The world is a wonderful place.
To be clear, I am among the globe’s, oh, 200 biggest Hall & Oates fans. Before CDs turned obsolete, my wooden rack was overloaded with their music. And not just the standard stuff—Abandoned Luncheonette, Big Bam Boom, Private Eyes, etc. Like any die-hard, I owned bootlegs and Japanese extended editions and even (dear God) some of their solo material. I’ve loved Hall & Oates since the early 80s, when my brother received the H2O record as a present—and I stole it and played the music repeatedly.
People laugh at Hall & Oates. Occasionally, this is with good reason. They experienced some serious cheesy phases. Oates’ mustache became ridiculous. Hall went through an annoying braggart run where he regularly flipped back his hair like a 12-year-old girl. They did this video. And this video. And this video. And—fuckity fuck—this video. I never need to hear “Maneater.” again. Or “Kiss On My List.” They split up for a spell, then returned with Marigold Sky, a painfully contrived effort.
And yet … Hall & Oates are fantastic. Because Rolling Stone too often randomly picks and chooses which artists deserve praise, their music has been genuinely ignored. Hence, most people have never listened to Whole Oates, the duo’s brilliant debut album. Hence, people never think of Hall & Oates’ holy trinity songs (She’s Gone, Sara Smile, Rich Girl) among three of the all-time great pieces of pop music. Hence, too many folks fail to realize that Hall’s voice—in my wife’s words—is “an instrument.” Hence, the pop muck of the 1980s obscures myriad breathtakingly good tunes. Like this. And this. And this. And this. And even this—a song I still sing to my kids.
If you think of Hall & Oates along the likes of, oh, Mr. Mister and the Thompson Twins and Tears for Fears, you’re way off. They were acoustic folk artists who gradually transitioned into rock, then pop, then back to rock. Their influences were—primarily—soul singers from the 1960s, and oftentimes Hall & Oates were confused (sight unseen) for being black.
If it’s just about numbers, Hall & Oates have ’em: Six No. 1 Billboard hits, 34 songs charted on the Billboard Hot 100, seven RIAA platinum albums, and six RIAA gold albums. They are already members of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
This—the Rock and Roll Hall—is an easy choice.