3D Great Rock Bible
Daryl Hall & John Oates iTunes Tracks Daryl Hall & John Oates Official Website

Daryl Hall & John Oates

Sophisticated soft-rock, AOR or blue-eyed soul straight from the heart of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, DARYL HALL & JOHN OATES were probably the missing link between BILLY JOEL, TODD RUNDGREN and a smorgasbord of 60s/70s Philly outfits. The fact that HALL cut his teeth by singing back-up for The STYLISTICS, The DELFONICS and The INTRUDERS, in the late 60s, was all the more significant and enterprising.
Singer-songwriters in their own right (or as a pair), the 70s got off to a slow start, but working their way through big name producers Arif Mardin and the aforesaid RUNDGREN, attention focused on soothing songs such as `She’s Gone’ (re-issued from their “Mardin” days), `Sara Smile’ and their inaugural No.1, `Rich Girl’. The 80s fared even better as they reeled off five further chart-toppers by way of `Kiss On My List’, `Private Eyes’, `I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)’, `Maneater’ and `Out Of Touch’.
HALL & OATES had come a long way from their salad days as apartment-sharing students at Temple University, Philadelphia; both of them duly performing nights for pin-money in various R&B outfits. Born Daryl Franklin Hohl, October 11, 1946, Pottstown, PA., HALL had the broadest CV; classically-trained from an early age, he progressed to doo-wop groups, while also featuring on a 1966 single recorded by Kenny Gamble & The Romeos – the leader a producer/songsmith, the back-up featuring the equally-talented Leon Huff and Thom Bell. Meanwhile, JOHN OATES (born April 7, 1948, Manhattan, New York) fronted his own combo, The Masters, who issued a one-off single, `I Need Your Love’, also in 1966.
Daryl also sessioned for many acts, including spots in The Temptones, The Cellar Door, and The Executive Suite, before leading out soft-rock quartet GULLIVER, playing keyboards alongside Tim Moore (guitar), Tom Sellers (bass/keyboards) and Jim Helmer (drums). The band released one self-titled LP for Elektra Records, in January 1970 (hung over from ‘69), before Daryl once again succumbed to singing back-up to pay the bills.
HALL & OATES had kept in touch, even though John had decamped to another college, with a subsequent year-out (or two) in Europe. Around the turn of the decade, with Oates now back in Philly circulation, the duo began writing songs in a rootsy folk vein, songs that finally drew in the attention of Tommy Mottola, whom, as their manager, found them an opening at Atlantic Records (home then to the likes of LED ZEPPELIN and YES).
Enlisting DUSTY SPRINGFIELD producer Mardin to tweak the pair’s soft-shoe-shuffling debut, WHOLE OATS (1972) {*6} – the duo were billed under this heading on their accompanying spawn `Goodnight And Good Morning’ – several of the pieces had undergone an autumnal R&B face-lift; `Fall In Philadelphia’, `Lilly (Are You Happy)’ and `I’m Sorry’ were not too far removed from the works of ELTON JOHN, BREAD or a nascent BILLY JOEL.
1973’s ABANDONED LUNCHEONETTE {*8} burned slow into the hearts and minds of the American public; one song in particular, the classic `She’s Gone’, a modest #60 breaker in the early days of ’74, but a belated Top 10 smash a few years later when DARYL HALL & JOHN OATES were on a cusp of a wave. Enjoying renewed interest from all and sundry, the album also went Top 40; fans now hooked by other sophisti-soul-inflected ballads, `Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)’, `I’m Just A Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like A Man)’, `When The Morning Comes’ and the title track.
Despite a heavier, more experimental set produced by wizard/true star TODD RUNDGREN, WAR BABIES (1974) {*5} could not give them the breakthrough they so richly deserved. And probably far too much of an influence if truth be told, the “initiation” test for Todd and the harmony-fuelled Philly duo was doomed from the opening gambit of flop 45, `Can’t Stop The Music (He Played It Much Too Long)’ right through to the equally ironic `I’m Watching You (A Mutant Romance)’ and the cosmic `Johnny Gore And The “C” Eaters’. This marked the end of their ill-fated tenure with Atlantic.
Relocating to R.C.A. Records, and New York, the duo concentrated on developing their blue-eyed soul-rock/R&B without assistance from outsider sources. Inspired by The O’JAYS, The TEMPTATIONS and/or The DOOBIE BROTHERS, the much-improved eponymous fourth set, DARYL HALL & JOHN OATES (1975) {*7}, finally furnished them with a golden record, albeit only after the Top 5 breakthrough success of the infectious `Sara Smile’ (co-written with Daryl’s then girlfriend Sara Allen in mind). Made up like male model poseurs on the jacket/cover-shot, H & O’s attempt to pull in the female fraternity worked a treat, while if the songs mattered, they’d come in the shape of `Camellia’, `It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’, `Gino (The Manager)’ and the reggae-tinged `Soldiering’ (a Jamaican hit for The Starlights featuring Stanley Beckford).
Going from strength to strength on the glossy BIGGER THAN BOTH OF US (1976) {*6}, the duo’s songwriting relied on their new-found confidence and tasty treatments on the likes of attendant hits such as `Do What You Want, Be What You Are’, the aforementioned classic `Rich Girl’ (short at only 2:25 minutes) and the funky, CURTIS MAYFIELD-ish `Back Together Again’.
As new wave ripped up the rule book and caused mayhem within the musical landscape, survivors DARYL HALL AND JOHN OATES changed little to adapt to the transitional times, though some songs on their transatlantic chart album, BEAUTY ON A BACK STREET (1977) {*5}, confirmed an ambitious, spirited edge that recalled their time with Todd; examples `You Must Be Good For Something’ and `Bad Habits And Infections’; the “exceptions” were the nostalgic `Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Heart?’ (penned with Sara) and `The Girl Who Used To Be’.
Concert sets were a necessary by-product (or even “buy-product”) for top acts and, while most were fruitful in drawing in fans further afield than their natural city limits, it couldn’t be said for the Hershey homecoming run-through of the duo’s big tunes, LIVETIME (1978) {*5}.
Hoping to quickly paper over the cracks of their previous folly, HALL & OATES roped in a handful of rock celebs to bolster the sound on the David Foster-polished ALONG THE RED LEDGE (1978) {*6}. Fans of ROBERT FRIPP would be hard-pressed to hear his guitar licks on `Don’t Blame It On Love’ and GEORGE HARRISON on `The Last Time’, but with guest appearances by others from TODD RUNDGREN, Rick Nielsen (of CHEAP TRICK), Steve Lukather (of TOTO) and Dick Wagner (ex-ALICE COOPER), maybe there was hidden charm on attendant hits `It’s A Laugh’ and `I Don’t Wanna Lose You’.
1979’s X-STATIC {*6} ended the decade on a high note, albeit in a synthetic disco vein on `Portable Radio’, a DAN HARTMAN-like track thankfully not picked out for an “Instant Replay” single; instead that went to the RUNDGREN-esque Top 20 item, `Wait For Me’. With a spot of spiky, derivative new wave beats, Sara Allen and the duo’s `Intraveno’ and the aptly-titled `No Brain, No Pain’, probably picked up fans in FM America, but British fans would be less than impressed with their jump-lead to DEVO’s punk pop planet.
Though the pair’s profile took a bit of a pounding towards the end of the decade, intensified when an experimental DARYL HALL solo album (`Sacred Songs’) was mistakenly palmed off as fresh release in May 1980. The fact was that it’d been recorded in 1977 with the aforementioned FRIPP at the decks and, on reflection, it deserved more than its #54 chart peak; the singer returned the favour when he guested on the guitarist’s `Exposure’ LP in ‘79.
So rumours dismissed of a break-up, DARYL HALL & JOHN OATES re-emerged with a gleaming new synth/pop-soul sound on VOICES (1980) {*8}; a Top 20, Neil Kernon-produced record that saw equally sales-worthy singles, `How Does It Feel To Be Back’, `You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ (a remake of The RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS gemstone) and an overdue No.1 smash, `Kiss On My List’. If that wasn’t enough, probably pencilled-in for release was `Everytime You Go Away’ (a soon-to-be UK smash for PAUL YOUNG), usurped by another Top 5 jerky pop cue, `You Make My Dreams’.
Vaguely akin to a two-headed American take on PHIL COLLINS (granted, a disturbing thought – even now!), HALL & OATES duly cleaned up in both the singles and albums market with a string of AOR hits, including the title track from the PRIVATE EYES (1981) {*8} Top 5 set, its seductive follow-up `I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)’, the JOEL-esque Top 10 `Did It In A Minute’, and the not-so-well-received `Your Imagination’.
It was much the same results for the sensual and stream-lined Top 3, H2O (1982) {*7}, another Kernon production that hosted no less than three Top 10 singles: the luscious `Maneater’, `One On One’ and `Family Man’; the latter air-brushed from MIKE OLDFIELD’s airborne set, `Five Miles Out’. Stylised synth-soul solidified by a robotic beat only new wave acts could get away with, the transformation of HALL & OATES was a long distance away from a decade ago. The addition of songwriter sisters Sara and Janna Allen had went some way in helping the duo on their way to stardom. The run of hits continued with the exclusive `Say It Isn’t So’ (#2) and `Adult Education’ (#8), pulled from probably the best collections of the year, 1983: ROCK ‘N SOUL PART 1: GREATEST HITS {*9}.
Swapping Kernon for producer Bob Clearmountain (with additional mixing courtesy of hip-hop legend ARTHUR BAKER), `Out Of Touch’ made it six US No.1’s in total, and a choice piece from BIG BAM BOOM (1984) {*6}. Spawning the infectious `Method Of Modern Love’ ditty, the haunting ballad `Some Things Are Best Left Unsaid’ and `Possession Obsession’ (all three, Top 30 hits), HALL & OATES’ timeless chemistry was still ticking over effectively.
Now the most successful duo in recorded history, bypassing the standards set by The EVERLY BROTHERS, it was time to add a touch of celebratory panache to their world of soul. Together with heroes DAVID RUFFIN & EDDIE KENDRICK (remembered fondly for their respective times with The TEMPTATIONS), their collaborative LIVE AT THE APOLLO (1985) {*5} album, saw HALL & OATES run through recent crowd-pleasers, prefixed by their attempt to resurrect a medley of “Tempt-ing” classics that showcased `The Way You Do The Things You Do’ / `My Girl’, as lead single.
Back from HALL’s solo time-out, by way of album `Three Hearts In The Happy Ending Machine’ (1986) – featuring Top 5 cue `Dreamtime’ – HALL & OATES were in tune again for Arista Records on “comeback” set, OOH YEAH! (1988) {*4}. Typically 80s fodder a la tinny percussive/keys production values, the record failed to spark up enough interest to give it high-end chart appeal. Nevertheless, their fanbase couldn’t resist the seductive, nocturnal overtones of saxxy, synthetic singles, `Everything Your Heart Desires’ (#3), `Missed Opportunity’ (#29) and `Downtown Life’ (#31).
As the old decade shaped up into a new one, the CHANGE OF SEASON (1990) {*4} failed miserably to scale the commercial heights of yesteryear. Two tracks that caught the imagination of singles buyers were the JON BON JOVI-cast `So Close’ (#11) and the SAM & DAVE homage, `Starting All Over Again’; of the other outsider songs on board, only `Don’t Hold Back Your Love’ (#41), made any chart headway.
While DARYL HALL was a `Soul Alone’ in 1993 (the independent `Can’t Stop Dreaming’ was turned out in Japan late in ’96), the duo were back in business for Top 100 breaker MARIGOLD SKY (1997) {*5}. Smooth as synth-driven soul should be, `The Sky Is Falling’ faltered at the starting gate in their attempt to claw back the years.
The long-awaited DO IT FOR LOVE (2003) {*6} enjoyed a more hospitable reception from both the press and long-time fans. While hardly breaking any new ground, the record was a more than passable attempt at resurrecting the slick, blue-eyed soul vibe of their best work, while both Daryl and John were in fine fettle and voice throughout, if a little burnished by the intervening years.
2004’s OUR KIND OF SOUL {*6} was what one might come to expect from a duo not ready to disperse into the musical ether. Predominantly a covers set (`Let Love Take Control’ and `Don’t Turn Your Back On Me’ were down to Daryl-John/Daryl), acolytes of the Motown/Gamble-Huff/Stax eras would be in their element courtesy of `Standing In The Shadows Of Love’, `Used To Be My Girl’, `Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love’, `You Are Everything’, `I’m Still In Love With You’, et al.
While there’d be no “War Babies” or “Abandoned Luncheonettes” on show on the festive HOME FOR CHRISTMAS (2006) {*4}, there was room for a glut of smoothies and `Rich Girl’ fodder on 2008’s double-CD/DVD package, LIVE AT THE TROUBADOUR {*6}. Daryl sporting a beard, and John minus his signature moustache (he’d shaved it off several years ago), the pair reeled back time with ease and grace. In 2011, HALL himself was back on song with the solo `Laughing Down Crying’, which at least kept the duo’s momentum going until their possible comeback album.
© MC Strong 1994-2004/GRD // rev-up MCS Jan2016

Share this Project

Leave a Comment