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2020 Album Draft- Round 5- Pick 5- Music City Mike selects- Hall & Oates- Abandoned Luncheonette.

Admit it. All of us music nerds love to get snobby and boast using the line “I saw them when….” It usually means that we got to see an act in a small club before they moved up to the Enormodome. For me, most of my bragging is about acts I saw at Manhattan’s Bottom Line. This small 400-seater near NYU in Greenwich Village is probably the greatest music club the world has ever known.

Braggingly, it was there that I saw my first shows by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Joe Jackson, Squeeze, The Police and many others. But, then there’s Hall & Oates with whom I can take my bravado one step further. I saw them there in 1975 as an opening act for Leo Sayer!

At the time, I had already fallen for Hall & Oates 1973 sophomore LP, Abandoned Luncheonette, which I had heard quite often on New York City’s WNEW-FM. I also liked Sayer’s latest record so this show was a must for me even back then when I was a poor college student. And though I totally loved Hall & Oates on record, I can’t say that I got off to a perfect start with seeing them live.

Two reasons. The first was personal in that the girl I went to the show with seemed more interested in Daryl Hall than me. Second, while I loved 99% of their show, I really wanted to take Daryl Hall aside and tell him to cut back a bit on the drawn-out vocal gymnastics. I really thought that he overdid it with too much extended freeform vocalizing. I’m am happy to say however that when I saw them again later that year, his singing was much more controlled.

Seeing that this is supposed to be about a record, let’s get right to the fact that there is probably no other album that I own that brings more joy to me than Abandoned Luncheonette . And this is an album whose best-known song is “She’s Gone,” which as its title suggests, does not have a happy subject matter. But to these ears and throat, this soul-based classic is hands down, the greatest song ever to sing along to. In fact, it’s my go-to on the car stereo when I’m trying not to fall asleep during a late-night drive.

“She’s Gone” is such a damn good song that it’s a sin it wasn’t a smash hit for Hall & Oates from day one. After it went nowhere for the duo upon its release in ’73, a couple of cover versions (Tavares and Lou Rawls) fared better, with the Tavares version reaching the top of the Soul charts. A rerelease of the Hall and Oates version in 1976 found greater success getting to #7, and if anything, sold a bunch more copies of the LP taking it to #33.

The joyous feel of this record kicks off with the bouncy “When the Morning Comes” driven by the staccato beat of Hall’s mandolin and Bernard Purdie’s drumming. This is Hall’s song, and back then, before Hall started charging $50 for his autographed CD to Oates’ $10, they shared songs better on their LPs. Oates follows with his two best songs, “Had I Known Better You Then” and “Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song).” The former is as about as tender as a love song can get while the latter is a neat pop ditty where we first meet Sara (named after Daryl’s then girlfriend and future collaborator) who the duo will ask to “smile” on a later record.

These songs then lead the way for the pair to collaborate and beautifully harmonize on “She’s Gone.” Legendary Atlantic Records producer, Arif Mardin, showed his genius by producing one of the most​gorgeous musical arrangements of all time. It’s a work of art with all its tiny sonic brushstrokes coming together to paint a true musical masterpiece.

The only problem with this record is that after such an amazing start, it could only be downhill from there. But if you can resist repeating side one and force yourself to turn over to side two, you won’t be disappointed. It’s indeed a much jazzier fare but features some great singing and some of New York City’s top session players at their best. The title track is a fine example of the duo’s ability to work in more of a jazz styling. The second side of the LP is quite a cozy way to wind down this incredible record.

After a long time in between, I have since seen Hall and Oates play live a few times over the past few years and “She’s Gone” and “Las Vegas Turnaround” were both in the set still sounding brilliant. Both Hall and Oates look great despite their years and both are among the thankful few whose voices have not weakened in ability one bit.

At a record store appearance a few years back, I got Oates to sign what I told him was my “desert-island disk,” and he even honored my request and sang a solo “Las Vegas Turnaround.” Maybe someday I can get Daryl to sign my record alongside him. I will even forgive him about that old girlfriend. ​


  1. This is a surprise… I do like Hall and Oats before they got too far in the eighties. I only know their radio hits mostly but I’ll check this one out. I really like their 70s music and 1980’s Voices. Love the personal story attached.

  2. Nice choice! Occasionally as I’m headed out the door to go music shopping I’ll ask my wife if there’s anything specific she’d like me to look for. One time a few years back she requested this album. I liked “She’s Gone” and figured I’d enjoy the rest of the album, but it wouldn’t have occurred to me to pick it up. Glad I did. It’s a great album that gets regular plays. As an aside, I’d brag too if I’d seen all those shows in that venue.

  3. This is the only Hall and Oates I have in my library – definitely more palatable for me than the 1980s stuff, which I think of more as guilty pleasure material (but I’m open to being corrected since there’s some good singing and writing in there). Also, Braggingly is a great word!

  4. Interesting! A bit of a surprise act to make the contest but no complaints. Gotta admit, I know them as a singles band, which is to say I like many of their singles and have had GH type albums of theirs but don’t think I’ve ever heard a complete Hall & Oates album (non-best of that is) from start to finish. But the singles are largely good and both were decent writers so it may be worth digging deeper into their catalog. I know their early material was more soul than their ’80s output, in fact I first heard the term “blue-eyed soul” in a review of them.

  5. A very entertaining write-up, and nice to see a Hall & Oates entry. Lots of people tend to dismiss them as pop fluff or sellouts, which pisses me off, as they produced a very respectable body of work. I didn’t first hear their music until 1976 with the release of “Sara Smile”, followed by “She’s Gone” – both of which I instantly loved. My first purchase of theirs was “Bigger Than Both of Us”, with it’s hits “Rich Girl” and “Do What You Want, Be What You Are”, and I saw them in concert at a fairly large venue in San Jose, CA in the fall of 1977. I agree with many that their early music was more soulful, but I still like them well into the 80s. To this day, “Maneater” and “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” remain my favorites of their songs.

  6. I haven’t been blessed to have seen a lot of concerts like most of the draft pickers are, but the 400 seat venue sounds ideal and would love to have seen (or see — it’s still holding concerts, yes?) any of my desert island bands there. I like what I’ve heard of Hall & Oates (I think Oates is much cuter than Hall, what was your gf thinking 😉 ) but it is only the hits that made it to radio. Sara Smile is a perfect love ballad. I really like that first song and didn’t know it by name but immediately recognized it. Very good write-up on a great pick, Mike.

  7. I have Maneater LP. I think Daryl Hall has only improved with age. I have been watching live fron Daryl’s House. He has played with some great artists, including Rob Thomas and Smokey Robinson. Daryl is possibly even better looking. John Oates seems less visible these days. Such talent both of them.

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