Monday, January 5, 2009
Hall and Oates get a fair amount of ridicule - even around these parts - for their string of lightweight but hugely popular singles in the 1980s, but they basically had two careers, the first being their handful of pure-pop hits in the 1970s, and the second "Maneater" phase following a brief dry spell in the late 1970s. It was during the latter period that their cover story in Rolling Stone came with the best headline in that magazine's history: "The Self-Righteous Brothers." In the earlier incarnation, though, they were actually quite good, with "Sara Smile," "She's Gone," and "Rich Girl" all being fine radio singles.
It's "She's Gone" that we're concerned with today. H&O recorded it in 1973 for their second album, Abandoned Luncheonette, following their 1972 debut floppola Whole Oats. "She's Gone" was the single from Luncheonette, with a video and everything, but it didn't go anywhere, peaking at Number Sixty on the Hot 100 in 1974.
The R&B brother act Tavares heard the song somehow, and released their own version of "She's Gone" in September 1974, and it went all the way to Number One on the R&B charts. Meanwhile, Hall and Oates continued to scuffle along; their 1974 album, War Babies, peaked at a miserable Number 86 on the album charts and got them bounced from Atlantic Records.
But they signed with RCA and cut an album called simply Daryl Hall and John Oates, with a cover photo inspired by the Edgar Winter Group's They Only Come Out at Night. Its first single, "Alone Too Long," had an almost embarrassing performance, missing the Hot 100 and peaking at a pathetic Number 98 on the R&B charts, but the follow-up was "Sara Smile," and finally Hall and Oates had a hit. A huge one: It went all the way to Number Four in the spring of 1976.
So somebody at Atlantic said, "Hey, that 'She's Gone' record was pretty good, and it was a big R&B hit - maybe it's worth something." So it got re-released in August of 1976, seemingly as the follow-up to "Sara Smile," but really it was on a whole other label, from a three-year-old album. And it was almost as huge, going to Number Seven.
I'm always fascinated by songs that become hits years after they were actually recorded. I think they deserve a little bit of extra credit for being ahead of their time. And I don't think anyone before has ever accused Hall and Oates of being ahead of their time. Here's that original video, which, unlike the song, is a great, stinking pile of crap, including the boys' tossing Monopoly money at a gentleman dressed as Satan during the line "I'd pay the devil to replace her."