has played, and currently plays, a two-pickup Gibson SG Custom without the standard middle pickup. He also switches to a Custom Shop Telecaster or a G&L ASAT that he uses from time to time.

Gretsch announced the introduction of their Elliot Easton line in 2005. This signature guitar features a 1950’s style narrow headstock with Sperzel Locking Tuners and small vintage keys, graphite nut, and a 25” Scale that is 1/2” longer than the standard Duo Jet. The tone switch features a new sound for a distinctive, mid-range lead voice. The master volume control maintains the same tonality at all levels, so Easton does not lose the highs as it turns down.

For amps, Easton used classic Fender amps as well as Marshall JCM 2000 TSLs.

Where Is He Now?

In 2010, Easton reunited with The Cars. The surviving members banded together to record their first album in over 24 years, resulting in Move Like This, which was later released in 2011.

Easton’s Tiki Gods project released an album in 2013 entitled Easton Island for online download only, but a CD was released later that year in May. In 2014, Easton went on to form The Empty Hearts with musicians Andy Babiuk, Clem Burke, Wally Palmar, and Ian McLagan. Their self-entitled album was later released on August 5th, 2014.

His current project, The Empty Hearts, released a holiday single, “It’s Christmastime,” in 2016 and performed it live on the CW.

Easton currently resides in Bell Canyon, California and continues to perform live, dazzling fans with new music, as well as paying homage to the classic Cars tracks that got him where he is today.

Back to the Top 40 Under-Appreciated Guitarists of the 1980s.

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