Getting Hall & Oates on the record about iconic album
People often ask me where story ideas and column topics come from and the simple answer is that sometimes they just happen when you least expect it.
Such was the case recently involving an old vinyl record. In this week’s Ticket entertainment magazine, which is inserted into your paper, you can read about the 40th anniversary of the release of what’s become an iconic album, back when vinyl records was how we listened to our music.
In 1973, Daryl Hall and John Oates released their second studio album, “Abandoned Luncheonette.” Although it had only moderate success early on, Hall & Oates would eventually go on to superstardom and “Abandoned Luncheonette” is generally now considered one of their earliest masterpieces.
The historical rock and roll significance of the album is enhanced for those of us who live in this area because of the photo on the front of the album, which features an old, dilapidated diner that used to be known as the Rosedale Diner that sat at the corner of High and Rosedale streets in Pottstown.
That Hall and Oates are local guys — Oates was raised in North Wales and graduated from North Penn High School and Hall lived just outside of Pottstown and graduated from Owen J. Roberts High School — is a wellknown fact to many in this area.
And that is the backdrop to this story.
As a kid growing up in central Illinois, my folks had a record collection that consisted of a lot of popular music from the late 1950s and early to mid-1960s. I used to wear out albums by Elvis, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Association and many more.
By the time the 1970s rolled around and I got to high school, I was more into eight-track tapes, cassettes, big bushy sideburns and bell-bottomed pants. (Seventies suave indeed.) I never had my own record collection.
It’s more than 35 years later now and I recently decided to change that. For Christmas last year, The Blonde Accountant got me a turntable because I wanted to start a record collection. My original premise was that I wanted to hear the early work of some of my favorite artists and my thinking was that listening to it on vinyl would offer me the purest form of the music.
It has become a process for me. I spend some time researching a band and its music, choose an album I think I’d like to have in my collection, and then go to the record store in search of the album.
Fortunately, there are still a few record stores around, and there’s a certain nostalgic charm to going into one and searching through the albums.
A few weeks ago I was on the trail of “Abandoned Luncheonette.” I suspect that since I didn’t grow up here on the East Coast, I was unaware of the early Hall & Oates stuff because it didn’t have wide penetration back then in the Midwest. So I had never really heard the entire album as a single body of work.
Anyone who’s a treasure hunter of sorts — be it at an antique store, garage sale or baseball card show — knows the feeling of actually finding that one thing you've been searching for, and that’s what happened to me with “Abandoned Luncheonette.”
It was sitting in plain sight in one of the bins, and I spotted it literally as I walked in the door of the Vinyl Closet, a delightful little record shop on Main Street in North Wales owned by Jason McFarland (www.thevinylcloset.com).
I got the album for $1 and it’s in fabulous shape. Naturally, I rushed home to play it on my new turn- table and it’s absolutely wonderful. I was listening to the early stages of what we now know as “Philly soul” or the “sound of Philadelphia” and it was and is a really cool vibe.
As I was examining the cover art, I flipped the record over and was reading the information on the back. There, at the bottom in small print were the words, “1973 Atlantic Recording Corporation.”
Hey, I thought to myself, this year is the 40th anniversary of the release of that album. I wonder if Daryl and John would want talk about it?
And that’s how a story idea is born. All I needed to do was execute.
Fortunately, I have interviewed both Hall and Oates several times over the years. I have a good relationship with their manager, Jonathan Wolfson, and he has without fail always honored my interview requests and hooked me up with both artists. Hall & Oates themselves have also both been gracious with their time and their willingness to answer my questions numerous times.
I emailed Wolfson and he responded the same day saying he thought that a story on the anniversary of “Abandoned Luncheonette” was “a great idea” and that he would make Daryl and John available for interviews.
Within a week I had both artists on the phone in separate interviews. John apparently is getting used to talking to me, I guess, because he started the latest conversation with, “Hi Mike, here we go again, huh?” He added that he was unaware that it was the 40th anniversary of the album until the interview request had been made.
Both Daryl and John shared their recollections about making “Abandoned Luncheonette” and the story of how they got the now-famous photographs that grace the front and back covers of the album from a forgotten diner that once rested on the outskirts of Pottstown just off Route 724. vou can read all about that in this week’s Ticket section.
It all started because I found an album at a local record store for a dollar, took it home and listened to it and discovered the early sounds of Philly soul. Everything old was new again.
Man, I love it when a plan comes full circle.
Outta Leftfield Mike Morsch