Daryl Hall & John Oates

Daryl Hall and John Oates — commonly known as Hall & Oates — are an American musical duo that have been active since the early 1970s. The pair initially recorded in an acoustic singer/songwriter mode but soon embraced maximalist-rock experimentation and the lavish orchestralism of their Philly townfolk.

Applying their signature vocal trade-offs to a range of musical styles, Hall & Oates were principally an album-oriented act for most of their first decade. Mega-success came in 1981 as the pair soared into the video age with a string of comedic clips and numerous chart singles.


Background

Daryl Hall (b. Oct. 11, 1946 in Pottstown, Penn.) and John Oates (b. April 7, 1948 in NYC) were both raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. At age 19, Hall co-founded the blue-eyed soul group The Temptones, which issued two singles on local-press ARCTIC in 1966/67. Concurrently, Oates sang and played guitar in The Masters, which cut a single for Crimson Records in 1966.

Hall and Oates met in 1967 at a band competition at Philly’s Adelphi Ballroom, where an armed scuffle erupted between two rival gangs in attendance. While fleeing the scene, both men caught the same freight elevator. Upon discovering their musical similarities, the two became close friends and eventual roommates. However, they didn’t collaborate as a musical duo for another three years, after Oates returned from a sojourn in Europe.

In the meantime, Hall teamed with his neighbor, singer/guitarist Tim Moore, in the rock band Gulliver, which released a self-titled album on Elektra in 1969. That same year, Hall partook in the jazz-funk studio project Electric Indian, which issued the album Keem-O-Sabe, comprised mostly of instrumental covers of pop hits.

In 1970, Hall and Oates began their formal partnership and recorded numerous demos. They became clients of rock manager Tommy Mottola, who secured them a deal with Atlantic Records.


1972: Whole Oats

Hall and Oates released their debut album, Whole Oats, in September 1972 on Atlantic. It opens with “I’m Sorry,” a stately, piano-driven harmony pop number with clipped, understated guitar licks. This is one of four Hall–Oates compositions along with “All Our Love,” a folksy, acoustic strum-along with twangy licks and wistful harmonies.

Hall wrote the remainder of side one. “Georgie” starts as a lucid, rhythmless piece comprised of glowing Fender Rhodes electric piano and vocals about an accordion-playing church boy who sneaks off to the nearby lake with the Reverend’s daughter, where she “caught her locket on an underwater branch, and the next thing she knew… she died.” In light of this revelation, stark chamber strings overtake the song’s arrangement.

“Fall In Philadelphia” starts as a bleak piano ballad about hardship, then moves through a funky barroom bridge where Hall declares his need to move to the countryside. The chorus (in Cmaj7) renders the title with Philly-style harmonies and glowing vibes. A sax-laden coda takes the song to a fading standstill. “Waterwheel” is a sparse piano ballad with tender vocals and a brittle two-handed ivory pattern that resolves on the line “spinning round.” Midway, Hall yields to a crisp, plucked acoustic solo. “Lazyman,” about a non-achiever, has an equally sparse piano arrangement with pauses and orchestral flourishes.

Hall and Oates co-wrote “Goodnight and Goodmorning,” a sunny acoustic harmony ballad with light string overlays and a plucked mandolin solo. “They Needed Each Other,” another Hall lone-write, concerns a sculptor whose beloved vanishes before he could finish her statue. The song’s lucid arrangement — dreamy, glowing Fender Rhodes piano and faint, shimmery strings — presages later subconscious numbers by Hall (“Falling”) and artists like Chicago ((I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long”), Gary Wright (“Child of Light”), and Boz Scaggs (“Tomorrow Never Came”).

Oates contributed “Southeast City Window,” a twangy, finger-picking country ballad; and “Thank You For…,” a slow, quiet ballad with plucked acoustic guitar and call-and-response vocals. Midway, “Thank You” summons a voxy, minimalist keyboard solo that heralds sweet orchestral overlays.

Whole Oates wraps with “Lilly (Are You Happy),” a swelling collaborative ballad where Hall and Oates pose questions about the subject’s unsuccessful love life. Hall soars to a held high note on the line “does it make you happy?” After a false ending, the song fades back for a searing guitar impression of the vocal theme.

Sessions took place at Atlantic Recording Studios in New York City with veteran producer Arif Mardin, a soundman on recent albums by Aretha Franklin, Eddie Harris, Herbie Mann, and Gordon Haskell (It Is and It Isn’t). Whole Oats was engineered and mixed by Gene Paul, who worked on recent titles by Cactus, Danny O’Keefe, Gato Barbieri (Fenix), Joe Zawinul, Larry Coryell, Troyka, and the collaborative album by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway.

Hall plays keyboards, synthesizers, guitars, mandolin, and vibraphone on Whole Oates, which features Gulliver drummer Jim Helmer and bassist Mike McCarthy, recently of blues-rockers Sweet Stavin Chain. “Southeast City Window” features blues guitarist Jerry Ricks and pedal steel player Bill Keith, who also plays on “All Our Love.” Keith hailed from the Blue Velvet Band with banjoist Eric Weissberg, who created the “Dueling Banjos” theme in Deliverance.

Atlantic lifted “Goodnight and Good Morning” as the duo’s first single, backed with “All Our Love.” Whole Oates features visuals by designer Richard Mantel, who also did covers for Attila, Black Heat, Chase, Chelsea Beige, Kaleidoscope, Macondo, Pollution, Ramatam, Steamhammer, and Tin House.


1973: Abandoned Luncheonette

Hall and Oates released their second album, Abandoned Luncheonette, on November 3, 1973, on Atlantic.

Sessions took place at Atlantic Recording Studios and Advantage Sound Studios in NYC. Arif Mardin produced Abandoned Luncheonette in succession with albums by Bette Midler, John Prine, Margie Joseph, and O’Keefe’s breakthrough Breezy Stories. Paul co-engineered the album in sequence with titles by Barnaby Bye, David Newman, Jan Akkerman, and Yusef Lateef.

Notable guests on Abandoned Luncheonette include guitarist Hugh McCracken (“When the Morning Comes,” “Lady Rain”), percussionist Ralph MacDonald (same, plus “She’s Gone”), and pianist Richard Tee (“Abandoned Luncheonette”). Woodwindist Joe Farrell plays oboe on “When the Morning Comes” and saxophone on “She’s Gone” (tenor) and “Abandoned Luncheonette” (alto).

Violinist John Blair plays his trademark vitar (an electric guitar–violin hybrid) on “Lady Rain.Drummer Rick Marotta plays on “Had I Known You Better Then.” His younger brother Jerry later served as the duo’s ongoing drummer. Funk drummer Bernard Purdie plays on the rest of Abandoned Luncheonette apart from the drummer-less “Laughing Boy,” which features jazz trumpeter Marvin Stamm on flugelhorn. Banjoist Mark Horowitz and Cat Mother fiddler Larry Packer carry the bluegrass outro on “Everytime I Look at You.”

The album’s cover shows the remains of Rosedale Diner, a former Pottstown luncheonette. Its structure sat abandoned off Route 724 in Kenilworth, Penn. Photographer Barbara Wilson, a college friend of Oates, captured the exterior (front) and a table shot of the dilapidated interior (back). The Rosedale structure was looted in the ensuing years and demolished in a 1983 controlled burn.

Atlantic lifted “She’s Gone” as a single (b/w “I’m Just a Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like a Man)”). Through it peaked at No. 60 on the Billboard Hot 100, it gained traction with 1974 covers by Al Wilson, Lou Rawls, and the Tavares, whose version (on their second album Hard Core Poetry) topped the Billboard R&B chart. The song later became a Top 10 hit for Hall & Oates after their breakthrough on RCA.

Abandoned Luncheonette initially reached No. 60 on the Billboard 200. Atlantic further plugged it with the May 1974 release of “When the Morning Comes” (b/w “Lady Rain”).

The Abandoned Luncheonette sessions produced three additional songs: “It’s Uncanny,” “I Want to Know You for a Long Time,” and “Love You Like a Brother.” All three appear on the duo’s 1977 Atlantic wrap-up comp No Goodbyes.


1974: War Babies

Hall and Oates released their third album, War Babies, on October 19, 1974, on Atlantic. It was produced and arranged by Todd Rundgren, who adds lead guitar and backing vocals and renders the album with his then-current space–psych sound.

Sessions took place in June–July 1974 at Secret Sound Studios, Rundgren’s recently established New York facility that he used for his 1973–74 albums A Wizard, a True Star and Todd in addition to fellow clients (Fanny, ex-Rascals singer Felix Cavaliere). Oates shares guitar, keyboard, and synthesizer duties with Hall, who also plays mandolin and vibraphone.

Rundgren enlisted former Air bassist John Siegler, a current member of his symphonic–space super-project Utopia, whose debut album recently appeared on Bearsville. The drummer on War Babies, John G. Wilcox, would join Utopia in time for their 1975 live release and complete the band’s classic lineup with keyboardist Roger Powell and bassist Kasim Sulton. Rundgren’s assistant engineer, David Le Sage, also worked with jazz saxophonist Steve Grossman.

70’s Scenario” features ARP String Ensemble by Don York, the arranger on “Is It a Star,” which has the lead-work of journeyman guitarist Richie Cerniglia (The Illusion, Wiggy Bits, Aviator).

Mottola provides the voice (“Erased Conelrad warning”) on “War Baby Son of Zorro,” which features backing vocals by singer–actress Gail Boggs (later of David Sancious & Tone) and blooming songwriter Sara Allen, Hall’s longtime companion. Both women also sing on “Johnny Gore and the “C” Eaters” along with the Hello People, a veteran group of singing mimes who recently cut the Rundgren-produced ABC–Dunhill release The Handsome Devils at Secret Sound.

War Babies has a cover illustration by Peter Palombi, the artist on mid-seventies Atlantic–ATCO titles by Ace Spectrum, Blue Magic, Commodores, Curtis Mayfield, Four Tops, Michel Polnareff, and Puzzle. It depicts random belongings, both real (WWII-era family pics; Ike and Dick pin) and illustrated (Evenflo baby bottle; Ritz crackers; a twice-bitten, tomato–lettuce white bread sandwich) around the US Civil Defense logo.

The back cover is half-consumed with an Armen Kachaturian photo of a messy corner with assorted junk (old Time and LIFE magazines, etc.) and an image of Hall and Oates on a small vintage TV screen. The same image appears fuller on the inner-sleeve, where Hall (blonded eyebrows) lights a cigarette in a sleeveless Bruce Lee top while Oates dons a dotted jacket and ascot with no shirt. Kachaturian’s photography appears on concurrent Atlantic titles by Billy Cobham (Spectrum) and Joe Vitale (Roller Coaster Weekend). David Gahr, who took the inner photo, also has visual credits on 1973–75 albums by Raices, Ramsey Lewis, Funk Factory (a project of the Polish–American jazz-funk couple Michał Urbaniak and Urszula Dudziak), and the elaborate live triple-album Yessongs by Yes.

Atlantic lifted “Can’t Stop the Music (He Played It Much Too Long)” as a single (b/w “70’s Scenario”). Months later, Hall and Oates moved to RCA Records.


1975: Daryl Hall & John Oates

Hall and Oates released their fourth album, Daryl Hall & John Oates (colloquially known as “the silver album”), on August 18, 1975, on RCA. Two of Hall’s contributions (“Nothing at All,” “(You Know) It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”) feature lyrics by Sara Allen, the inspiration behind “Sara Smile,” one of four Hall–Oates compositions along with “Out of Me, Out of You,” “Ennui On the Mountain,” and “Gino (The Manager),” their nickname for Mottola.

Hall lone-wrote “Grounds for Separation,” a cabaret-psych number with the influential refrain “isn’t it a bit like oxygen, where too much will make you high, but not enough will make you die.” Oates sings his three contributions: “Camellia,” “Alone Too Long,” and an adaptation of “Soldering,” a recent Jamaican reggae single by The Starlites.

Sessions occurred in Los Angeles at Larrabee Sound and Western Sound Recorders with musician–producer Christoper Bond, who harmonizes and plays guitar, synthesizers, Hammond organ, and handles horn and string arrangements. Hall restricts himself to vocals and electric piano. Bond contributed one track (“You”) to Out of Payne Comes Love, the 1975 ABC–Dunhill release by Freda Payne.

The credits list two Rhythm Heritage players: bassist Scott Edwards and drummer Ed Greene, both of found on Hard Core Poetry. Edwards also appears on albums by Clarence Carter, Popcorn Wylie, Stanley Turrentine, Stevie Wonder (Talking Book, Innervisions), and Syreeta (self-titled). Greene drums on contemporary titles by Bobby Hutton, Boz Scaggs (Slow Dancer), Eddie Kendricks, Nancy Wilson, Willie Hutch, and Zulema. Percussionist Gary Coleman, a presence on many of these recording, also appears here.

The album also features two prolific sessionists: Section bassist Leland Sklar (Carly Simon, Chi Coltrane, Harriet Schock, Shawn Phillips) and Traffic-temp drummer Jim Gordon (Eric Clapton, Harry Nilsson, Judee Sill, Oliver Nelson), who recently notched credits with Frank Zappa, Jack Bruce (Out of the Storm), and Steely Dan (Pretzel Logic). Select tracks feature pianist Clarence McDonald (“Sara Smile”) and drummer Mike Baird (“Grounds for Separation”).

Daryl Hall & John Oates was engineered by Armin Steiner, a soundman on the mid-seventies Chicago albums VII, VIII, and X. Photographer Bill King took the cover image, which shows the duo stylized by makeup artist Pierre LaRoche, a cover stylist for David Bowie, Donna Summer, and Roxy Music. The inner-sleeve shows Hall (leather clad, standing back) and Oates (nude, reclined foreground) under blue and hot pink neon lighting in a space-age tube tunnel. King’s photography also appears 1975–76 albums by Jimmy Owens, Weather Report, and Sylvia Robinson (Sylvia).

RCA first plugged the album with “Camellia” (b/w “Ennui On the Mountain”), followed by “Alone Too Long” (b/w “Nothing at All”). In January 1976, they lifted “Sara Smile” as a single (b/w “Soldiering”). It reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and setup their brief mid-seventies chart run. Daryl Hall & John Oates reached No. 17 on the Billboard 200.

In response to this newfound commercial profile, Atlantic reissued the now thrice-covered “She’s Gone,” which reached No. 7 on Billboard (No. 6 on Cash Box) and brought Abandoned Luncheonette back onto the Billboard 200, where it hit No. 33 in November 1976.

Two demos from this period, “What’s Important to Me” and “Ice,” appear on later CD reissues of Daryl Hall & John Oates.


1976: Bigger Than Both of Us

Hall and Oates released their fifth album, Bigger Than Both of Us, on September 8, 1976, on RCA. It contains “Rich Girl,” inspired by a fast-food heir who once dated Sara Allen (changed from “rich guy” to “girl” for singing purposes). Sara contributed lyrics to the folksy “London Luck & Love” and the raging “Room to Breathe,” a raw rocker with a piping ARP solo.

The duo co-wrote “You’ll Never Learn” and “Do What You Want, Be What You Are,” a quiet-storm slow jam. The former is one of three songs sung by Oates, who contributed the wistful “Crazy Eyes” and the opener “Back Together Again,” a nostalgic number with a grand sax entrance.

Hall co-wrote “Kerry” with Stephen Dees, who joined the duo on bass for their ensuing tour. The album closes with Hall’s “Falling,” a lucid epic with a slow, lengthy intro and a swelling, synthesized climax.

Sessions took place at Cherokee Studios in Hollywood with Bond, who produced the album in succession with titles by UPP (This Way) and the Jeff Beck release Wired, on which Bond served as production assistant under George Martin. Bigger Than Both of Us was co-engineered by John Arrias (American Flyer, Bobbi Humphrey, Eddie Henderson, Shalamar) and John Mills, a transatlantic soundman with ties to UK rock (Capability Brown, Nazareth, Stealers Wheel, First of the Big Bands) and American soul and jazz-funk (Donald Byrd, Ike & Tina Turner, Johnny Hammond, Leon Haywood).

Bigger Than Both of Us retains the prior album’s bassists (Edwards, Sklar) and drummers (Greene, Gordon). This is one of thirty-nine albums from 1976 with percussionist Coleman, who also plays on concurrent titles by Al Kooper, Blue Mitchell, Brian Cadd, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Elliott Fisher, The Impressions, Leon Ware (Musical Massage), Marvin Gaye (I Want You), The Supremes, and Tata Vega. Jazz-funk soloist Tom Scott plays flute, saxophone, and Lyricon, an electronic wind instrument. Additional guests include pianist Tom Hensley and drummer Slugger Blue, who’s credited with ‘G kick’ on “You’ll Never Learn.” Wrecking Crew violinist James Getzoff serves as the album’s concertmaster.

Hall resumes his multi-instrumental role on Bigger Than Both of Us, which features him on keyboards, synthesizer, and (in lieu of his mandolin) the mandola, a teardrop tenor string instrument.

Hall conceived the cover to Bigger Than Both of Us, which shows the couched duo in the process of songwriting. Oates plays guitar and stares into a vintage computer monitor while Hall jots down lyric ideas. Random hors d’oeuvres (wine, bread, Ritz crackers — their second appearance on a Hall & Oates cover) are placed at the foreground; the window scene behind their sofa appears to be a space-age metropolis. The outside perspective (back cover) places them inside a panoramic free-standing tower. The imagery is credited to Gribbitt Photography, a firm behind more than 300 seventies cover visuals, including 1976–77 titles by Ashford & Simpson, Cameo, Donna Summer, Kathe Green, Parliament, Roberta Kelly, Sunbear, and Utopia (Ra).

RCA issued “Do What You Want, Be What You Are” as the lead-off single (b/w “You’ll Never Learn”). It peaked just-inside the Top 40 and inspired a 1979 cover by The Dramatics. “Rich Girl” followed in January 1977 (b/w “London, Luck and Love”). On the week of March 26, “Rich Girl” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 — their first of six US chart-topping singles. The third single, “Back Together Again” (b/w “Room to Breathe”), peaked at No. 28 in May 1977.

Bigger Than Both of Us reached No. 17 on the Billboard 200. Hall and Oates toured the album with a backing band that included Kerry and saxophonist Charlie DeChant, a onetime member of Bethlehem Asylum and Year One. They twice appeared on the German TV program MusikLaden with extended versions of these and earlier songs.

Elsewhere, Hall co-wrote two songs (“Milky Way Man,” “Heaven”) on Take Me to Baltimore, the third and final album by English–American soul-rock singer Ruth Copeland.


1977: Beauty on a Back Street

Hall and Oates released their sixth album, Beauty on a Back Street, in September 1977 on RCA. They joint-wrote the two side openers, “Don’t Change” and “Bigger Than Both of Us,” a chamber-tinged epic developed since the namesake album. This album derives its title from the lyrics of their other co-write, “You Must Be Good for Something,” a viscous anti-diva rocker.

Hall lone-wrote the haunting “Winged Bull” and the lengthy (6:03) “Bad Habits and Infections,” a churning, long-resolving rocker with smouldering guitar. Sara wrote the lyrics to the neo-fifties shuffle “Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Heart?”

Oates contributed “The Emptyness” and the album’s two side-closers: the smokey alleyway ballad “Love Hurts (Love Heals)” and the faint, frosty “The Girl Who Used to Be.”

Overall, side one encompasses retro-rock (“Why Do Lovers”), hard rock (“You Must Be Good”), blue-eyed soul (“Don’t Change”), and after-hours balladry (“Love Hurts (Love Heals)”) while side two emphasizes dark, foreboding numbers that range from swelling and intense (“Bad Habits and Infections”) to sparse and glacial (“The Girl Who Used to Be”).

Sessions took place in April 1977 at Sound Labs in Hollywood with Bond, who produced Beauty back-to-back with Loving Is Why, the final album by Sons of Champlin (of their original formation). Mills engineered Beauty in succession with albums by Jimmy Webb (El Mirage), Lee Ritenour, and Norman Connors. The assistant engineer, Linda Tyler, also worked on 1977 titles by Gary Wright, Olivia Newton-John, and Steely Dan (Aja).

Hall plays mandolin, guitar, keyboards, and Polymoog synthesizer on Beauty on a Back Street, which features Oates on rhythm and mando-guitar (a short-necked octave 12-string: effectively an electric mandolin). On “The Emptyness,” Oates plays electric piano and dulcimer alongside jazz contrabassist Jim Hughart. Bond, who handles string arrangements with Steiner, supplements the duo on keyboards, synthesizers, backing vocals, and (on the closing two tracks) 6- and 12-string guitar.

Sklar plays bass throughout Beauty except “Love Hurts (Love Heals),” which features Edwards (credited here as ‘Sertly Edwards’). Coleman appears alongside drummer Jeff Porcaro, a presence on recent albums by Leo Sayer, Robert Palmer, Erik Tagg (Smilin’ Memories), Steely Dan (Katy Lied), and Boz Scaggs (Silk Degrees, Down Two Then Left). “Love Hurts, Love Heals” and “The Girl Who Used to Be” feature Tom Scott, who also plays saxophone on the Aja cuts “Black Cow” and “Peg,” as well as on 1977 albums by Airto Moreira, Diana Ross (Baby It’s Me), Harvey Mason, Maxine Nightingale, Noel Pointer, and Patrice Rushen.

Beauty on a Back Street has nighttime cover photography by one John Beau. It shows Hall (shades) and Oates situated by an old brick building where robed women stand with their backs to the camera. The back photo shows the duo flinch as one woman spins and reveals. On the inner-sleeve, Hall (turned, shaded) and Oates (eyes to the lens) strike an icy pose. Designer Dick Smith did numerous psych-era covers (Alan Bown, Bear, Cherry People, Orpheus) and recent visuals for Carole Douglas, Flame, Lonnie Liston Smith, and Odyssey.

RCA lifted “Why Do Lovers (Break Each Other’s Heart?)” (b/w “The Girl Who Used to Be”), followed by “Don’t Change” (b/w “The Emptyness”).

Hall and Oates toured Beauty on a Back Street with DeChant, keyboardist David Kent, and three members of the Elton John Band: bassist Kenny Passarelli (ex-Barnstorm), guitarist Caleb Quaye, and drummer Roger Pope — the last two formerly of Hookfoot. This lineup performed in Pennsylvania at Hersheypark Arena on December 8, 1977. Their set from that evening comprises Livetime, the first Hall and Oates live album, on which they perform “The Emptyness” and six earlier songs: three from Bigger Than Both of Us (“Rich Girl,” “Room to Breathe,” “Do What You Want”), two from Abandoned Luncheonette (title-track, “I’m Just a Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like a Man)”), and “Sara Smile.”


1978: Along the Red Ledge

Hall and Oates released their seventh studio album, Along the Red Ledge, on August 21, 1978, on RCA. Side one features Philly-style arrangements with sweeping strings and harmonies while side two embraces new wave styles. Hall wrote the lush, crooning opener “It’s a Laugh” and the Spectorian “The Last Time” (both released as singles) and two ballads: “Have I Been Away Too Long” and the glimmering “August Day,” which features lyrics by Sara Allen.

Oates contributed the slick PIR pastiche “Melody for a Memory” and the riff-based rockers “Serious Music” and “Pleasure Beach,” an uptempo Blondie-esque ditty with neo-surf vibes. Hall and Oates joint-wrote the string-fluttering soul melodrama “I Don’t Wanna Lose You” and the brisk opening pair on side two: the raging “Alley Katz” and the fractious “Don’t Blame It on Love,” both imbued with punk sensibilities.

Sessions occurred in Los Angeles (Davlen Sound, Sunset Sound) and New York (Hit Factory) with producer, arranger, and keyboardist David Foster, a rising industry figure whose prior credits (as a musician) included albums by Alan Sorrenti, Alphonso Johnson, Ney Matogrosso, Rod Stewart, Sherbet (Highway), Sparks, Gary Wright (The Light of Smiles), and his own bands Skylark and Attitudes. He recently earned one of his first production credits with fellow Canadian Lisa Dalbello.

Along the Red Ledge was engineered by Davlen’s Humberto Gatica (Azymuth, Banda Black RioBarrabas), Sunset’s Tom Knox (Cheryl Lynn, Rita Jean Bodine, Valerie Carter), and Hit Factory’s Ed Sprigg (Black Ivory, New York Dolls, Nona Hendryx, Pavlov’s Dog). The album lists four assistant engineers, including Chris Desmond, who worked on 1978 albums by Al Stewart (Time Passages), Chick Corea (Friends), Gino Vannelli, and Robin Trower.

Along the Red Ledge features the same musicians Hall and Oates used on their recent tour: DeChant, Kent, Passarelli, Pope, and Quaye. The credits also list seven guest guitarists, including Rundgren, Rick Nielsen (Fuse, Cheap Trick), sessionist Dick Wagner (Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel), and Foster cohort Jay Graydon (Candi Staton, George Duke, Flora Purim, John Valenti). George Harrison plays trademark slide licks on “The Last Time.” Fripp adds the Frippertronic treatment to “Don’t Blame It on Love.” Guitarist Steve Lukather appears along with keyboardist Steve Porcaro; the two recently teamed with Jeff Porcaro in Toto. Further musicians include percussionist Steve Forman (Al Jarreau, Kenny Loggins, Sadao Watanabe) and Network keyboardist George Bitzer, who co-wrote “Serious Music.”

Sara designed the cover to Along the Red Ledge, which has a seated photo of the now-short-haired duo (continued on the back) with what appears to be the remains of a torn-off, two-layer outer sleeve (black over red) across the lower margin. The photographer, Eric Kroll, was a noted chronicler of sex workers. The inner-sleeve has a saturated pic of the duo from outside a window with a super-imposed red strip across the ledge.

RCA lifted “It’s a Laugh” as a single (b/w “Serious Music”), which reached No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. The following single, “I Don’t Wanna Lose You” (b/w “August Day”), peaked just outside the Top 40. On the week of November 4, 1978, Along the Red Ledge reached No. 27 on the Billboard 200. Hall and Oates promoted this album with a segment on The Midnight Special, a Friday late-night music program on NBC.


1979: X-Static

Hall and Oates released their eighth studio album, X-Static, in September 1979 on RCA.

Sessions took place at the Hit Factory with Foster, who also worked on 1979 albums by Deniece Williams and Earth, Wind & Fire (I Am). Sprigg engineered X-Static after working with Fripp on Peter Gabriel’s second solo album and The Roches’ debut, plus Fripp’s own Exposure, which features Hall on the punky opener “You Burn Me Up I’m a Cigarette.” X-Static has four assistant engineers, including David Leonard, who also worked on 1979–80 albums by the Average White Band, Lips, Peter Allen, Teri DeSario, and Hall’s onetime Gulliver partner Tim Moore.

X-Static establishes a Hall & Oates backing band comprised of DeChant, guitarist GE Smith, drummer Jerry Marotta, and a returning John Siegler, who recently played on albums by Baby Grand, Carolyne Mas, and Galdston & Thom. This is the first of three consecutive Hall & Oates studio album with Marotta (then moonlighting on Orleans) and the first of five with Smith, a Dan Hartman sideman. Marotta also plays on Gabriel’s second and third solo albums along with Larry Fast (aka Synergy), one of three X-Static synthesizer programmers (along with Bitzer and Steve Porcaro).

Hall plays vibraphone and mando-guitar on X-Static, in addition to keyboards and synthesizer. The album’s guest musicians include percussionist Jimmy Maelen (Ambergris, Jimmy McGriff, Lonnie Smith), drummer Yogi Horton, bassist Neil Jason (Garnet Mimms, Henry Gaffney, Narada Michael Walden), organist Ralph Schuckett, and guitarists Steve ‘4 bars’ Love (Stories, Jobriath) and Werner Fritzching, a onetime auxiliary player in Free Beer along with Marotta and Schuckett, who also appears on Hip Shot alongside DeChant, Fast, and Kent. X-Static also has appearances by Passarelli and Graydon, who subsequently cut an album with Foster under the group moniker Airplay.

X-Static features rich blue photography by George Nakana. It shows a bagged boombox on a wet surface (front) and the duo straddling the spot with the boombox in Oates’ hand (back). The inner-sleeve has green-type lyrics on the wet, blue background. The blue–green theme continues on the LP labels.

RCA lifted “Wait for Me” as a single, backed with the non-album “No Brain No Pain.” It reached No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100. In February 1980, “Who Said the World Was Fair” appeared (b/w “All You Want Is Heaven”). In the UK, “Running From Paradise” appeared on 7″ (b/w “Bebop–Drop”).

X-Static reached No. 33 on the Billboard 200. The album’s 2000 CD reissue includes “No Brain, No Pain” and another session outtake, the Foster co-write “Time’s Up (Alone Tonight),” which uses elements of “Rich Girl.”


1980: Voices

Hall and Oates released their ninth album, Voices, on July 29, 1980, on RCA. Side one contains four mid-tempo pop-rock numbers: Oates’ “How Does It Feel to Be Back” and the co-written tracks “Big Kids,” “United State,” and “Hard to Be in Love with You” — the last of those credits Neil Jason as a third writer.

The album changes pace with “Kiss on My List,” a piano-driven Tin Pan Alley-style number that Hall co-wrote with Sara’s younger sister, Janna Allen (1958–1993). Sara wrote lyrics for two of the album’s Hall–Oates numbers: the nervy post-punk styled “Gotta Lotta Nerve (Perfect Perfect)” and the upbeat soul belter “You Make My Dreams.”

Oates sings the side two opener “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” a cover of the 1964 Mann–Weil–Spector song made famous by soul duo The Righteous Brothers. This was Hall and Oates first cover since “Soldering” and their second overall. (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” recently received a Numan-esque interpretation by The Human League on their 1979 debut album Reproduction).

Hall self-composed the slow, gospelly “Everytime You Go Away,” a popular deep-cut that became a 1985 Billboard No. 1 for English blue-eyed soul singer Paul Young. Oates contributed “Africa,” an experiment in layered beat box patterns.

They co-wrote “Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear the Voices)” — about a fictional serial killer who enters a murderous state each time he hears the 1962 doo-wop song “Duke of Earl” by Gene Chandler — after convicted serial killer David Berkowitz claimed that his Son of Sam murders were motivated by “Rich Girl” (a song released halfway through Berkowitz’ 1976–77 killing spree). The lyrics also references Charles Manson’s Beatles claim (that they spoke to him in “Helter Skelter”) in a line that summarizes the concept of song–killer associations: “Charlie liked the Beatles; Sam, he liked “Rich Girl” (bitch girl)… but I’m still hung up on the “Duke of Earl.”

Sessions too place in New York at the Hit Factory and Electric Lady Studios, where Hall and Oates self-produced Voices with engineer Neil Kernon, a soundman on seventies titles by Ace, Patrick Moraz (The Story of i), and Queen (Queen II, Sheer Heart Attack) and recent titles by Brand X (Product) and Random Hold (Etceteraville). The Hit Factory sessions involved staffer Bruce Tergeson, whose prior tech credits include albums by Dionne Warwick, Essra Mohawk, Lou Courtney, and Roy Ayers.

Hall uses mando-guitar, ARP String Ensemble), and vocoder in addition to piano and percussion on Voices, where Oates programs the Roland CR-78 drum machine heard on “Africa” and “Kiss On My List.” The X-Static backing lineup (DeChant, Marotta, Sieger, Smith) returns, supplemented by percussionist Chuck Burgi, a presence on recent jazz-rock albums by Brand X (Masques) and Danny Toan. Voices has three additional musicians: Schuckett (church organ on “Everytime You Go Away”), guitarist Jeff Southworth (solo on “Kiss On My List”), and keyboardist Mike Klvana (synthesizer on “Africa”).

Sara designed the Voices cover: a grayscale image of a smiling, tilted, half-jacketed Hall hearing ‘voices’ (indicated by a curled sound lines) from Oates, who peeks from a flap (designed to make the cover resemble a folder). Hall returns voice lines to Oates on the back cover. The title font is shaped like a megaphone cone. The inner-sleeve features lyrics and sound lines on a red–orange background. The photographer, Ebet Roberts, also had recent visual credits on albums by The Shirts (self-titled), UK, and The Kinks‘ live album One for the Road.

RCA lifted “How Does It Feel to Be Back” as the lead-off single (b/w “United State”), which peaked at No. 30 in the summer of 1980. In September, they issued “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” (b/w “Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear the Voices)”), which reached No. 12 and became their only Oates-sung hit.

Voices became a blockbuster album with the January 1981 release of “Kiss on My List” (b/w “Africa”), which became their second No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, where it overtook Blondie’s “Rapture” and held the top spot for three weeks in April before yielding to “Morning Train (9 to 5)” by Sheena Easton.

In light of the album’s newfound momentum, RCA reprinted Voices with a new full-color cover that shows the Hall (white jeans, lavender jacket) and Oates (pink slacks, white boots, PITTS tank top) posed against a white background. “You Make My Dreams” appeared in April as the fourth single (b/w “Gotta Lotta Nerve (Perfect Perfect)”), which reached No. 5 on the Hot 100. A studio clip of this song and a live video of “Kiss on My List” received heavy rotation on MTV during the American cable channel’s first year of broadcast, which began on August 1, 1981.

Voices reached No. 17 on the Billboard 200 during a 100-week chart stay. In January 1982, it received Platinum certification by the RIAA.


1981: Private Eyes

Hall and Oates released their tenth album, Private Eyes, on September 1, 1981, on RCA. Hall co-wrote the title-track with the Allen sisters and Canadian songwriter Warren Pash, a future Dan Hill collaborator. Hall and the Allen’s also collaborated on “Did It In a Minute,” an ivory-laden analog to “Private Eyes.”

Sara contributed lyrics to seven of the album’s ten songs, including Hall’s “Tell Me What You Want” and another Hall & Oates signature, the CompuRhythm soul ballad “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do).” She also partook in their three uptempo co-writes on side two: “Friday Let Me Down,” “Unguarded Minute,” and the sparkling “Head Above Water.” Oates contributed “Mano a Mano” while Hall lone-wrote three numbers: “Your Imagination,” “Some Men,” and “Looking for a Good Sign,” a Motown pastiche that came to him in a dream.

Sessions commenced at Electric Lady in late 1980, just prior to their upswing in light of “Kiss On My List.” The duo’s newfound popularity required further promotional activity behind Voices that delayed the completion of Private Eyes, which Hall and Oates self-produced with Kernon and assistant engineer Bruce Buchalter.

In addition to keyboards and synthesizers, Hall plays timbales, mandola, mandar guitar (a tenor four-string acoustic), and mandocello (a baritone 12-string teardrop). On “I Can’t Go for That,” he programs the Roland CompuRhythm, a beat box also heard on recent songs by John Foxx (“Underpass”) and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (“Enola Gay”).

Private Eyes retains the Voices lineup (DeChant, Marotta, Sieger, Smith) and welcomes back Fast, Maelen, and Southworth, the soloist on “Unguarded Minute.” Additional guests include guitarist Ray Gomez (lead on “Mano a Mano”) and Marotta’s ultimate replacement, drummer Mickey Curry, who plays on four tracks. Burgi drums on “Your Imagination”; he subsequently played on albums by Aldo Nova, Balance, Roger Glover, and Rainbow (Bent Out of Shape).

Private Eyes is housed in b&w sleeve with the split-face duo rendered with Ben Day dots. The slanted color text theme (yellow title, red–gray name) carries over to the inner-sleeve, where tilted lyrics and pics (Hall & Oates in pulled red turtlenecks) appear against a dotted yellow background. The designer, Ed Caraeff, had earlier visual credits on albums by Ambrosia (Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled), Bee Gees (Children of the World), Emperor, Kenny Loggins, Lady Flash, Michael Henderson (Goin’ Places), Steely Dan (The Royal Scam), and Weather Report (Black Market).

“Private Eyes,” with its clapped chorus line (in A minor) and buoyant piano-driven verses (in C) became their third Billboard No. 1 single (b/w “Tell Me What You Want”). The lyrics liken romantic insights to detective metaphors: a theme reflected in the video where the Hall & Oates band switch between blazers (verses) and overcoat–fedora ensembles (chorus). Curry appears in the video along with Tom “T-Bone” Wolk, their bassist on the next four studio albums.

The “Private Eyes” clip went into high MTV rotation along with the followup, “I Can’t Go for That,” the duo’s fourth No. 1 single (b/w “Unguarded Minute”), which has a yellowy soft-focus video in which DeChant mimes with Hall and Oates. “I Can’t Go for That” is one of the few singles by a white act to reach No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart. Michael Jackson lifted its bassline for “Billy Jean,” one of two No. 1 hits (and seven Top 10 singles) on his blockbuster 1982 album Thriller.

The third single, “Did It In a Minute” (b/w “Head Above Water”), reached No. 9 in May 1982 with an accompanying live clip. “Your Imagination,” another CompuRhythm soul jam, peaked inside the Top 35 as the album’s fourth single (b/w “Sara Smile”).

Private Eyes reached No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and achieved Platinum certification by the RIAA. Abroad, it reached No. 8 on the UK Albums Chart, No. 9 in New Zealand, and went Top 20 in Australia, Canada, Italy, Holland, and Sweden.


1982: H2O

Hall and Oates released their eleventh album, H2O, on October 4, 1982, on RCA. It opens with “Maneater,” a loungy Motown pastiche written by Hall, Oates, and Sara Allen, who also helped them with lyrics on the electro-funk “Crime Pays” and the rockabilly-tinged “Delayed Reaction.” Her and Hall co-wrote “Open All Night,” the slow, steamy after-hours crooner that closes side one. Jana joined them on “Art of Heartbreak,” a metropolitan rocker with clipped guitar, sly sax, and wavering vocals. Hall and Jana wrote “Guessing Games,” an upbeat cut with a snappy, pinging motif (in D).

Side two opens with the duo’s third cover, “Family Man,” a comical art-pop song by Mike Oldfield (sung by Maggie Reilly) on his February 1982 release Five Miles Out. It deals with a married man’s shaky resolve when tempted by a prostitute. Oates contributed “Italian Girls” and the dark, eerie “At Tension,” a lengthy track (6:16) with Fixx-like chorused effects and lucid vibes reminiscent of Beauty on a Back Street. Hall lone-wrote the dreamy ballad “One on One” and the closing “Go Solo,” a slow-unfolding number with stop–start beats, pensive half-steps (Cmaj7–B), swelling bridges, and a flowing, impassioned chorus where Hall invites his girl to leave their relationship on a temporary or permanent basis.

Sessions commenced in late 1981 at Electric Lady with Kernon, who co-produced and engineered H2O in succession with albums by Jon Anderson (Animation), Kayak, and SPYS. H2O underwent a mixdown by English soundman Hugh Padgham, who worked on recent albums by Frida (Something’s Going On), Landscape (From the Tea-rooms of Mars…), Genesis (Abacab), Kate Bush (The Dreaming), Phil Collins, The Police (Ghost in the Machine), Spandau Ballet (Journeys to Glory), Split Enz (Time and Tide), and XTC (Drums and Wires, Black Sea, English Settlement).

Oates programmed the Roland CR-78 and Linn LM-1 on H2O, which features Larry Fast and the ongoing lineup of DeChant, Smith, and newcomers Curry and Wolk.

The album’s title spoofs the molecular formula of water (Hydrogen and Oxygen) as a play on the duo’s initials. The H2O cover invokes this theme with a sweaty face-to-face photo of the red-lighted duo (front) and a perspiration closeup (back). Hiro, the photographer, also had credits on albums by Chick Corea (Return to Forever), Miles Davis, Patti LaBelle, and Robert Palmer (Double Fun). The inner-sleeve has a silhouette of the cover overlaid with lyrics and icons of the H2O molecular unit (two hydrogen atoms pronged from a large oxygen atom), which also appear on the LP labels.

Photographer Larry Williams took the group photo on the inner-flip, where they stand on an H2O floor pattern in a factory with color-coded (red, blue, green) industrial pipes. Williams photographed subsequent covers for Evelyn “Champagne” King, Saga, and Starpoint.

RCA first plugged the album with “Maneater” (b/w “Delayed Reaction”), which became their fifth No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, where it overtook Toni Basil’s “Mickey” in mid-December 1982 and held the top spot for four weeks before dropping under “Down Under” by Aussie sensations Men at Work. “Maneater” also hit No. 1 in Canada and Spain and reached the Top 10 in Belgium, Ireland, Norway, Oceania, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The video shows a woman’s heeled feet descend a staircase into a modernist performance area where the sharp-dressed band mime moodily amid the dim, angled lighting. A black jaguar appears as a visual reference to the metaphor “a she-cat tamed by the purr of a Jaguar” (though the lyric refers to the automobile, not the cat).

In January 1983, RCA lifted “One on One” (b/w “Art of Heartbreak”), which peaked at No. 7 for three weeks in April. RCA then braved the quirky “Family Man” as a single (b/w “Open All Night”), which peaked at No. 6 in June. In the video, the band mime in a fifties-style living room where Hall over-dramatizes the lyrics amid computerized icons of the song’s two characters. Midway, the band’s living room performance is viewed on TV by a contemporary family, who take to the song and get magically quiffed and fifties-rendered in the process. In Canada, “Family Man” appeared as the b-side of “Italian Girls.”

H2O reached No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and achieved double-Platinum certification (two million units sold) by the RIAA. The album also reached No. 3 in Australia and New Zealand and peaked at No. 7 and 8 (respectively) in Canada and Sweden.


1983: Rock ‘n Soul Part 1

In October 1983, Hall and Oates released Rock ‘n Soul Part 1, a compilation of their RCA hits and two new songs: “Say It Isn’t So” and “Adult Education.”


1984: Big Bam Boom

Hall and Oates released their twelfth studio album, Big Bam Boom, on October 12, 1984, on RCA. The opener, “Dance On Your Needs,” is eighty-seven seconds of echoey, multi-layered drum loops and computerized vocals, co-credited to Hall and hip hop DJ Arthur Baker. This segues into “Out of Touch.”

Sessions occurred in the summer of 1984 at Electric Lady, where Hall and Oates co-produced the album with Bob Clearmountai, a veteran soundman with seventies credits behind David Werner, Flight (Incredible Journey), John Miles (Stranger In the City), Narada Michael Walden (The Dance of Life), Rupert Holmes (Widescreen, Pursuit of Happiness), Talking Heads (Fear of Music), and recent titles by The Clash, The Church, Industry, Lene Lovich, and Mi-Sex. He co-engineered Big Bam Boom with Jay Burnett, who recently worked with Freeez, Naked Eyes, and Our Daughters Wedding.

Oates plays guitar-synthesizer on Big Bam Boom, which features the H2O lineup (Curry, DeChant, Smith, Wolk) and Bashiri Johnson, a timbalist recently heard behind Blancmange, George Benson, Kashif, Luther Vandross, Madonna, and Melba Moore. Boom also features electronic programming by Robbie Kilgore (synthesizer), Wells Christy (Synclavier), Clive Smith (Fairlight CMI), and Jimmy Bralower (LinnDrum).

Big Bam Boom features artwork by Mick Haggerty and photography by Williams and Jean Pagliuso. The cover and inner-sleeve show b&w cutouts of Hall and Oates in assorted poses, tacked against a color-scribbled collage (front) and flanked by song lyrics and tinted cutouts of the backing players (sleeve). The back cover shows the album’s scrawled title in streak–drip colors under a black overlay. Haggerty also did cover art for Creative Source, Electric Light Orchestra (Face the Music), Gamma, Split Enz (True Colours), Supertramp (Breakfast In America), Styx, and David Bowie’s recent Let’s Dance.

A week before the album, “Out of Touch” appeared as the lead-off single (b/w “Cold, Dark and Yesterday”). In December 1984, it became the duo’s sixth No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, where it displaced “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by the English duo Wham! Hall and Oates held the spot for two weeks before yielding to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” the Christmas–New Year’s chart-topper.

RCA lifted “Method of Modern Love” as the second single (b/w “Bank on Your Love”), which peaked at No. 5 in February 1985. A third single, “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid” (b/w “All American Girl”), got extensive airplay and reached No. 18. One further single, “Possession Obsession” (b/w “Dance on Your Knees”), appeared in June 1985 and peaked within the Top 30.

Big Bam Boom reached No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and placed at No. 17 on the 1985 year-end chart. It ultimately received double-Platinum certification by the RIAA.


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