Yesterday

Hall & Oates
Blue-Eyed Soul

by Otis Stokes

Philadelphia radio personality “Georgie Woods,” who worked at R&B station WDAS, coined the phrase “Blue-eyed Soul” in the 1960s to describe white artists who received airplay on rhythm and blues radio stations. Perhaps one of the most famous acts to be associated with the term were “The Righteous Brothers,” due to their soulful vocal performances. Their 1964 LP “Some Blue-Eyed Soul,” was named after the expression. But I believe for most African-Americans growing up in the 70s, that term was synonymous with Hall & Oates. The duos’ 1975 hit, “Sara Smile,” was the epitome of “blue-eyed soul” because you couldn’t tell from the rhythm and blues music and vocal style that the singers were white. Not only did that song endear Hall & Oates to the Black community, it was the song that began their hit-making career. Daryl Franklin Hohl (later changing the spelling to Hall) and John William Oates first met each other at the Adelphi Ballroom in Philadelphia in 1967. At the time they met, each was heading his own musical group, Hall with “The Temptones” and Oates with “The Masters.” They were there for a band competition when gunfire rang out between two rival gangs, and in trying to escape, they ran to the same service elevator. After talking, the two discovered that they were interested in the same music and that both were attending Philadelphia’s Temple University. While at Temple, Hall worked with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff as both an artist and a session musician. With so much in common, the two hooked up musically and eventually shared a number of apartments in the city. One of the apartments they shared had “Hall & Oates” on the mailbox, which became the duo’s name. Three years after meeting, they signed to Atlantic Records and released their debut album “Whole Oates” (1972). This was followed by “Abandoned Luncheonette” (1973) and “War Babies” (1974). None of these albums were successful despite having been produced by big name producers like Arif Mardin and Todd Rundgren. They had no hit singles during this time period, though “Abandoned Luncheonette” contained the song “She’s Gone,” which became a #1 R&B hit for “Tavares” in 1974. Hall & Oates hit version would not be re-released until 1976. The duo left their first record company, Atlantic Records, to join their second label, RCA Records. Their first album for the new label, “Daryl Hall & John Oates,” was their first legitimate success. It contained the ballad “Sara Smile,” a song Hall wrote for his then girlfriend Sara Allen, who would also become a songwriting collaborator. The next LP was “Bigger Than Both Of Us,” which was more pop-oriented than previous projects and produced the duo’s first #1 smash, “Rich Girl,” which, by the way, was the second single released from that album. After this run of success, there was a change of fortune as the group’s pop/R&B style was smothered by the disco craze. Desperate for radio airplay, they released the rock-oriented albums “Beauty On A Back Street” in 1977, and “Along The Red Ledge” in 1978, and an album which combined rock with dance music entitled, “X-Static, in 1979. None of these albums broke. The 1980s brought about significant changes for Hall & Oates. The pair felt that the biggest hindrance to their success was outside producers and studio musicians who didn’t quite understand what they wanted to express musically. So instead of recording in Los Angeles, they began recording in New York at Electric Lady Studios just minutes away from their apartments. The resulting album, “Voices,” was written, produced and arranged by Daryl Hall and John Oates in one month, and was notable for having a clearer style and better sound than their previous releases. Although they had some mild chart success with a cover of The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,’” and “You Make My Dreams,” the LP didn’t produce a big hit for the duo. However, the touching ballad “Everytime You Go Away,” written by Hall, was recorded by British singer Paul Young who had a Billboard #1 hit with his cover of the song in 1985. Then came what is widely considered one of the duo’s best albums with “Private Eyes.” This album produced four singles which all reached the Top 40. The title track and “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” were nearly consecutive number one hits, separated only by the ten week stay at the top by the monster hit “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John. “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do),” was one of the few songs ever recorded by a white act to reach the top position on both the R&B and the pop charts. “Private Eyes” was the duo’s first album to reach the Top 10 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Their next album, “H2O,” a very polished, synth-heavy effort, became Hall & Oates’ most successful album, with U.S. sales eventually reaching four million copies. “H2O” reached #3 on the Billboard album chart (where it held for 15 weeks) and spawned three Top 10 singles. “Maneater,” the biggest hit of their career, reached #1 on December 18, 1982 and stayed there for four weeks. The soulful ballad “One On One” and a cover of Mike Oldfield’s “Family Man,” reached #7 and #6 in March and June 1983, respectively. By the fall of 1983, Hall & Oates were one of the biggest pop music acts in America. They had five number one singles to their credit, two consecutive Top 10 albums and were one of the biggest names on MTV. In April 1984, the Recording Industry Association of America named Hall & Oates the most successful duo in rock history. Then Hall & Oates returned to the studio in 1984 after a rest period to begin work on the “Big Bam Boom” album. The first single from the LP, “Out of Touch,” became the group’s sixth #1 hit, receiving tremendous airplay. “Method Of Modern Love,” which debuted on the pop charts while “Out Of Touch” was at #1, reached #5 in February 1985. In 1988, Hall & Oates moved on to Arista Records, where under the tutelage of Tommy Mottola recorded their next album, “Ooh Yeah,” which included the #3 pop hit, “Everything Your Heart Desires.” That would be their last song to make it into the top 10. Together for over 40 years, Hall & Oates have a formula for success and getting along. John Oates once said in a Juke Magazine interview, “We have our creative differences, but we reconcile them.” He also said, “If we both come up with a different way of doing something, we’ll try it both ways and whatever sounds the best of the two we’ll use.” In 2005, Hall was diagnosed with Lyme disease causing him to cancel the majority of a Hall & Oates summer tour. He has since been given a clean bill of health. Subsequently, Daryl Hall created a web series called “Live From Daryl’s House, which was completely funded by Hall until it gained in popularity. Then a production deal was struck and expanded it to Viacom’s VH1, VH1 Classic, and Palladia networks. Hall created “Live From Daryl’s House” as a refuge from life touring on the road. He stated in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine that he wanted to bring the world to him, for a change. Among his guests over the 62 episodes are: Cee-Lo Green, Smokey Robinson, Joe Walsh, Booker T. & The MGs, Todd Rundgren, Dave Stewart and Train, as well as his long-time performing and songwriting partner John Oates. No strangers to success, Hall & Oates have amassed seven RIAA platinum albums, and six RIAA gold albums, along with being named Billboard’s “Most Successful Duo of the Rock Era,” surpassing The Everly Brothers. They have also been inducted into the “Songwriters Hall of Fame.” Billboard magazine had Hall & Oates at #15 on their list of the 100 greatest artists of all time, while VH1 placed the duo at #99 on their list of the 100 greatest artists of all time. And in April, they will be in the 2014 class of Inductees for the “Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.” For sure, Hall & Oates at the ages of 68 and 65 respectively, have established themselves as more than just a “blue-eyed soul” duo after all of these years. But let’s face it, when you start your career crossing over to an audience that is not traditionally yours, it must mean that your music has soul… and soul in this case is colorless.