Friday, 1 April 2011

Blue-eyed Soul: Everybody's high on consolation Everybody's trying to tell me what is right for me...

 Hip to Be Square

 “She’s Gone”, Daryl Hall and John Oates, (1973; 1976)

The over-produced shiny pop hits in their later career make us forget where Hall and Oates came from – they were street corner doo-wop singers from Philadelphia who were too late for doo-wop but not rock and roll enough for new wave. They branded their own kind of music: Rock and Soul.

Hall and Oats met under duress. They were both heading up bands at a band completion in the Adelphi Ballroom in Philadelphia when gunshots rang out. Everyone ran for cover. Darryl and John apparently ran to the same place – the service elevator. In that brief moment they found out they both were attending Temple University and both kind of liked the same music. Five years later they were signed by Atlantic Records and the rest, as they say, is history...

It must have been a dream come true to be signed by Atlantic Records. They were joining a hugely success stable of rhythm and blues, jazz and rock artists. The likes of Ray Charles, John Coltrane, The Drifters, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin were all under the Atlantic banner.  They seemed to be at the right place at the right time, getting the best producers possible, but the magic just was not there.

It seemed the problem was that their early work was too erratic and inconsistent. They were still exploring who they were. They were trying to integrate a number of influences: First there was the influence of the Philadelphia sound - groups like the Stylistics and the Chi-Lites, which they mimicked. There was the Motown sound that made them hang on every word of The Temptations and the Spinners, and there was pop and blues and soul, all competing to be included in their style somewhere.They finally left Atlantic and went to RCA records to see if they could help them figure it out.

“Daryl Hall and John Oates” was the self-titled debut album on RCA which spawned the ballad “Sara Smile”. This was finally the break they were looking for as it went to number 4 on the charts in June of 1976. Atlantic when seeing this, re-released “She’s Gone”, which then went to number 7 in November of the same year.  And they were off!

“She’s Gone” is actually one of the rare examples of when Hall and Oats were truly singing duets. When they moved to the RCA label Darryl was brought to the forefront and they were produced to be a slick pop sound - dominated by Darryl's 'blue-eyed soul' voice.

By 1983, they were huge in North America, with five number one hits, 2 top-ten albums and were huge on MTV. You know the hits:“Rich Girl”, “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do), “Private Eyes”, “Kiss on My List”, “Out of Touch”, and “Maneater”.Their top selling albums included the early ‘80’s “H2O “,”Big Bam Boom”, and “Private Eyes”.

You may want to check out: “Adult Education”, “One on One”, “Out of Touch”, “Everything Your Heart Desires”and “So Close”, if you are not already familiar with them.

Hall and Oates never really ever did bring the elements of hard rock or new wave into their songs. They didn’t have to. They practically invented their own genre - but it did not happen over night and it was not as easy as they made it look.

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