In 1973, I heard a new song played on a late-night radio show. It was a soulful love song, with great saxophone solos, and a large orchestra. I was driving a taxi at the time, and I was often working all night. The show in question played music from performers who were new to the scene, and covered a wide range of styles and musical genres. As it was intended for ‘serious’ listeners, the presenter went into some detail about the artist and record at the end. I discovered that the name of the group was ‘Hall and Oates’, billed as ‘Daryl Hall and John Oates’ a duo from Philadelphia in the USA, and the track was from the new release ‘Abandoned Luncheonette’. I managed to buy a cassette (yes, a tape!) of the album, and found a mix of folk, love songs, and some interesting orchestrations, all very typical of the time. As is often the case, ‘She’s Gone’ was by far the best song on it, and the others didn’t match up in terms of power and emotion.
I also realised that the duo wrote all the songs, although it was Hall’s voice that really grabbed me, with his compelling range. The track was not a hit at the time, though it was later covered by some mainstream singers, and eventually re-released to much acclaim. With a new recording company giving them more promotion, they soon became an established act. ‘Rich Girl’ was a big hit, and there was the lilting ‘Sara Smile’, one of my favourite songs of that year (1976). They were a strange mis-matched pair. Many of us believed them to be a gay couple at the time, as they were often pictured close together, and Hall looked like an attractive woman, in many of their photos. But they weren’t of course, as many of the songs tell stories of break-ups with the women in their lives. Watching them perform left you wondering why Oates was even there. It was all about Daryl Hall, his stage presence, good looks, and distinctive vocals.
By the time the 1980s came along, the duo were on the East coast of America, experimenting with different styles, and new producers. The chart hits started to roll in, and they were soon well-known all around the world. Anyone who has ever listened to pop music would recognise ‘Every Time You Go Away’, (covered by Paul Young in the UK) ‘I Can’t Go For That’, ‘Kiss On My List’, ‘Maneater’, and ‘One On One’. By the end of the decade, they were one of the biggest groups in the USA, and it seemed that they were set for long-term stardom. However, they failed to keep up with the changes in musical tastes, and didn’t have another big hit after 1990, despite remaining popular across the Atlantic. In 1993, Hall released the solo album ‘Soul Alone’, and managed to capture much of the mood from the earlier years.
They still remain friends and collaborators, and Hall has his own series on Internet TV in America. Looking back now, the emotional ballad style of this song seems a little dated, but it holds up, not least because of Daryl Hall’s wonderful voice. This clip contains several of their hits, in addition to the featured song.