It was sometime in the fall of 1982, I think, memories are fuzzy from that period of my life. I know for a fact it was sometime before the bike accident but after I started getting those strange tingly feelings around cute girls. I was about twelve or so then. Our basement growing up was late seventies cozy with deep shag carpet in some shade reminiscent of Crayola Burnt Sienna mixed with some weird blooming dandelion yellow. The couch was a sectional of brown leather and super soft and almost comfy except where the frame for the pullout bed was. If you sat there your ass took a beating.
There was a wet bar to one side of the room mostly made of giant barnwood beams. The bathroom down there was super 80’s chic. My dad set the crimson red sink in the top of an old wooden barrel; he was a plumber after all. Unique for sure. In the center of the room was a counter, also barnwood encased, under which sat an inset television and a cabinet to the right side. Clearly that’s where the Atari was housed as well as the parents’ record collection. The walls themselves were also covered in recycled barnwood painted a dark shit brindle brown just like the rest of the room’s wood. Who knew the Smalls’ were so ahead of their time, right? Eco from day one. But these outside walls were false walls meaning there was a walkway behind that framed barnwood exterior, between it and the concrete foundation. You had to know where the door was to find it. My sister and I always called it “behind the wall.” It was a great place to hide.
The highlight of the basement to me was a small stereo system and turntable for LPs (and no we didn’t call it vinyl back then) that was mounted on a shelf under the stairs. My prized 45s were on repeat in this period of life and like most twelve-year-old’s, my choices were dictated by what was on the radio at the time. And what was crushing then was Hall and Oates. Private Eyes (clap clap) had come out the year before and I had the single on 45. I will never forget that one because it was playing when I first kissed a girl behind the wall.
As this pandemic wears on into 2021, I find myself walking outside nearly every day – mostly because its winter in Ithaca, New York and walks are easier than any other form of outdoor exercise when it’s straight cold and snowy. Plus, it’s pretty beautiful here what with the lake and gorges. Today, as a song popped into the Spotify “curated for Dan” playlist, I realized that Hall and Oates have been a bizarrely unifying and recurring thread through various portions of my life.
I am a concert promoter based in Ithaca, New York and my company does shows around the northeast in varying genres in capacities from two hundred to nearly ten thousand. Before COVID, in 2019, we produced over 800 shows and about 300 of them played a small club in Pawling, New York, a small bedroom community on the Connecticut border about 30 miles northeast on New York City, called Daryl’s House. This is the spot where Daryl Hall records his television show Live From Daryl’s House. And he is a partner in the club.
How this came to be is a story in and of itself. An industry acquaintance called and asked if I would be interested in talking to a relatively new club that needed a talent buyer (that’s someone to book the acts who would play there). When he told Daryl about us, Daryl thought we’d be perfect and wanted to talk directly to me. He rang me minutes later to try and convince me to take on the gig. I was shocked to hear his voice and thought someone was fucking with me. It’s not out of the question for us crazy concert promoters to harass each other. In my mind I wanna say I made him sing for me to prove it was him, but I don’t really believe that happened. After that call with Daryl and his LA based manager I agreed to go visit the club and see how I felt about it after seeing the space. And yes, Daryl was going to meet me there.
This site visit was a good excuse to visit my mom and spend the night in the Dirty Dancing Catskills and then make the drive to Pawling the next morning which was only about an hour or so away. Route 17 east to 84 east and some back roads and voila there was the wooden exterior of Daryl’s House Club. As I parked, I took a deep breath and prepared myself to meet this legend of my youth. I never get starstruck, really, but this one felt kind of big to me. This was a potential partnership with someone who had massive global success and was currently enjoying a renaissance. Can I admit I was pretty nervous? Sure. *My nerves calmed instantly, though, when I approached the front door to find the six-foot plus wooden carving of Daryl that graced the entranceway. It had the leather jacket and sunglasses and even the hair. What ridiculously nice hair that statue had! When I heard those words in my head, I knew I’d be OK for the meeting. Long story short, we made a deal in principle that day and the rest is history as the venue has become a top 100 club in the world over the last several years. And to answer the question I know you all are thinking about, yes, I DID tell him about the make out party and Private Eyes but I’ll get back to that in a minute.
A few years later when Hall and Oates toured the summer amphitheaters, I was able to get some pretty cool access and great seats. What I did not expect was the love that my 9 year old son developed for them mainly because I think singing a certain song became the first curse words he was allowed to say. If you’re a fan of the band then you know this has everything to do with Rich Girl. (It’s a bitch girl...) Seeing them at Bethel Woods and again in Syracuse were super fun moments for us. And because life is best remembered as a collection of moments, these were big ones. Daryl even made time for us backstage after the show in Bethel. It was a great family picture before the ex cropped me out. But she and Daryl and the boy look happy anyways lol. Yes, I brought the ex-wife along to the show… we get along like that.
But it was not just booking his club or seeing their shows where the band made appearances in my life. I cited Daryl repeatedly in my TED talk back in 2017. I talked about our partnership and how my business mentality in relation to the music industry norms is basically I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) and that if you thought and acted the ways other did than you are clearly Out of Touch because you are not going to innovate if you do exactly what others are already doing. The talk as a whole was about bucking the system and doing things your own way and building a business beneath the radar of the big boys and in small cities who support grandiose ideas. I’ve been lucky for sure, but this talk told my story and shared deep insights. And Daryl was a part of that in his own way.
The overlap doesn’t end there. I grew up a struggling New York Rangers fan and like many 1994 was massive for me when they FINALLY won a Stanley Cup after 54 years, but since being in central New York I have also found a love for the Maple Leafs of Toronto. Sorry, Buffalo. Yes, the Leafs, another much maligned Original Six hockey team that hasn’t won a championship in fifty plus years and are loved or hated just like the Rangers. Where’s the Hall and Oates reference there? For the last several years the Leaf’s “goal song” is You Make My Dreams Come True. It’s hilarious when you consider the imagery at first but having been in the Scotiabank Arena during the Stanley Cup Playoffs with my son and cheering after a goal with 18,000 other Canadians while it played was simply magical. Sure, it’s not loud, aggressive, bone shaking rock and roll like maybe you would expect in a hockey arena, and maybe it’s sorta cheesy but somehow it works. And it fits a team trying to find its way; young and fragile and with a legion of die-hard fans and maybe a whole country behind them. And also, some serious haters… because we all have those. Kind of like Hall and Oates. You either love em or well, you know.
As I dig through the memory banks, I remember so many other songs… like when Maneater came out and we watched the video on MTV at home on repeat after school. And the same for the textbook 80’s and way ahead of its time camera work on the Say it Isn’t So video. Their next album included the postmodern styles of Method of Modern Love – which again was all over the MTV – the crazy clouds and cocktails with smoke, the dancing and well frankly the HAIR in that video. We all wanted to be that cool. The eighties were a very different time. Daryl even almost busts a rhyme in the bridge section near the end between the South Philly falsetto of course. Let’s be straight honest… Dude can sing. Regardless of how you feel about their music, these songs dotted the soundtrack of our lives in the MTV era – the musical era before The Real World came along and made music secondary and eventually nonexistent on that breakthrough channel. I couldn’t discuss H&O without mentioning the hits Kiss on My List and One on One which were Middle School Dance highlights right up there with those massive ass grabber slow dances from Journey Escape. Which brings me back to the basement and behind the wall.
We all have a first love. Usually those come from our cadre of closest friends, at least that’s what happened for me and my homies. The good news here? For me and my first real girlfriend… and skip ahead to us both turning fifty in 2020… 8 days apart… we’re still friends to this day! We went to the Senior Prom (as friends) but I’m sure we fooled around that night. Who doesn’t at 17, I guess? And we stayed close, and it didn’t affect our friendship. We both went to Cornell and supported each other as we got to know life away from home. And we zoom every few weeks or months through this pandemic.
I may struggle to remember many things before my bike crash, but that first party in my basement is indelibly etched on my memory. When she and I went behind the wall and learned what French kissing is we were doing that to the tune of Private Eyes (clap clap). Hopefully no one was watching us, but we laughed and loved and felt happy and sad and pain and release and all those crazy busting hormone feelings that came with becoming a teenager and learning about big person feelings. Slowly and respectfully. She and I had our ups and downs over the years, but we will always share some wonderful memories and moments and firsts.
And who could have known on that fateful night behind the wall that Daryl Hall would become a client of mine and dare I say someone whose number is programmed into my cell phone. And who might just answer if I call. Crazy how life unfolds. And when I walk and pass the time while I wait for my real life to return, I realize that my real life is right here. And the inability to do my chosen work may suck right now, but we will soon produce shows again, and I have learned to slow down and appreciate these connections and threads of my life that without this break I may never have had the time to notice. What I’ve learned is to keep my eyes open wide. My Private Eyes open wide. They’re always watching and that’s a very good thing.
I see you, you see me
Watch you blowin' the lines
When you're making a scene
Oh girl, you've got to know
What my head overlooks
The senses will show to my heart
When it's watching for lies
You can't escape my eyes.
They're watching you
They see your every move
They're watching you
They're watching you watching
You watching you watching you…
Private Eyes- Hall and Oates