For a while during the 80s I was considered the uncoolest person to anyone who knew me because I was a Hall and Oates fan. Furthermore, I had a crush on Daryl Hall, which as you can imagine in a junior high full of Motley Crew fans, wasn’t something I offered to share with too many people. It caused unceasing torment from my oldest sister and even my brood of girlfriends, who worshipped Duran Duran and Wham, were not entirely accepting of my musical tastes.
And let’s face it: even I can admit now that Daryl and John probably weren’t the hippest dynamic duo to rule the airwaves in the 80s. I got routinely told that they were gay, a rumor that has dogged them their entire career. It wasn’t helped by the fact that they were photographed on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1985 with Hall hugging Oates, his hand snugly tucked inside the pocket of Oates’ jacket, next to the cryptic headline “The Secret Life of Hall and Oates.” Their videos were cheesy and uninspiring compared to the creativity MTV was sending out across the cable airwaves those days. One only needs to watch the embarrassing video for “Family Man”, with its cubist, video game icons floating across the screen, for the unsettling evidence. I don’t recall a single breathing female sharing screen time with the band, unless the panther from “Maneater” happened to be a she. It always seemed to me that Hall & Oates aspired to be taken seriously as a rock and roll band, but would you ever hear a classic rock station playing the likes of “You Make My Dreams Come True”? Only on one that also regularly plays Rick Springfield. Their last official original studio album that was released before they split for the first time in 1986, the unfortunately titled “Big Bam Boom”, tried too hard for a rock sound and missed the mark. Hall had even grew his blonde mane out into a badly permed mullet by that time, dowsing the flames of desire on my teenage fantasy and causing me to run straight into the waiting arms of Don Johnson.
But recently, through the magic of listening to music online, I’ve discovered a Hall and Oates record that could convert even those cynics who would rather poke their eyes out with a knitting needle than listen to “One On One” and that proves that Hall and Oates were indeed cool. The album is called Abandoned Luncheonette and was released in 1973. This little gem is Hall and Oates at their mostly acoustic and dare I say it – folksy best - before electronics and synthesizers infiltrated the 80s and their signature sound. It was their second album – a risk for the record company, since the first one flopped. Abandoned Luncheonette is comprised of only 9 tracks, including the hit “She’s Gone”, which was inspired after a girl Oates was supposed to have a date with stood him up. There’s also “Turn Around”, which tells the tale of an airplane stewardess named Sara who flies “gambling fools to the holy land Las Vegas.” Yes, this is the same Sara, Hall’s longtime girlfriend, Sara Allen, before she became immortalized in the later hit “Sara Smile.” Other favorites are the easy, breezy “When the Morning Comes” and the violin-tinged “Lady Rain.” What’s interesting to note about Abandoned Luncheonette is that Oates shares as much vocal time as Hall – something that drastically changed when the duo hit it big and Hall’s ego took over. Their voices go together like tomato soup and grilled cheese – especially on “She’s Gone” – making me realize what a shame it was that they later got pulled apart.
Now, do I think this album is any better than what the duo turned out in the early 80s? Not necessarily. Those later hits that arrived a decade later – like “Private Eyes”, “You Did It In a Minute”, “Say It Isn’t So”, “Adult Education” and a slew of other favorites remain my guilty pleasure, happily ensconced on my Finetune player next to tracks from other eras. But Abandoned Luncheonette makes for an interesting listen and a glimpse of how it all began for two “blue eye soul” buddies from Philadelphia.
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