Archive for the ‘Hall & Oates’ Category

Before Ghetto Smile, Frippertronics

Sunday, February 8th, 2009
Cover of "Sacred Songs"
Cover of Sacred Songs

Never seen h monthly before, but they came up on a Google News alert for Daryl Hall (yes, I do care that much, shut up) and had a well-written quick review of Hall’s Sacred Songs album:

So, in perhaps one of the most befuddling pairings of all time, Hall teamed up with King Crimson’s prog-rock progenitor, Robert Fripp, for his debut solo album, Sacred Songs.

[...]

The results of this unlikely pairing are strangely brilliant. Hall’s soaring vocal delivery is complimented by Fripp’s maniacal guitar work and layered production, and Fripp’s experimental touches offer some intriguing soundscapes that leave you to ponder what Hall and Oates would have sounded like if Fripp was in the group.

[...]

Oh, and we can’t forget the glam-punk songs [...] that could have endeared Hall to the 70’s punk scene if the album had been released in 1977 (when it was recorded), instead of 1980 (RCA apparently didn’t know what to do with it and shelved it for three years).

It’s such a cool alternate reality to imagine.

Yes, I’ve now seen Hall and Oates on the Daily Show. Thanks!

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

Everyone who knows I’m a Hall and Oates super-fan keeps asking if I saw them on the Daily Show the other night. Never fear, I just did.

I loved it! (OK, I loved it in spite of it seeming like they could have maybe used another rehearsal of the song.) They’ve made guest appearances on other shows in the past, but they usually don’t get to interact much before they launch into whatever song they’re there to perform. It was fun to see them have a little comic setup before they played.

And “the only non-douchebag on that show”? Gold.

The ’stache is dead; long live the ’stache

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

From Macleans, a poem in memory of John Oates’ mustache.

My favorite stanza?

Hall was tall, he was blond
He could sing in falsetto
But John Oates’ soup strainer
Helped fill up his bed-o

Creative reuse

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

Good to see that Hall & Oates have a healthy attitude about allowing their music to be repurposed, even if that repurposing is done with more than a hint of irony.

Speaking from his home outside of Aspen, Oates credits Yacht Rock for rekindling interest in his band — and lowering the overall age of Hall & Oates’ fan demographic.
[...]
And musically, it means that the time is ripe for a Hall & Oates mashup album — the first of which is in the works from Gym Class Heroes.
[...]
Oates calls the final product “the most unique steps I’ve heard coming out of hip hop in quite a while,” and says he’ll give permission to anyone to use his music, so long as the intentions are good. “Once you make a record, it’s out to the world. Who cares?” Oates says.

I’m a bigger fan of Daryl Hall creatively than I am of John Oates, but from what I know of the two, Oates deserves most of the credit for this laissez-faire attitude toward reuse. Color me impressed, oh mustached one.

Best songwriters, via Paste and NPR

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

Paste magazine published its list of 100 best living songwriters, and Robin Hilton on NPR’s Mixed Signals followed with a rewritten version of the 10 best living songwriters. It seems to me that the Paste list skews a bit older and hippier, whereas the NPR list skews a bit younger and edgier.

Compare Paste’s top 10:

1. Bob Dylan
2. Neil Young (Buffalo Sprinfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
3. Bruce Springsteen
4. Tom Waits & Kathleen Brennan
5. Paul McCartney (The Beatles, Wings)
6. Leonard Cohen
7. Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys)
8. Elvis Costello
9. Joni Mitchell
10. Prince

with NPR’s:
1. Bob Dylan
2. Tom Waits & Kathleen Brennan
3. Paul McCartney (The Beatles, Wings)
4. Bruce Springsteen
5. Vic Chestnutt
6. Stephin Merritt
7. Sufjan Stevens
8. Aimee Mann
9. PJ Harvey
10. David Dondero

Personally, there are points on both lists I agree and disagree with: “Joni Mitchell feels like a token pick“? Huh? But the inclusion of Aimee Mann in the top 10 feels right to me, so maybe we’re even on that one.

And it’s unclear what some of the criteria for inclusion on either list are. In the NPR list, the notes on PJ Harvey include “Anyway, I really think if she were a man she’d get a lot more credit than she does. She plays guitar and rocks better than most. And her sound is so distinctive. Listen to the crunch of the opening guitar in ‘One Time Too Many’.” Are we still talking about songwriting? There’s surely a blurry line between songwriting and instrumental performance for singer-songwriters who use their primary instrument to convey melody and message, but a good chunk of that spills over into musicianship, arrangement, and production rather than songwriting, per se.

Anyway, I’m very happy to see some of my absolute favorite songwriters represented in the Paste list, like Bob Dylan (#1), Elvis Costello (#8), Joni Mitchell (#9), Paul Simon (#13), Holland-Dozier-Holland (#17), Lou Reed (#21), Elton John & Bernie Taupin (#23), Tom Petty (#29), Kris Kristofferson (#38), Ryan Adams (#43), David Byrne (#46), James Taylor (#53), Aimee Mann (#54), Morrissey (#57), Conor Oberst (#67), and Lyle Lovett (#87).

Though honestly, I’ve been influenced at some level by almost every single name on that list.

And to that list, I would add at least the following, if not a few more (though I’d have a tough time deciding who would get cut to make room):

Daryl Hall (& John Oates sometimes & Sara Allen sometimes) on the incredible merit of songs like “Dreamtime” and “She’s Gone” alone, if not the entire balance of the H&O catalog.

Tori Amos for the sweet melancholy and plaintive lyrics of “Sleeps With Butterflies,” “Tear In Your Hand,” “1000 Oceans,” and so many others. She’s every bit the songwriter anyone else on this list is.

Don Schlitz for sincere, down-to-earth songs like “The Gambler” and “When You Say Nothing At All.”

What about you? Who would you add? Who are you especially glad to see represented?

Lessons in great songwriting

Saturday, July 24th, 2004
“Everybody always laughs at love
but what they want is to be proven wrong”
- Allen/Hall/Oates, “Did It in a Minute”

It isn’t just that this is a great lyric (though I certainly think it is). It’s the way they wrote the prechorus/build melody to go with it: drawn-out, punctuated, really driving home the meaning by making the listener wait for it. That must have been one hell of a cowriting session. I would love to have been a fly on the wall.

It’s tougher, in some ways, to write lyrics in a void. Sure, I always have a working melody while I’m writing lyrics, but it rarely ends up being anything like the melody we end up using for the song (thank goodness). Something like the Hall & Oates example above would be nearly impossible to achieve in the kind of writing arrangement we primarily use.

But there are advantages to our arrangement, of course: I’m unconstrained by any existing melody as I write the lyrics, which leaves me limitless room to move and turn around, change my mind, scrap whole sections, and invent new structures. Of course, when I do the latter, as I recently did, I make it very challenging for Karsten. But hey, that’s what he’s good at, so I’m comfortable leaving that to him.

And we do the real-time co-writing thing every once in a while. Enough to remind us that it’s not the way we prefer to work. I think we learn a lot from each other and from the experience whenever we do, and I hope we never stop doing it, but I never plan for it to be more than an occasional change of pace.

So perhaps the greatness of the above example of collaboration will forever elude us. Or maybe we’ll find our own ways to attain greatness. Maybe we’re already finding them, and they just need enough repetition to produce quality results. To paraphrase the line, everybody always laughs at Hall & Oates, but what they forget is the 6 #1 singles, more than a dozen top 40 singles, and 19 gold and platinum albums. I’d like to be that laughable.