This was actually the first vinyl album I ever got. My mom one time offered to buy me and my brother a record each, and we were both really excited at the prospect of having one of our own since our parents owned several dozens of them, many of them albums by Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles (they had taste). I don’t remember exactly why my mom did this for us. Maybe we were well behaved or something (a rarity for us as kids).
Anyway, my brother got this KTEL album (remember those?) called “Radioactive’ which featured popular songs of the moment from Devo (their cover of “Working In A Coalmine” is one of my favorites by them), REO Speedwagon, Rick Springfield, and Blondie among others. “Radioactive” was the equivalent of one of those “Now That’s Music” CD’s that get released every other month, but the music on this particular album was good and not groan inducing. It was a good choice by my older brother.
But for me, my choice was clear from the start, and it represents one of my most decisive decisions at a video or music store. I say that because my parents spent an obscene amount of time waiting on me to decide on what video to rent. But hey, I can’t help if “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was not in stock! How about I rent “The Great Muppet Caper” for the umpteenth time? How about that! I make a decision, and my parents roll their eyes at the fact they have to watch it AGAIN! Of course, my brother and his wife experience the same thing now when they buy Pixar movies like “Finding Nemo” and “Cars” for their kids.
I first got exposed to “Private Eyes” right around the time I was in Kindergarten thanks to my friend Matthew who lived down the street from me in Atlanta, Georgia. Matthew had the album on cassette tape, and we kept listening to the title track endlessly, and when those claps came into play, I made it look like I was punching myself. This made me and Matt laugh hysterically (ah. the memories!), and we didn’t really listen to much else on the album at the time. That one song seemed to be enough for us.
But later, we started to listen to “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” which I had heard on the radio, but I didn’t realize it at the time. Cool, I thought, this tape must have a lot of good songs on it. Sure enough, it did! Just before I got the album on vinyl, “Did It In A Minute” became their latest hit song. Getting “Private Eyes” at that point must have seemed like a do or die mission at the point. Come to think of it, it was!
I still have a lot of memories from listening to the definitive Hall & Oates album after all these years. My brother and I were dancing without a care to the songs, especially to “Did It In A Minute.” This was back before we both became saddled with those inhibitions that more or less defined who we are today. Some time later after I got the album, my family moved from Atlanta, Georgia to Thousand Oaks, California. Around that time, “Your Imagination” started playing on KIIS FM, back when Rick Dees was the DJ. I thought it was a cool song, and I later realized that it was also on the “Private Eyes” album as well! For me, this album was magic because it had so many great songs on it, and if there was a song I heard on the radio that I liked, the odds got better that it was done by Daryl Hall & John Oates!
“Private Eyes” was just a fun album to listen to, and that’s still the case close to 20 years after its original release. It is one of several records from the 1980’s that I can listen to and never get sick of. It had a lot of hit songs on it that were very popular, but even the songs that were not released as singles were great to listen to also. Hall & Oates went on to become a dominant musical duo during the 80’s with this as well as their future albums “H2O” and “Big Bam Boom.” But neither of those albums, despite having some awesome tracks, could hold up as well as a whole the way “Private Eyes” did.
The title track gets the album off to a great start, and it pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the album. It never lets up even as it goes into “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do),” and even if it did, the album picked up in an instant once the next song started playing. There are no sappy ballads to be found which ended up dominating the later half of the decade of “Dallas” and Ronald Reagan. Even the so-called slower songs had an infectiously energetic beat to them, and I loved listening to them just as much.
Of all the songs on this 80’s classic, I still think the best one is indeed “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).” While a lot of the other songs may or may not seem stylistically dated, this one feels timeless and it could fit in with the music of today (that’s what I think anyway). Coincidentally, this song is my current ring tone on my cell phone. It went off in the office I work in, and my neighbor in the cubicle behind me remarked how Hall & Oates had auditioned once for Smokey Robinson. Smokey ended up not hiring them, and he later admitted that it was one of the biggest mistakes of his life.
That song was also sampled for an anti drug song made in 90’s by the rap band De La Soul called “Say No Go.” The song title itself was taken from a verse of “I Can’t Go For That.” When De La Soul featured the line, “you got the body now you want my soul,” I started listening to the “Private Eyes” right there and then. It was like listening to the album again for the first time when that happened. It also shows how much of an effect that “Private Eyes” (let alone Hall & Oates) had on future generations when it comes to music. Both of them were even in attendance during an “American Idol” episode when some of their songs were being sung by the contestants. It should be no surprise of how much nicer they were to the singers than Simon Cowell was. Then again, who isn’t nicer than Simon when it comes to music?
Of course, I don’t want to leave out other songs like “Did It In a Minute” which ends the first side of the record. A great up tempo song, it was one of those that got me really excited about life (I was 5 or 6 at the time, so what did I know?). Going onto the second side, we have “Head Above The Water” which proves to be an even faster track then the one before it, hence making it an appropriate choice for aerobic exercises. Lesser known songs like “Tell Me What You Want” and “Some Men” resonated strongly for me even when I didn’t understand what the lyrics were. Then again, it took me a long long long time after the first grade to really pay attention to a song’s lyrics. The music itself was all that mattered to me at the time.
I always kept wondering about John Oates though. Daryl Hall was always the most prominent of the duo, and John seemed to be there mostly as backup. I wonder if Mr. Oates got seriously resentful of Mr. Hall in a “Fatal Attraction” kind of way. But they are still together, so I guess it never got that bad. John however proves that he has every bit as good a voice as Daryl on songs like “Mano a Mano” and “Friday Let Me Down,” a song title that would have a depressing significance on me during my adolescent years. It didn’t even matter that I had no idea what “Mano a Mano” meant (it would be several years before I took my first Spanish class) because the song itself has a catchy tune to it like the rest of the “Private Eyes” album.
It should also be noted that Hall & Oates were a big hit on the R&B charts with their music back then, and that was a rare feat displayed by a “white act.” While many of us today may laugh at white people doing what others simply saw as “black music’ like rap or soul, this musical duo was never seen as a joke, and they were respectful to the influences that inspired their musical choices. The song “Looking for a Good Sign” was actually dedicated to the original lineup of The Temptations, a huge influence on their work. The duo would later perform with two of the vocalists from The Temptations on the “Live At The Apollo” album. They were more than respectful of the artists that came before them, and Hall
& Oates sang with a lot of heart the same way they did.
“Private Eyes” is not an album with any big theme to hold all the songs together. It is not a concept album in any sense of the term, but then again, it wasn’t trying to be Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” an album that would take me many more years to appreciate. In the end, “Private Eyes” is still an endlessly entertaining album that never bores, and it holds up for me really well. I still love listening to “Did It In A Minute” and “Your Imagination” among other songs, and they have stayed with me long after my first listen. It remains one of my favorite albums to this day, and it holds a special place in my life for being the first vinyl album I ever got to own.
Hall & Oates are still around after all these years, although nowhere as popular as they once were in the 80’s. Around the time “Ooh Yeah” came out, I started to lose interest in them as they seemed to be repeating themselves and bringing nothing new to their music. But I did get to see them perform a couple of years ago at the House of Blues in Downtown Disney, and they seemed very happy about the state of their career. Daryl at one point remarked how people kept asking him if he missed the “good tines” when they were seemingly on top of the music business. But Daryl said that performing in front of this smaller but still excited audience was giving him and John the best of times. You’d figure he was just saying that, but I actually believed him. Life has got to be a lot more easy going for them now than it was years ago. Good for them!
Years later, I did purchase the CD of “Private Eyes” when it was re-released in a remastered edition with new linear notes and additional tracks. However, I do still have the original vinyl record in my possession, and I am never getting rid of it! Ever!
You can purchase this album at the following websites: