Hipsters Guide To Great Pop Acts of The Last Century

Sometimes, being a hipster means liking something so much that you can never admit it to anyone, much less a fellow card-carrying member of the hip set. They might understand, maybe even agree (which carries with it it's own set of complications), or totally blow your cover as a pop geek in Wicker Park clothing.

Fuck them, this will be our secret, just you and me. And "Sigur Ros" will be our safe code. When we use the term, the other person will know that we're dying inside to scream "Where the fuck would Bon Iver be if it weren't first bands like Ambrosia and Air Supply, Bread and Boston, Chicago and Cheap Trick, stop us unless you want us to do this for every letter of the alphabet.

Today's love-fest goes out to:

Hall & Oates. That's right, I said Hall & Oates, the tenacious and soulful duo from Philly consisting of singer Daryl Hall and guitarist/future punchline John Oates. Of course, even we have our limits, so we narrow our adoration of H2O's work up to, but not including, Big Bam Boom, at which point Hall & Oates willing became cartoon characters. If you'd have shown this album cover to the Hall & Oates who made Abandoned Luncheonette, they'd have punched you in the mouth.

While the duo had often flirted with breakout success - "Sara Smile" in 1976 and "Rich Girl" in 1977 - they began a swift skyward ascent with their cover of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" from their ninth studio album, Voices. Suddenly, grandmas are asking their grandkids who sings that song. That, after all is the difference between cult success - what Hall & Oates had for eight albums - and the sort of success that goes with being cultural icons of a generation.

When they completed their one-two punch with the release of "Private Eyes" a year later, we kids of America lied deliriously dormant on the mat as the ref administers the eight count. Hall & Oates had us all under their spell. Hell, we even knew the names of the guys in their backing band, which is more than I can say for Heuy Lewis & The News. You had grim-faced G.E. Smith on guitar, the sideburns and hat of bassist T-Bone Wolk, both of whom went on to spend many years together as part of the Saturday Night Live Band.

"Private Eyes" (the song) was such an infectious ditty. You just couldn't not like it. And the video, which must have been shot on a budget of $50, can still add your own hand calps, no matter where, no matter when. You can actually hear the transformation take place right smack dab in the middle of the Voices album. "Kiss On My List" comes out of nowhere with that piano-driven, four-on-the-floor stomp that they used to such great effect on "Private Eyes" and "Did It In A Minute". But Hall & Oates were much too smart to be tied down to a formula, which they completely obliterated with the slyly funky "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)".

Even as the duo's popularity reached stratospheric levels, Daryl and John unleashed "H20", an album that was as artistically bold as it was commercially successful. "Maneater", "Family Man", "One On One" all owned the airwaves for much of 1982, yet underneath each monster hit was a song that bristled with the quiet intensity of a pick-up joint at closing time. You can almost see the patrons pairing up, not wanting to make that long, tortorous trip home alone.

Those who were only half paying attention heard likeable pop hits, but those of us who made the effort to dig below the surface found untold riches in songs like "Delayed Reaction" (imagine Daryl Hall fronting Costello's Attractions) and "Up All Night" (a return visit to the "Abandoned Luncheonette", if you will).

Sure, "Big Bam Boom" had mega-hits like "Method Of Modern Love" and "Out Of Touch", but the songs were more a cavalcade of the latest production bells and whistles than actual songs, it seemed. And while it was here that we left our dynamic duo, we still have ten great albums of soulful pop greatness that no amount of copies of "Ooh Yeah!" in the dollar bin can ever erase!

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

1 comment:

  1. Even mentioning Huey Lewis in the same breath as H&O is a sin. "One On One" and "I Can't Go For That" are two of the slinkiest grooves in pop. Plus, Daryl's skill as a vocalist is in a whole other universe from ol' Huey.

    Daryl's solo effort, "Sacred Songs" is produced by Fripp, who also plays on it. It prompted Fripp to comment that Daryl was the best vocalist in rock.

    Daryl is also very down w/ Todd Rundgren, which wins him my loyalty.