By the late 1970s Daryl Hall & John Oates, a duo from Philadelphia, were in a slump. Their brand of intelligent soft-rock with its Philly Soul inflections still had an audience but the iron rule of disco over radio play was a barrier to any wider success. They were dropped by Atlantic Records and another major label, RCA, signed the pair immediately. RCA encouraged Hall to record a solo LP and in 1977 he made the best record he would make in what became a long and very, very successful career. “Sacred Songs” was not what the label was expecting, they had other plans for Daryl. It was 3 years before the LP was released.
For “Sacred Songs” Hall hooked up with Robert Fripp, a guitar Prince of Prog Rock with his band King Crimson. Fripp made some great noises on Brian Eno’s records and was, in 1977, just off the glorious guitar work on David Bowie’s “Heroes”. His intellectual approach to playing was leading him towards “Frippertronics” but he could still play the guitar just like ringing a bell. There are some fine songs on the LP which are often redolent of the classy early ballads of Todd Rundgren. It is the production and playing of Fripp which reins in Daryl’s pop sensibilities and makes the collection cool and classy.
“Something In 4/4 Time” indicates that the pair knew that they were thumbing their noses at the label. It’s a great parody of the up-tempo hit single expected of Hall with a Fripp solo which I can only describe as splendid. The record was not released, Hall hooked up with Oates again and they became the pop sensation that the label always wanted them to be. In the early 80s I shared a house with a fanatical follower of Robert Fripp. We would play “Sacred Songs” to friends and, a couple of tracks in, they would recognise what seemed to be a strange but effective combination of talents.
Careful now…those 1980s eh ? A big budget video to sell the song, a largely redundant and unimaginative “extended mix”, did we fight in the trenches of the Punk Wars for nothing ? “Out Of Touch” was an 11th US Top 10 record for Hall and Oates. The lead single from the LP “Big Bam Boom” which probably went multi-platinum on the day of release. The duo’s brand of “Rock & Soul” (cheeky beggars !) made them a sensation of the age & the highest selling pair in music, like ever.
From a distance, comfortable with my sexuality, I had a bit of a man-crush on Daryl Hall. I would cut him a bit more slack for the songs designed to sell zillions or the leopardskin suits tucked into his boots. I thought he was a dude. I did not fully realise this until years later when I would find myself defending the more arrogant excesses of Jose Mourinho, another good looking man. OK…too much information. I am gonna take a break and watch Salma Hayek do that snake dance in “From Dusk Till Dawn ” now !
After running in such rarefied circles ,(their band was the house band for the US section of Live Aid), the only way is down, the live albums, the greatest hits, buy a ranch somewhere and count your money. Hall and Oates have enough about them to not be some “golden oldies” band but if they play together I’m sure that the audience want to hear the hits (though hopefully not “Your Kiss Is On My List”). From what I have seen on the computer Daryl has a very nice gaff and when his famous mates drop around they do play the old songs.
Round at Daryl’s house it was lucky that Dave Stewart off of the Eurythmics had brought his shiny Rickenbacker along so that he could join this spirited re-run of “Dreamtime” a solo hit in 1986. Back then the golden- maned rock god schtick was wearing a bit thin as Daryl reached 40 years old. Now, into his 60s, I hear a good song well played. It’s “Dad Rock” for sure but it does not try to be anything else (that would be the truly awful Paul Weller then) and is fine for a listen in the afternoon.
I still play “Sacred Songs” to people and it still surprises those who only know the hit records. I am going to put one more from the LP on here because even if you come across a Daryl Hall song it will probably not have a Robert Fripp solo on it.