At the height of their popularity, Hall & Oates were making videos and having No. 1 hits all over the place. I didn’t like them. And it was cool to not like them. I’d be watching music videos with friends (it was long time ago, when watching entire programs of music videos was a thing), and I remember the video for “Out of Touch” coming on, and my friend sneering at the TV and saying, “Hall & Oates? More like Corridor and Horsefood.” We laughed a lot and flipped the channel.
I can’t believe how wrong I was.
Probably a big part of it was that Hall & Oates were packaged somehow, by record label marketing folks, and they had sort of a “teen heartthrob” thing associated with them. Which just doesn’t really make any sense.
As an older, hopefully wiser music listener, I’d occasionally hear their music, and find myself more interested in it. Their music sounds great, and I’d learned to appreciate the craft of pop hooks more. And they’ve written a LOT of them.
Seriously, grab a copy of the Essential Daryl Hall & John Oates or a greatest hits package, or check it out on Spotify or whatever, and it’s just hit after hit after hit. They have songs that were big hits that I bet you’ve completely forgotten about.
A few years ago, I popped in one of their hits discs, and came across the song “Did It In a Minute,” and I realized it’d been forever since I’d heard it, and I’d completely forgotten about it. And it’s not even the biggest hit from that album, which also included “Private Eyes” and “I Can’t Go For That.”
And, in my opinion, “You Make My Dreams” is one of the funkiest, catchiest pop songs of all time.
Hall & Oates’ music has been described by themselves as “rock and soul,” and, with them being from Philadelphia, the “soul” part is pretty key to their songwriting and sound. Daryl Hall has an incredible soul voice. I once read a story about Hall & Oates opening for David Bowie, during the Ziggy Stardust tour, and I’ve always wondered if this was somehow influential on Bowie, when he caught the “Philly soul” bug and decided to record Young Americans.
After making my peace with the fact that I really liked Hall & Oates now, even though part of me still felt like they weren’t very cool for some reason, I discovered that, right before they became huge, Daryl Hall had recorded a solo album, with Robert Fripp as a producer. That seemed super strange to me, but I had to hear it, as Fripp is one of my all time music heroes.
It turned out that Daryl Hall had wanted to create an album that showed off his creative side, and Fripp ran wild with this, and the album, Sacred Songs, is fantastic, and includes some of the earliest use of Fripp’s patented “Frippertronics,” which is essentially a bunch of crazy tape loops to make ambient sounding guitars.
Hall’s label at the time heard the album and refused to release it, on the basis that it wasn’t commercial sounding. They wanted him to write hits, not be an experimental musician. But, of course, this kind of thing was right up my alley, and made me respect him all that much more. In my dream of dreams, I get to run off and make an experimental album with Robert Fripp.
Sacred Songs wouldn’t be released for many years after it was made, and I realized that the reasons I’d not liked Hall & Oates as a young music listener were at least partially valid — they really were packaged a certain way from the beginning, and it was obviously in a way that made them successful, even if it meant that it took me a long time to get through all that packaging to be able to sink my teeth into their music, and appreciate it for how great it really is.