Multi-platinum requires no justification, but my first clue that the Philly soul-into-mainstage megapop hitmaking legacy of Hall & Oates was not just enduring, but growing chic, came when one of my very favorites of all new music groups, the Bird and the Bee, dedicated their entire third record to Hall & Oates covers. Baffled by the move at first, I came to recognize the homage as a small part of a larger cultural phenomenon. Hip has always had a tendency to graduate into pop (we used to call it “selling out”), but now we increasingly see yesterday’s pop reborn as today’s hip, as hip young adults reject the valuations that they inherited and restructure the past for present purposes.
Hip works by such contrarian logic. Multi-platinum pop rockers Fleetwood Mac, for example, were anything but hip in their late-’70s commercial heyday. I was there. Sparing no vitriol, the critical voices that championed Elvis Costello and the Clash decried the Mac of Rumours and Tusk as panderers barely discernible from Foreigner. Today, the Fleetwood Mac influence among hipsters is ubiquitous, Costello’s hardly. Pop prevails.
Hall & Oates’ earliest material – 1972’s Whole Oats, their initial breakthrough, 1973’s Abandoned Luncheonette, and their 1974 self-titled moonshot – share in the sound and performance quality of one the golden ages of recording and arrangement. Their megahits of the early ’80s – concentrated on 1980’s Voices and 1981’s Private Eyes – now seem beset by the thin sound of early synth/pop and the cold of aesthetics of cocaine, but look! That’s all in fashion now too, as broad-stroke ’80s revivalism continues to rage on in popular and in underground music.
Recently rechristened and reborn, the Rock Academy presents a tribute to the music of Hall & Oates on Friday and Saturday, January 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Colony, located at 22 Rock City Road in Woodstock. The doors to the special show open at 6:30, with music commencing at 7:30 as the students of the Rock Academy take on the diverse soul and pop stylings of one the biggest bands of the ’70s and ’80s. Tickets cost $20 in advance, $25 at the door. For more information, visit www.colonywoodstock.com and http://rockacademy.com.