I literally just got back from visiting my mom who is staying at the local rehabilitation center after breaking her hip and having full hip replacement surgery to repair that hip. And even though she has been showing signs of dementia, she has been a fairly active 81-year-old until this, her first broken bone. I have always been in awe of that woman who was able to raise two boys from the ages of 14 and 11 into adulthood on her own, after my parents divorce. Now, my dad was always around, but I was pretty mad at him during those years, so let’s just say that we were barely communicating at the time. Still, how Mom was able to corral my brother and me during those years was amazing. The three of us shared the use on her 1978 Chevy Chevette, with four-on-the-floor manual drive.
You see, it was around this time of the year, Friday, November 6, 1981 to be exact that I was allowed to use Mom’s car to take my brother, who was a freshman in high school at the time, down to Indiana University to visit a very good friend of mine and to see my brother’s favorite band, the Electric Light Orchestra, with Daryl Hall & John Oates as the opener. I had bought the tickets for my brother for his birthday, and was he excited about seeing ELO. I liked ELO all right and was excited for Hall & Oates, even though my opinion of them at the time was they were a great pop band. I was not prepared for what I saw.
Just a few weeks before the concert, Hall & Oates released their now classic album Private Eyes. But, I was so unprepared for what I witnessed that night. The Hall & Oates Band was their now-classic line-up of the late bassist Tom “T-Bone” Wolk (also referred to by Hall & Oates as the “&” of the band); rock/punk guitar great G.E. Smith (who has gone on to play with Bob Dylan, Roger Waters and was the leader of the SNL band for many years in the Eighties and Nineties), rock drummer Mickey Curry (who ended up with Bryan Adams during his heyday) and saxophonist/keyboardist Charlie “Mr. Casual” DeChant (who still performs with the band). The make-up of this band was key, in that they could beef up these pop/soul songs into tougher and meatier live versions. Wolk, who had played in the Sugarhill studio band, making his name in the hip hop and R&B worlds before joining creative forces with Daryl and John, laid down a much funkier foundation for those terrific hit songs we all know and love, allowing Hall & Oates to be “street-worthy”.
G.E. Smith lead the band with his searing guitar solos, showing everyone that this band could keep up with punks, rockers and new wavers when it came to guitar slinging. Curry was simply caveman-like in his aggressive drum pounding, while displaying an almost jazz-like finesse that the songs of Hall & Oates needed. And, the secret weapon to the band’s live performance was DeChant’s sax playing and background keyboard work. Like all great sax players, “Mr. Casual” was a very skilled and flamboyant player, holding notes for what seemed like eternities. But, none of this would have worked if Daryl and John wrote some of the greatest pop/rock/blue eyed soul songs of any generation. Plus, the duo’s vocals blended perfectly and soulfully. They were equally influenced by the Philly soul sound in which they grew up, the rock that was all over Philly radio in the Sixties and, the true secret to their vocal prowess, the folk on which they cut their teeth.
In November of 1981, this was a formidable a band as there was, but who was unfortunately knocked for having pop hits until people my age, who had seen the band live, became writers and started telling the world about this band’s greatness. The night we saw Daryl Hall & John Oates perform, they informed the crowd that their latest single, “Private Eyes”, had just reached Number One on Billboard’s Hot 100. At the time, it was their third Number One hit song, but the band played the song like it was a new song in their setlist. And as they played, the whole crowd knew song after song. Most of the songs were from their mid-Seventies peak, but we were witnessing a band that was on the cusp of becoming rock and roll immortals. Let me rattle off a few song titles from that night: “Sara Smile”, “She’s Gone”, “Wait for Me”, “How Does It Feel to Be Back”, “Private Eyes”, “Kiss on My List”, “You Make My Dreams”, “Rich Girl” and “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)”. Most artists would kill for that list, but the band soldiered on this new hot streak for four more years before taking a needed break that killed the momentum.
But, it was that very night during which I went from a passing fan into a huge fan. That night lightning struck me, indicating that Daryl Hall & John Oates were artists that would appeal across generations, as proven by the love the millennials have for a band of their parents’ youth.
Soon, I will have to do a ranking of Hall & Oates albums. Until then, pull out those classics from 1975 through 1984 in order to enjoy them over and over again. Hall & Oates seem to have been the antidote to the funk I have been in since mid-October. Try it out yourself.