Daryl Hall on pre-COVID home concerts, Philly soul and weird album art
Oh boy, this was a day I will remember for a long time.
I’ve been a huge Hall & Oates fan since I was a kid. As the first house in my friend group that had MTV, we would spend HOURS watching music videos. Hall & Oates were living their best ’80s life, releasing video after video. When I wasn’t watching MTV, I was listening to Hall & Oates records on vinyl.
So, obviously, I jumped at the chance to chat with Daryl Hall on the phone prior to his show with Todd Rundgren this Friday, Nov. 25, at the Riverside Theater.
He shared the inspiration behind some of my favorite album cover art, mused about how his Live From Daryl’s House web series was truly ahead of its time and what legendary Philly producer Joe Tarsia (who passed away Nov. 1) meant to him. Do you wanna know what his childhood smelled like? Hint: He grew up on his grandparents farm.
Right down below, you can read some of the highlights from our chat and listen to me trying to keep my cool in the full interview.
The following interview excerpts have been edited for length and clarity.
The concept of Live From Daryl's House — getting together with friends, making music and releasing it on the web — seems like a concept born in the recent COVID times. But you started doing this back in, what, 2007?
DH: Ish. Yeah, it's a long time ago that I started it, and it's hard to remember the fact that there was no entertainment
Do you remember who your first guest was?
DH: Travis McCoy of Gym Class Heroes.
So did you have to explain the concept to Travis a lot, or was he just like, “I get it. Let's do this.”
DHl: He got it right away. He was a cool guy. He is a cool guy. And we were really flying blind. My first show, I didn't have a guest. Then I said, “OK, I think I need to bounce off somebody.” So I invited Travis, and there was no food involved. And then after that, I said, “Well, you know, we have to have a party. We have to eat, we have to have some drinks.” And so it all sort of evolved naturally.
The beauty of this show is it just turns everything on its head. There's no audience, and the bands aren't doing their act. Everybody's just being themselves, right? I think that's a very refreshing thing for people to see as well as for the artists to do.
You kind of set the stage for a relaxing atmosphere, very inviting. Any fond memories when the late great Sharon Jones joined you?
DH: Oh God. Well, I have so many memories of Sharon cuz we took her on tour. I have bittersweet memories of Sharon. I loved her. She was a ball of energy — so optimistic and so cool. She got kicked around in her career so much, and she was finally coming back into her own. People were recognizing her for what she was, and then it all kind of fell apart for her health and everything. It was such a sad situation. But that all happened on the road with me. So I have a lot of amazing and sad memories of Sharon. Loved her.
One of the things that impressed me about her, too, is really with how sick she was, her working until she really couldn't because she … I think I saw her in an interview somewhere talking about how she had a lot of people that relied on her for their income, and so she just didn't wanna quit because that would keep people from having to look for other jobs.
DH: That was her. She cared more about that than she cared about herself because I watched her trying to get herself together to get on stage. It was an incredible thing to witness. And that was right before she did die — I mean, a matter of a week or two.
Joe Tarsia recently passed. For the listeners out there that don't know, he really helped create a soul sound of Philly in the late ’60s and early ’70s. He was a really sought-out engineer. Did you ever work with him, or did he have any influence over your development early on?
DH: Oh boy, I more than worked with him; I all but lived with him. I lived at Sigma Sound Studio. I really did. I mean, I used to stay there overnight, and Joe and I were extremely close.
He was a really, really good engineer. It was his studio. So much happened. He liked to create an environment where it was like a clubhouse. And people were walking in and out of there. He was a very influential part of the sound of Philadelphia because he brought people together, and he was there for all of it.
I don't think there's any of those great hit songs — you know, the O’Jays and the Spinners and Delfonics and Stylistics, people like that — that he wasn't a part of. He just was there. Yes, I knew him extremely well and mourned his passing, believe me.
How much does Philly, like the city of Philly and everything that happened there, how much do you think that played into the story of your career? If you grew up in Chicago or somewhere else, I would imagine your path would've been a lot different for a lot of reasons. But that sound, that Philly soul really just is at the base of what you do.
DH: It defines me. Whatever I do, and I do a lot of different kinds of music, but it's all around the Philly thing. It's the way I comprehend music through that because it's baby food to me. It's the music of my childhood, music of my young adulthood. The people that I learned from were Philadelphia musicians, basically. And so I owe it all to the region really. I'm as much a Philly guy as Dr. John was a New Orleans guy, you know?
Is there a first concert that stands out to you that you saw that really had an influence on the direction of your career?
DH: I used to go to the Uptown Theater, which was like the Apollo Theater in New York. There were a number of theaters like that around the country. The Uptown was in North Philadelphia. I was a teenager and used to go there and watch … you name it, any R&B artist, soul artist, gospel group, whatever. And it was outrageously influential to me.
I sort of started hanging out there, and I'm talking teenage years, and I met Smokey Robinson and the Temptations and the Four Tops and all those people. So it really was all tied together, you know? My first concerts and my first opportunities all fit together.
So many of your early songs were sampled or an inspiration for other artists. For example, “I Can't Go for That” — Simply Red has done something with that song, De La Soul famously used samples, more recently the xx. Is that flattering? Is that difficult to hear? It introduces you to a whole new audience, I would think, which would be really exciting to have a whole new group of people then listening to your catalog because of samples that were used in other songs.
DH: I always look at it as once I finish a song and put it out, it sort of belongs to the world. And when people want to take that idea and do unusual things with it or do different things with it, I like that. That appeals to me. I relate to it. I'm really happy that people have done that with my music. I think it proves that it's worth more than the sum of its parts. I love all that stuff. Plus it's financially rewarding. Let's not forget that
I was looking through my albums the other day and realizing that with the resurgence of vinyl, it's been really exciting to get some of these newer albums that I love. But I was looking at the cover of Abandoned Luncheonette and what I think is sometimes referred to as The Silver Album, just remembering how great it is listening to music, staring at the art and liner notes. So going back to The Silver Album, who art-directed that and do you have fond memories of that cover?
DH: It was very much of its time, you know? That glam rock thing was happening, and a guy named Pierre LaRoche did it. He was really big in that scene, and he was closely aligned with the Rolling Stones and people like that.
I knew him through the Rolling Stones, and we used to hang out with him. We all hung out together, and he suggested that he would do the album cover, and I wasn't even sure what he was gonna do. I just remember him saying he was French. I just remember him saying, “I will immortalize you.” And I was like, “OK, sure, immortalize me.” The next thing I knew, I had the full makeup on, and there it was.
I always say that I look like the girl that I most want to go out with.
Finally, the question I ask everybody: Daryl Hall, what did your childhood smell like?
DH: Smell like? Well, it smelled like cow shit
So did you have farm chores?
DH: No, I was lucky. Like I said, I lived on the edge of the farm