Sunday, July 26, 2009

10 minus 10 equals H2O

Hall and Oates are comin' at ya in 1985!

Been a little stumped for motivation on blogging at the moment, not that I can't think about things to blog about it's getting to actually typing something where I'm stuck. When I think about lack of motivation I think about that Hall & Oates hit "Say It Isn't So" which has some kind of lyric about motivation. Being the lyrical genius that I am, I can't quote the actual words but "motivation" was somewhere in there. I've been meaning to post about Hall & Oates, just didn't know what approach to take, so I've decided on listing my Top 10 Favorite Hall & Oates songs not to make the Top 10. Singles chart that is. Swimming pools, movie stars.

10. "It's A Laugh" from Along The Red Ledge (1978)

A few years before they found that perfect balance between rock and soul, they released this gem which went to #20 on the Billboard singles chart. That perfect balance is almost there though and "It's A Laugh" is sort of like a hit that got away in that if it had been released in the early 80's it probably would have done even better commercially. Although during their peak they could have belched on record and watched it fly up the charts. At any rate, I like the self aware sarcasm added to the tuneful pop, sax blasts and squalling guitars on this one.

9. "Gotta Lotta Nerve" from Voices (1980)

When someone does something mildly offensive, this song pops into my head ("Gotta Lotta Nerve / Gotta - Lotta") so I'm making this bouncy innocuous ditty number 9. At the time of their success people considered John Oates to be the equivalent of an Andrew Ridgley (i.e. useless car racing sidekicks who only serve a purpose for presenting an image as a duo). There's a reason that Hall's name comes first, he writes and sings lead on the majority of their stuff. Yet I notice when Daryl Hall does something solo it's often missing those soulful ooh - aah - whoop de do background vocals that are key to their ear snagging sound. Lesson here: never doubt the power of the porn star mustache!

8. "Wait For Me" from Rock & Soul part 1 (1984)

Why the hell was there never a part 2? It's not like they didn't have enough hits to do a sequel. "Wait For Me" originally was released in 1979 from the X-Static album and went to #18 on the singles chart. For me, the studio version didn't exist until a few years back because I never heard it, what I heard was the live take at the end of H & O's first greatest hits package. And what a great live performance it is, from the count off at the start to those cascading heavy synths, Hall's plaintive vocal and Oates stinging guitar, "Wait For Me" is rock and soul brilliance. At the end of the song, Hall set the standard for blue eyed soul vocal runs that was so money that even he didn't know how money it was. His voice was extremely emotive and could display a full range of feeling. When Billy Vera did his blue eyed soul runs at the end of "At This Moment" a year or two later, people thought Vera was a Daryl Hall wanna be.

7. "Everywhere I Look" from Change Of Seasons (1990)

On the Change of Seasons record Hall and Oates realized they were too old to keep up with the burgeoning hip hop scene so they downplayed the soul and upped the rock / pop feel. But Hall's moussed up Breck girl hair can't lose all its soul, turning this breezy bit into a refreshing piece of fluff. I played this song heavily at the time. I should mention here that as good as they are live on tv or recorded live, when I've actually seen them live (twice, once in '85 and again in the 2000's) I find them kinda boring. The three minute magic of their radio hits are squashed in favor of extended arrangements and solos. Particularly in '85 when the 12" single was still a novelty, they basically did live performances of a 12" remix when playing which would just pummel the song hook on me for 5 minutes past when I stopped caring.

6. "Foolish Pride" from Three Hearts and the Happy Ending Machine (1986)

OK, this is actually from a Daryl Hall solo album produced by that sunglasses wearing guy in the Eurythmics-Dave Stewart. This was the one solo Hall song I've heard that effectively recreates Oates part, that stuttering chorus ("F-f-f-foolish / F-f-f-foolish foolish pride"). This was the second single from the record following the Top 10 "Dreamtime". Nice memories of living in Sacramento, my first apartment came with cable tv in the rent and there was this movie channel that would throw in videos like Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4 '86" or this one in between showings of Brother From Another Planet. When searching for this song on the internet, there's a You Tube clip of a girl singing along to this tune just last year. Of all the Daryl Hall songs to have legs, I didn't think this one would because it's so forgotten that ITunes doesn't have it. Go figure.

5. "Open All Night" from H2O (1983)

There's a definite late nite mood with the stately piano and the haunting chorus, this song got played a lot when the duo would make live appearances on tv. Daryl Hall tells his tale of woe about a girl cheating on him ("She was open all night"), a pretty cool put down to compare your cheatin' woman to a 7-Eleven. Yeah, I'll have an orange Slurpee, some Now & Laters and your girlfriend to go. Nobody screws over Daryl Hall, feel the wrath of the mousse.

4. "Downtown Life" from Ooh Yeah (1988)

If I remember right, I think this was written for the Eddie Murphy movie Beverly Hills Cop II but didn't make the soundtrack so it instead opened H&O's first album for Arista records. One of their most straight forward rock tracks, it was the third single from the Ooh Yeah album going to #31 on the charts. I love that classic Hall and Oates chorus backed with the sparkly synthesizer underneath, it gives that perfect image of an L.A. night with all the action, bright lights and sleaze you can handle. 80's style, of course.

3. "Head Above Water" from Private Eyes (1981)

Speaking of the rock side of the dynamic duo, "Head Above Water" rocked it out of the park. That racing verse line, slow building piano and AOR worthy chorus is pure dynamite. My second favorite song from this magnificent record (my fave was "Did It In A Minute"), "Head Above Water" is rock awesomeness. Not their most danceable song, geek spectacular that I am when I tried to learn dancing as a teenager I briefly tried to dance a little like Daryl Hall. I gave up on it quickly, I'll never get how he was able to convince others that random feet shifting and flailing arms wasn't just dancing but acceptable dancing (please see "Out of Touch" for details). That, sir, is charisma.

2. "Possession Obsession" from Big Bam Boom (1984)

John Oates useless? Don't even go there, Oates ability to dance all cat like on stage in between plucking a single note from his guitar every other beat cannot be disputed. He is soul brother #1 to Daryl Hall's histrionic hair pulling caterwauling. But seriously, Oates is essential to the duo's success even if he seems less talented than Hall. The laid back charm of this doo wop style pop sung by John Oates is inescapable, I was crushed, crushed I tell you when this was released as the 4th single from Big Bam Boom and did a measly #30 on the pop chart. Frickin' love this song. Gimmie gimmie.

1. "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" from Voices (1980)

When I first started buying music, a tv program I watched a lot was reruns of the Midnight Special. On an appearance on that program, Hall & Oates played "Kiss On My List" and this cover of the classic Righteous Brothers song. But where the original had Phil murdering jailbird Spector's wall of sound, H&O stripped it down into a funky slice of...well, rock and soul. Sure they sound great together and its easy to tie the blue eyed soul duo thing together, yet what really makes this version click is the funky part where they start with "Baby, baby, I'd get down on my knees for you." The minute or so that follows is one of the best pieces of music I've ever heard. As it stands I like the whole song anyway, that part is just so amazing. The Midnight Special appearance is one of the most memorable tv performances for me in my life (even if they were lip synching). It's also one of the first songs I could not get out of my head with a crowbar after hearing it. I couldn't find the Midnight Special version on You Tube, so here's the regular video.


The Rock Brigade Blogger said...

Oh I remember Possession Obsession well!! I passed on a chance to see these guys perform in the late 80's. Wish I had.

By the way - I have finally attempted to get my blog up and running again. Feel free to drop by!

Mr. Mike said...

Glad to see you blogging again! Possession Obsession is an awesome song.