Sunday, 27 April 2014

Going into the Rock and Roll Hall (and Oates) of Fame

Daryl Hall and John Oates, recent inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
It is hard to believe how many people were critical of the selection of Hall and Oates to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

If there was ever a band that is synonymous with the 1980s, it’s the duo of Daryl Hall and John Oates, who spanned more than a decade, launching number one hit after number one hit, and leaving their mark indelibly on the music scene.

Out of Touch – literally
As with so much music, I really came to know Hall and Oates near the end of their run of success. It was 1984 and they had just released the album “Big Bam Boom”. I had begun to listen to the radio
regularly and two Lethbridge countdown shows in particular: the top 20 album countdown on LA-107 FM and the top seven at seven on 1090 CHEC AM.

There was a song I just could not get out of my head that made regular appearances on both those shows, and it was the latest single by Hall and Oates off their latest album. It was called “Out of Touch” and in fact, as I listened to more and more music, I was the one who was out of touch with music, although I had had some exposure to Hall and Oates before 1984.

Word play
When I was in elementary school, I used to hang out with this neighbour of mine named Mike, who seemed to be one of the cool kids.
He knew a lot about music, primarily because he had a couple older brothers. He kept singing this song in recess called, “Bitch Girl”, probably because his brothers called it that.

I soon discovered two things. The song was in fact called “Rich Girl”, and Mike never got the words right to any song.

This was my introduction to Hall and Oates.

Warm-up medley
H20 (1982) featured number
one single "Maneater"
Fast forward to junior high. I was in Grade 8, playing basketball for the senior varsity St. Joseph’s Hawks (formerly the Jayhawks until our old blue uniforms were replaced with new burgundy ones). We were playing in a tournament at W.R. Myers in Taber, and for the first time they were playing music while we warmed up. I remember “Maneater” by Hall and Oates playing while I was doing a lay-up.

My old friend and teammate Mike Hartman listened to a lot of music. “Maneater” was one of the songs I remember we listened to while we played video games, shot baskets in his driveway, and hung out.

Commercial success
The title track from Private
Eyes (1981) went to number one
Awhile later a new show was about to start on Channel 7 called “Moonlighting”. They were running commercials to promote it. “Moonlighting” was about a private detective firm, starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd. Fittingly, the song they used to promote it was…”Private Eyes”.

Big Bam Boom
Big Bam Boom (1984)
produced "Out of Touch".
Which brings us to 1984 and “Out of Touch”. I just loved that song, partly because it always seemed to be playing somewhere. It was first semester of Grade 10, and I heard it riding the bus to school on CHEC pretty much every morning. My buddy Mat, another neighbour, this one on the opposite side of our place from Mike, had just bought a new ghetto blaster. He was recording songs off the radio, and I thought it was the coolest thing. He asked me if there was anything I wanted. I told him I loved this song “Out of Touch”. The next day, when he got on the bus he looked at me and mouthed the words, “You’re out of touch.” He had to wait a couple hours until it played, but got it. Then he produced a chromium dioxide tape from Radio Shack and handed it to me. I always thought that was pretty cool.

In second semester, I befriended someone who would become one of my best friends. One of the first times we hung out, what struck me was – he got the words wrong.

What was it about Hall and Oates that everyone got the words wrong?

By then, Big Bam Boom had produced other singles.

The next one was “Method of Modern Love”, which, quite frankly, was pretty clunky. They spelled out the words and, although it was catchy, it really wasn’t that good. Still, it had some good success. Their next singles were “Some Things are Better Left Unsaid” which sounded more like their other stuff, and “Possession Obsession” with a rare turn by Oates on lead vocals (and where he drove a cab in the video).

Motown lowdown
The next time I saw Hall and Oates they were part of USA for Africa’s “We are the World” in 1985. That summer they performed at Live Aid. I remember it vividly because they performed with Eddie Kendrick and David Ruffin of “Temptations” fame. Earlier in 1985, I discovered, they had all recorded “Live at the Apollo” together, which was a live album. It was a chance for Hall and Oates to get back in touch with their roots, and sing with two of their idols.

Solo success
Daryl Hall's solo album  "Three
Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine",
which produced the single "Dream Time".
The duo of Hall and Oates was dormant the next two-plus years, but they did keep on working on their own. In 1986, Hall put out an album “Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine” (how could anyone forget that title) with the single “Dream Time”, which peaked at number five, and also included the single “Foolish Pride”. Meanwhile, Oates did some work with the Parachute Club, including backing vocals on their single “Love is Fire”. Wikipedia also revealed he got a songwriting credit on “Electric Blue” by Icehouse, which reached number seven on the Billboard Hot 100.

After that, Hall and Oates pretty much faded from my life. They released one more album in the summer of 1988, and the single “Everything Your Heart Desires” hit the airwaves, making it all the way to number three and becoming the duo’s last top ten hit.

The years since
Ever since then I have become more and more familiar with Hall and Oates, with songs such as “Kiss on my List”, “You Make My Dreams”, “She’s Gone”, “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling”, and “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do))”, and I've grown to like them more and more.

Parting thoughts
I have this cousin who knows pretty much everything about music. Whenever the topic of Hall and Oates came up, he used to say he really neither liked nor disliked them. They were always on the radio with something new, so he said they were “passable”.

I totally disagree. Their music was more than passable. Over a five-year period, they regularly occupied the top ten, but merit should not be based strictly on popular success or how many number-one songs a band records. Hall and Oates did more than just record cookie-cutter singles hoping to recreate success over and over. Instead, they took some chances and did some different things, and their music was a fundamental part of the 1980s pop music scene because of it.

Beyond that, they are a part of the fabric of pop culture. Their songs bring back memories for virtually everyone who hears them.

They have earned their place in the hall of fame.

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