1988 Countdown #42: Daryl Hall John Oates, “Everything Your Heart Desires”

(New to the countdown? Catch up here.)

“After three years of separation, Hall and Oates got back together,” Adam Curry says, not particularly moved by this tender reunion, “with a tremendously successful album.” Well, Ooh Yeah! peaked at #24, which seems something less than tremendous. (Filled with bonhomie, Arista had it certified platinum.) Curry continues, “In fact, Billboard has claimed that they are the most successful duo in the history of the charts.” Hall and Oates had a ton of hit singles and a dozen gold albums, but never had an album sell better than double-platinum, not even H2O. If they had peaked just a few years later, they would have been prime candidates for the blockbuster Thriller/Born in the USA treatment.

The video starts with flickering lights and shadows–we see people filmed from the back, possibly Hall and/or Oates, possibly outtakes from the director’s student films. Cut to an overhead shot of people walking down the sidewalk, and then back to Flicker Town. Daryl Hall is snapping his fingers over his head. His hair is long, blond, and greasy–he’s working a Robert Plant vibe. As it happens, both Hall and Plant turned 40 in 1988. A synth keeps hammering out a single note.

Images flash by. A brick wall lit in blue light has graffiti of an angel pointing an arrow at a heart. A closeup of a black guitar, decorated with a picture of a knife through another heart. I sense a theme. We pan up the body of Daryl Hall: polka-dot shirt, leather jacket. “Hoa-oh!” Hall sings, and starts dancing and clapping his hands. The director’s employing “frame dropping,” a technique you don’t see often outside music videos or horror movies–the footage is real-time, but it has the feeling of slow-motion, because you get fewer shots per second than you’re expecting. (The video’s also very blurry–I don’t know if that’s a long exposure time or some more elaborate effect.)

Time to check in with John Oates: his hair is gloriously long and luxuriant in this era, as is his mustache. He’s wearing a leather jacket and wielding an electric guitar (the one we saw before, with the stabby heart). Oates stares into the camera like he’s trying to bluff his way through a police lineup. We get a closeup on the back of somebody’s leather jacket: it’s decorated with a chained heart and the word “DESIRE.”

“You say you can’t stand the pain,” Hall sings, trying to elbow Carly Simon out of that valuable analgesic-jingle market. He’s in fine voice: smooth, soulful, still blessed with his upper register. The director turns up the frame-dropping rate on Hall; it looks like we’re watching him through an old kinescope. We appear to be cutting at random between color footage and black-and-white.

Two new faces: an attractive young man and woman. She has hoop earrings and a flowered dress; he has a spiky haircut. She looks Italian; he looks Danish. His head is on her lap and they gaze lovingly at each other. We cut back to Hall, who sings longingly to the girl who’s about to walk out of his life– bouncing with nervous energy, shifting his weight back and forth between the balls of his feet. I interviewed Hall some years ago; he hails from Philadelphia, but he had the hyper speech patterns of a coked-up New Yorker.

While the camera pans around him, Oates strums his guitar dramatically and grins triumphantly into the camera, as if he’s just achieved something unusual. And since we can’t hear the guitar in the song at this moment, I suppose he has.

The Italian’s in front of a chain-link fence; the Dane’s behind it. Back to Hall and Oates: the camera keeps panning around them. The way Hall moves his arms suggests that he’s trying to swat away a persistent swarm of gnats. We return to the chain-link fence, which borders a city playground, and visit a new couple (girl in tank top and cowboy hat), who appear to be about to enter coitus while leaning against the fence, so we visit another young pair. This couple’s black; they’re both laughing, possibly at Daryl Hall’s dancing.

Hall waggles his finger at the camera. On the playground, the Danish guy grabs the Italian girl’s ass, which is the most genuine moment so far in this video. We cut back and forth from Hall to the playground, where we see some jealous glances. Hall closes his eyes to hit a high note.

I’m as fond of Hall and Oates as the next guy (unless the next guy is Ted Friedman, the super-fan with whom I watched this countdown back in 1988), but this isn’t a compelling video. The visual stuttering gets tired, and the whole thing looks blurry and underlit. The playground sequence appears to have no point beyond “here are some people younger than Hall and Oates, plus a chain-link fence that we threw in as a favor to our manager, who owns shares in a chain-link fence company.” And the song itself is limp, although I like the insistent synth part. I wish it had more spark, or at least more lyrics about chain-link fences.

More Hall flapping around. On the playground, we see shadows of a couple having an argument (and gesticulating a lot). Oates swings his hips around. Sometimes we catch glimpses of other members of their band, G.E. Smith and T-Bone Wolk, who are familiar because they were in the Saturday Night Live house band for a full decade (1985 to 1995), often seen grimacing as the show cut to commercial.

The song natters on; the director tries to make it more exciting with extra strobe effects. Oates has a barely audible guitar solo, but he sells it really hard, leaning forward, pointing his guitar into the camera, and spinning around. As we head for the final chorus, Hall declaims: “You think it’s all out there? Huh. Well, I know what’s out there, and I know you’re not going to find anyone, no one that’s going to understand you exactly the way I do. Well, I think I’ve said it all. So do you still want me?” Spoken-word sections are cool–more songs should have them.

“Everything Your Heart Desires” hit #3 on the singles chart. You can watch the video here.

posted 22 June 2011 in 1988 and tagged , , . 12 comments

12 Comments on 1988 Countdown #42: Daryl Hall John Oates, “Everything Your Heart Desires”

  1. Rob Says:

    It peaked at #24? In 1988? That’s kind of shocking. I had no idea this album was such a bomb, maybe because it was the first Hall & Oates album I got to hear in the Ted Friedman Era.

    I’m not sure I fully noticed at the time this song’s resemblance to Gregory Abbott’s “Shake You Down.” (Which also had a cool spoken-word section.)

    If memory serves, Hall & Oates had a summer ’88 MTV contest on the theme of “Missed Opportunities,” with John Oates telling a poignant tale of missing his chance to meet Elvis Presley. (“I wanted to meet Elvis more than anything. He was the king!”)

  2. Chris M. Says:

    I’m wondering why they dressed Daryl and especially John like they’re in a George Michael video. (Oh, right, it’s 1988.)

    Actually, what this song and video really resemble, in terms of production/aesthetics, are vintage Whitney Houston. Which makes total sense, because Ooh Yeah! was Hall & Oates’s debut for Arista and hence Clive Davis, legendary mogul with legendarily strong, fixed opinions about what pop musicians should look and sound like. By the late ’80s, Davis was at the peak of his churning-out-the-schlock period, making stars out of Taylor Dayne and Jeff Healey.

    In their 1991 book The Worst Rock n’ Roll Records of All Time, Jimmy Guterman and Owen O’Donnell included the following paragraph in their section, “The 33 1/3 Rules of Rock and Roll” (subtitled, “If you violate these rules, you will make bad rock and roll and a couple of guys looking for a quick buck will write about you”):

    “Rule 3. Do not record for Arista Records. In the late eighties, Clive Davis’s label was a haven for art-rock has-beens eager for one last pillage, like GTR and the Kantner-Balin-Casady Band….Arista’s flagship ‘new’ artists of the time, particularly Milli Vanilli, were cynical exploitation units.”

    I think MV were a more organic exploitation unit than they give them credit for, but their singling out of ’80s Arista as a label worthy of scorn always seemed dead-on to me.

  3. Gavin Says:

    Ted emailed me last week:

    I agree “Everything Your Heart Desires” is not an H&O classic. It was their first single for Arista, if I remember correctly – Clive Davis lured them in and packaged them in a more adult-contemporary direction like Whitney Houston. Not their best mode. The follow-up, which featured “So Close,” was much rootsier.

  4. azul120 Says:

    That’s odd. The other list I’ve seen of this countdown that’s been making the rounds on the web had this listed as #40. Maybe there was a slight mix up.

    This was their only big hit from the album, which I guess explains the not so high chart performance. I was kind of shocked that this video was still a huge hit on MTV, where it went to #1 in early June, in spite of the adult contemporary shift. Just three years later that sort of thing would consign practically anyone to the VH1 ghetto. Just ask Whitney Houston.

    A visual reference to this video during an ’88 Bon Jovi New Jersey special on MTV (on Youtube) when his was mentioned leads me to believe that Wayne Isham directed this video. Which would check out given his usage of strobe effects (see: Enter Sandman from Metallica).

  5. Ted Friedman Says:

    Rob, you’re absolutely right about “Shake You Down” – I think it gave Daryl quiet storm envy. Hard to match the rap there though:

    “Eenie meenie minie moe
    Come on girl let’s start the show.
    Roses are red and violets are blue.
    I’m gonna rock this world for you.”

    Daryll’s best rap is in “Adult Education”:

    “The high point of low school is getting out of there
    The low point of high school’s the watch & wear” [or maybe “what you wear”?]

  6. Chris M. Says:

    Ted’s dead-on about the failed A/C direction proffered by Clive. Where he and I part ways (I think) is on the next Arista album, Change of Season, which IMHO just traded one brand of schlock for another: Bon Jovi faux-roots-rock. I really, really hated the single H&O did with ol’ Jon Bon, “So Close”; it’s by far my least favorite hit in their canon. But then, I hate pretty much everything Mr. BJ ever touched. As airless as “Everything Your Heart Desires” was, I’d take another album of that over “So Close” any day.

  7. Gavin Says:

    I assumed that Hall and Oates had finally run out their RCA contract when they signed with Arista, but by 1988, BMG owned them both, which meant that it was more of a transfer. Working with Clive may have seemed like a better option than staying with RCA, which was a particularly feckless label at that point.

  8. Ted Friedman Says:

    Chris, the production on “So Close” is distractingly chintzy, but underneath is a great song. They reprise it acoustically at the end of the album, and play it that way in concert: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziF3CXZ5Vdk.

    Granted, I’m also a sucker for Jon Bon’s acoustic stuff – “Wanted Dead or Alive,” “Blaze of Glory.”

  9. Rob Says:

    Thanks for that link Ted–great version of “So Close.” I always liked the original too.

    I agree totally about “Adult Education”–Daryl’s finest rap. That song was years ahead of its time.

    Are there better songs on the *Ooh Yeah!* album than “Everything Your Heart Desires”? Was it just the wrong single, or was it the best they could do at that time? In terms of arrangement and production, it isn’t a million miles away from, say, “Method Of Modern Love,” but it’s nowhere near as appealing.

  10. Ted Friedman Says:

    Sorry, no way to stand up for Ooh Yeah! Daryl was clearly starting to run dry on songwriting inspiration – ultimately leading to his reinvention on Live at Daryl’s House as a great cover artist.

  11. Alfred Says:

    The song peaked at #3 — their last top ten.

  12. Alfred Soto Says:

    What’s funny about Clive Davis’ purported ministrations is how ooh yeah! is self-produced, like most of their other eighties records. H&O were such pros at this point that they could recreate a Whitney arrangement on their own (the album is a stone bore though).

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