Hall & Oates

(originally appeared in December, 2009)
I haven’t really been all that enamored with The Cleveland Show, the latest spin-off from Family Guy. I am still holding out on a final decision, though, as it did take me awhile to warm up to American Dad.

(though I dug Roger, the incorrigible alien, from the start)

The other night they made a reference to Peabo Bryson which was amusing because, musical considerations aside, Peabo is a fun word to say and it is a fun word to hear said.

(unfortunately, aside from that one infommercial for some soft rock collection which Bryson hosted and possibly Casey Kasem, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard someone say “Peabo”)

Hall & Oates was also referenced as a good angel/bad angel on Cleveland’s shoulders, trying to influence a decision.

I lived through the years of the early ’80s – they were my musical formative years – so, at the time I began listening to radio, Hall & Oates was a pop music juggernaut.

Pull up a list of their hits and run through their singles during that period; it’s staggering.

I don’t recall if Hall & Oates had any credibility in the early ’80s. The only rock criticism I had access to at the time was a still somewhat relevent (but beginning to decline) Rolling Stone. I think that the magazine mostly ignored Hall & Oates.

But, I don’t remember animosity toward the duo, either. Everyone knew the songs and most were big radio hits. However, this ubiquitousness didn’t seem to generate the rancor usually accompanying such familiarity.

You’d hear the songs, enjoy some more than others, but I don’t remember knowing anyone, personally, that was passionate about Hall & Oates – no one mocked them, no one wore their concert shirts.

Most of those songs still sound fantastic thirty years later, though. And Hall & Oates do seem to be experiencing a rediscovery during the past few years (and getting some long-overdue acclaim).

It made me consider what Hall & Oates songs that I’d most want to hear at this moment.

I don’t want to hear You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling. To be honest – and I know this statement will make some shake their heads in dismay – I don’t want to hear that song by anyone.

I’m so tired of You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, I can’t remember if I ever liked it.

(Thanks Top Gun)

I dug Adult Education at the time, but time has not been kind to the song. Now, I think I find it overwrought and even a bit creepy.

Method Of Modern Love was too goofy for me in 1985 and it’s still goofy but not in a way that appeals to me.

But most of the hits of Hall & Oates are songs that are more than welcome to pop up on shuffle.

Some of the lesser hits – How Does It Feel To Be Back, Wait For Me, Possession Obsession – are appealing (maybe because they didn’t wear out their welcome as monstrous hits like You Make My Dreams, I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do), or Maneater did).

So, if I wanted to hear some Hall & Oates right now, I think here are a quartet of songs I’d be inclined to pull up…

Hall & Oates – Kiss On My List
from Voices (1980)

So, after touting Hall & Oates lesser hits, the first one I opted for was one of their biggest, but, from the stutter-step opening, Kiss On My List hooks me when I hear it. It’s lighthearted, playful, and has a fantastic chorus.

It’s also the first song by the duo which I remember being all over the radio. It also makes me think of rainy Friday afternoons in seventh grade when our homeroom teacher would allow us to play albums. She usually went with Christopher Cross, but I recall Kiss On My List being a favorite, too.

Hall & Oates – Your Imagination
from Private Eyes (1981)

In the summer of ’82, we took a family vacation to Western Pennsylvania. For two weeks, I heard Your Imagination, which I hadn’t heard on the stations back home. Those stations still weren’t playing the song when we returned and it was though it had never existed.

Maybe it was because Hall & Oates had already had the massive hits Private Eyes and I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) as well as the underappreciated gem Did It In A Minute from their Private Eyes album, but the quirky, understated Your Imagination seemed to get lost in the wake.

Hall & Oates- Family Man
from H2O (1982)

Dark and paranoid, Family Man stood out from Hall & Oates hits of the early ’80s with its agressive guitars and New Wave vibe.

The track is actually a cover of a song by Mike Oldfield, of Tubular Bells fame. I used to have a copy of Oldfield’s version and, aside from the female vocalist on the original, Hall & Oates take is, as I recall, pretty faithful.

Hall & Oates – Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid
from Big Bam Boom (1984)

By the time Big Bam Boom came out in late 1984, pop music and Top 40 stations had begun to hold far less interest for me than it had merely a year earlier. So, I was unimpressed with Out Of Touch and Method Of Modern Love, the first two hits from the album. I’ve already declared the latter to be goofy, but the former just seems soulless and stilted.

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid was the album’s third hit the following spring and is neither soulless nor stilted. It bobs along on a gentle melody and was one of the last songs by Hall & Oates to get a lot of airplay even if it didn’t reach the heights that they had earlier in the decade.

One Response to Hall & Oates

  1. J.A. Bartlett says:

    The Mrs. and I saw Hall & Oates in concert in 1983 shortly before we got married, but after all this time I don’t remember much about it. I’d like to hear “Did It in a Minute” and “How Does it Feel to Be Back” right now, definitely. But also the magnificent “She’s Gone,” which is the best thing they ever did, and the marvelously passive-aggressive “It’s a Laugh.” And “Back Together Again.” Definitely “Back Together Again.”

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