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"Live from Daryl's House" webcasts

Daryl Hall, Tom "T-Bone" Wolk and Chromeo

Daryl Hall

By Carter B. Horsley

I was trying to re-sort my CD collection when I came across the "greatest hits" of Hall & Oates.  I remembered that I liked one song in particular - "No Can Do" - so I played it and within seconds I was up and dancing and then I replayed it and replayed it until I thought I would probably get a heart attack from so much solo dancing in which I tried to never repeat my movements.  It's one of those really groovy songs that you can't sit still through, up there with a few from Stevie Wonder and much of the soundtrack from "Saturday Night Fever" by the BeeGees and "Heaven Must Have Sent An Angel" by Tavares.

It brought back a flood of memories from stepping out on the large dance floor at Studio 54, kicking off my shoes and bogeying by myself and with lots of other guys' dates behind their back.  Although my style is much different from Travolta's, I thought/knew I was the cat's meow until I would run out of breath, look from my shoes, and leave my friends on the dance floor, retiring as a champ.  My friends, of course, were probably the best-looking hunks and jokesters in the room, the city, and I had no right to be with them - just a mute, affable listener, but a damn good, smoking good dancer, a regular disco king.

One of my great problems in life is that I almost never could understand/hear rock'n'roll lyrics, but I really didn't care.  It was the music that counted.

At that time, I was really getting into music.  I had been a jazz fan who stayed up all night in the late 1950s and 1960s listing to Mort Fega and Symphony Sid playing all the incredible music of that era: Miles, Trane, MJQ, Shelly Manne....I dropped out of music for several years, however, in the late sixties.  I loved the Beatles but thought the Stones were vulgar and coarse.  I was working nights at The Times and playing "one-pocket" at McGirr's pool hall 'til 3AM....

In the mid 1970s, however, I discovered ECM records and bought and loved almost every one of their releases by Keith Jarrett, Ralph Towner, Eberhard Weber, Gary Burton, Chick Corea and Pat Metheny.  It was thrilling to listen to a new generation of lyrical musicians who pushed the boundaries of jazz very far, far farther, indeed, than conservative Wynton Marsalis who was arrogant and not very inspired.

By the end of the decade, I by chance heard an album by Brian Eno and Robert Fripp.  I didn't like one side of it but the other side made me literally rush out to a music store and ask where the synthesizer section was.  I walked out with a "moog source," a programmable solo synthesizer with 16 memory "patches" and an arpeggiator and a rather space-age interface.

I didn't know the first thing about synthesizers but it was my big secret obsession and before long I had bought a four-track Tascam tape recorder and was recording my improvisations even though I couldn't read music.

Over the years, that passion has not abated and I now have 25 or so synthesizers and have recorded a dozen or so CDs of my compositions that I occasionally give to some friends.  I know they are very good, but no one else does....

Having regained a normal breathing rhythm again, I decided to look up "No Can Do" on Google and soon discovered that there was a version of it on "YouTube.com."  I had never gone to that website before and was rather impressed that it had several video versions of the song including one "Live From Daryl's House."

I was shocked.  It was a high-definition video in a medium window version that was quite recent and featured a long-haired Hall but not Oates and a band called "Chromeo" that I had never heard of. 

The sound quality was wonderful but the rendition was actually better than the original.  Indeed, the rendition was thrilling as a rather rotund bearded young man with a beard had a black rubber tube stuck in his mouth and was dominating the background sound.  Hall looked fabulous, perhaps a couple of years older than when the song first came out, and, more importantly, he was accompanying his singing on a 88-key Yamaha synthesizer.  I vaguely had remembered him from MTV days as a guitarist with a bouffant hairdo.

When the song was over, I closed my jaw-dropped mouth and hit replay and switched my receiver so I could hear the song over my JBL speakers rather than tinny speakers of my wide-screen LCD monitor.  When the song began, I stood up and began to wriggle and shimmy-shake and then hit replay again. 

This was the best dancing song I had ever heard.  I probably played it another ten times before deciding to find out more about Chromeo and about "Live from Daryl's House."

"Live from Daryl's House" was started as a free monthly Internet broadcast from a farm house rebuilt by Daryl Hall in Dutchess County, New York, although some of its episodes were broadcast from his house in London.  Each broadcast has guest artists, some of whom are from Daryl's generation, like Todd Rungren and Smokey Robinson, and others, like Chromeo, K. T. Kunstall, Josť Feliciano and Rob Thomas, are much, much younger.  Each program includes a couple of Hall & Oates songs and several by the younger artists as well as some "classic" covers.  John Oates is in some of the broadcasts but not the one with Chromeo.

Chromeo consists of only two players, Pee-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel), who plays synthesizers and the black tube of the "talk box," and David Macklovitch (Dave 1), who plays guitar.  Dave 1 is also bearded but very, very skinny.   The two are from Brooklyn and Pee-Thugg is Arab and David 1 is Jewish.

Pee-Thugg of Chromeo and his talk box

The two musicians met in high school in and describe themselves as "the only successful Arab/Jewish partnership since the dawn of human culture."  The talk box has been used by Stevie Wonder, Peter Frampton and Roger Troutman, who was Pee-Thugg's idol.  In an internet interview at tlchicken.com, Pee-Thugg remarked that "it takes time to master.  It takes time to find the sound and to learn how to use it.  It rattles your teeth.  It gives you headaches...."

In the video Pee-Thugg is obviously the second most important player on the song and Dave 1 wears a white suit and obviously swings with little movement.  However, that persona is not complete as on one of their own videos he is an extremely smooth operator and a superb dancer with apparently a fair bit of sex appeal.

Dave 1 of Chromeo, T-Bone Wolk and Daryl Hall

I eventually went directly to the website for "Live from Daryl's House" to discover that the Chromeo program was fairly recent and that Chromeo was scheduled to perform with Hall at the forthcoming 2010 Bonnaroo music festival.

At the song's site on youtube.com there are many adulatory comments: "Probably my favorite video on youtube"; "This is definitely one of the best things that has ever happened anywhere, ever"; "it's better than sex"

The song was recorded in 1981 by Hall & Oates and was the fourth number-one hit of their career on the Billboard Hot 100 and replaced "Physical" by Olivia Newton-John at No.1 and it also topped the U. S. R&B chart and it is one of the 14 Hall & Oates songs that have been played more than 1 million times on the radio.  It was voted number six on VH1's list of "the 100 Greatest Songs of the 80s" and wikipedia notes that according to Hall, when Jackson was recording "We Are The World," Jackson approached him and admitted to lifting the bass line for "Billie Jean" from a Hall and Oates song, apparently referring to "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)."

Youtube has several other versions of the song including one very "hot" version from Troubadour in 2008 with an extended great sax solo that sets Hall off on a wicked jig at about 7 minutes and 35 seconds into the song.  It's not as great as the Chromeo and Hall version, but it ain't bad at all.

In reading through the comments for the song at youtube, one is stunned to learn that one of the players, T-bone Wolk, died soon after the taping of a heart attack.  He is the strawhat dude playing guitar just to the right of Hall and many of the commenters remark on his fabulous playing.

"T-Bone" Wolk

Wolk was for 30 years the musical director of Hall & Oates and from 1986 to 1992 was a musician in the "Saturday Night Live" band on television.

In the video, Wolk clearly has long white hair and not much a chin but an awful lot of rhythm and talent and he also sings a lot.

After watching the video another dozen or so times, I took the natural plunge and looked a some other videos that were available on the right hand side of the screen not only from the same show but from other shows as well.  They were all excellent, though clearly "No Can Do" was without peer.

Then I went to Hall's website, where all of the three dozen or so shows are archive and instantly available.  The shows include a lot of material of the gathered musicians talking about how they were going to improvise on a particular song, reminiscing and eating and drinking.  Be sure to devote a full two days to going through most of the material, which is really fine.

The big surprise is one show that is devoted as a memorial to Wolk, who apparently was Hall's spiritual brother and a very great musician.  One of the songs is called "I Miss You," which was originally recorded by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes with Teddy Pendergrass."

It begins slowly and rather inauspiciously.  But after a minute or so, you nose is pressed up against the computer monitor as Hall, playing guitar, wails and wails and wails in what may well be the most emotional and volcanic performance available on the Internet, clearly up there in the heavens with K. D. Lang's version of "Hallelujah" at the Vancouver Olympics.

I cried during most of the performance it was so intense with very strong lyrics and, again, stunning musicality.  As Bigsoulman1 commented, "Only God knows how he got through that song without breaking down himself...."

The same day as Bigsoulman1's post, GoldCoastKimi4208 commented that "I have watched video many times with a tear in my eye, but have just noticed that sitting on a stool next to Daryl is T-Bone's leather boots and his black leather hat...."

Another commenter gasped "The most soulful, heartfelt performance I've ever seen!!!!!!!!"

The Internet webcast has been shown as the New Year's Eve Special on WGN.

The webcast has no live audience.

In an interview at spinner.com December 29, 2010 Hall said "I get the charge from everything happening for the first time," adding "we don't rehearse.  It's all happening as you do it.  If we screw up, we just do it again - which we hardly ever do."

In 1972, Hall formed a partnership with John Oates and would go on to record with Robert Fripp in the 1970s.  He and Oates closed the historic Live Aid show and they are the number one selling duo in music history.

In a January 6, 2011 interview in Glide Magazine by David Masciotra, Dav1 of Chromea claimed that Hall & Oates influence on his group was so strong that Daryl Hall "pretty much half our songs."

"Hall cites an undying “young attitude” as one of the reasons why he finds it so easy to fit in with younger musicians, and it is through that attitude that innovative concepts like his free monthly internet concert, Live From Daryl’s House, emerge....Hall claims that his young attitude is not only responsible for the creation of exciting and clever new musical and promotional concepts like LFDH, but also the continual evolution of his songs, both old and new: “My guitar player, Paul Pesco, who replaced by best friend T-Bone after he died, tells me that I play like a teenager because I bang on the guitar and piano with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. But, that’s the attitude I bring to everything. I’m constantly looking for ways to keep things fresh and new, and challenge myself and my audience.”

"Speaking with Daryl Hall is not only like talking to a pop star, but also sitting in on a lecture of music history. He talked about how black blues artists incorporated elements of Appalachian folk into their music, and how the reverse is true as well. I asked Hall to explain why critics were unkind to him and John Oates during the hit making years. “No one from my generation has done me any favors. They treated me like an outsider, because we (Hall and Oates) didn’t fit into any of their ‘cool’ categories—categories made by boomer rock writers who made primitivism the ultimate measurement of authenticity. The boomers thought you had to be primitive to be real…I wasn’t influenced by Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf and therefore I wasn’t accepted into their canon.”

“New bands and young listeners value melodism over primitivism. They are very sound oriented. Their music has a variety of textures and melodies. They’re not just singing the blues.” Hall and Oates embraced “melodism” decades ago, and it is the reason why young fans hear themselves and their contemporary world - be it in the clubs or on the internet - in the hits of Hall and Oates. More important than smart marketing or even innovate performance and promotional concepts, like "Live From Daryl’s House," is the quality and resonance of the music.

The soulful range and power of Hall’s voice, the article continued, "along with the complex craftsmanship of the stirring soul ballads and infectious pop tunes he and Oates wrote have garnered an appreciation among a new audience. Although they scored 29 top 40 hits throughout their career, in many ways people are finally catching up with Hall and Oates, recognizing the depth of their catalogue and breadth of their influence.'

In a March 1, 2010 article remembering T-Bone David Wild, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine wrote:

"The first concert I ever went to on my own was a Daryl Hall and John Oates show, and I've seen the duo dozens of times since then . Sometime in the Eighties when I got to write for Rolling Stone, I took the first opportunity I had to meet my childhood heroes. Fortunately for me, getting to know Daryl & John these past few decades meant I've also had the pleasure of knowing their longtime musical director Tom "T-Bone" Wolk, who's been at the heart of in fantastic band since the days of "Private Eyes."

"T-Bone was a guy who was impossible not to love - especially if you cared about music even half as much as he did. He looked like some great character actor or some ultra-cool, Tom Waits-adjacent jazz cat and played bass like some soulful dream combination of Paul McCartney and James Jamerson. T-Bone was also the funky Caucasian playing bass on "The Breaks" by Kurtis Blow, one of the defining funky tracks in early rap history.

"For years, T-Bone was also a musical fixture as part of the famed Saturday Night Live Band. Beyond making a massive contribution to Daryl and John's body of work, he worked as a player or producer with many other artists whose music touched my life - and probably yours too - including Carly Simon, Billy Joel, Paul Carrack, Elvis Costello, Cyndi Lauper, Willie Nile, Shawn Colvin and Rosanne Cash. As a musician - on bass, guitar, accordion or anything else you put in front of him - and as a friend, T-Bone just had the absolute perfect touch.

"Today I heard the shocking horrible news that T-Bone died of a heart attack on Saturday. That's about all I know. The irony hit me hard because T-Bone played straight from the heart, and put his heart into everything that he did onstage and in the studio. I last saw T-Bone back in September when I flew in to co-host a special appearance Daryl and John were making with the band on QVC in West Chester, Pennsylvania to promote their upcoming box set Do What You Want, Be What You Are. I'd flown in on a red eye straight from working on writing the Emmy Awards show the night before, and I was feeling vaguely disoriented when I met up with the guys backstage. But there, standing along with Daryl and John was T-Bone with his familiar face and warm smile.

"We spoke about some of the great shows he was doing on Live From Daryl's House, a fantastic online jam session that demonstrated the range of the band as well as Daryl. T-Bone then kindly asked me how I was doing, and I probably made some small complaint about being a little tired from the plane trip - this to a guy who travelled the world many times in order to make music for people. "We're lucky guys, David," T-Bone told me a smile. "We get to be around the music, and sometimes we even get paid."

"T-Bone was right, of course. I was very lucky to know the man. And we were all very lucky to share all the music he brought to our lives." 

I naively thought when I first saw their videos on MTV that Hall and Oates were probably gay.  I didn't gay because the music was so good.  I was wrong and not about the music.  Daryl Hall is probably the best looking guy in the music business for the past 30 or so years and that made some of us dismissive of his talent.

I still haven't watched every last minute of the "Live from Daryl's House" series so I know I have a lot more great discoveries of talent to make.  What I have seen is proof enough of his fantastic collaborative and generous spirit, his nuturing of a new generation of singers and his great respect for the classics.

I now place Daryl Hall in my personal pantheon of musical titans including Miles Davis, Rachmaninoff, Vladimir Horowitz, Keith Jarrett, Brian Eno, Frank Sinatra and Pat Metheny and T-Bone gets a free pass.  Miles and Sinatra, of course, were perfect and the others merely mighty.  When you see Hall's smile at the end of the "No Can Do" webcast, you will understand a bit what it is like to be extremely efficient with one's talent and the true joy of creating something of beauty with others and with humor.

Like many commenters at youtube's Hall videos, all I can saw is "wow."

From time to time, I think about my memorial service for my friends and I have had to rearrange it now to start with Hall's "No Can Do" video and end it with Hall's rendition of "I Miss You," both from his surprisingly wonderful "Live from Daryl's House" webcasts and hopefully some of my friends will cry, not for me, but for the joy of "No Can Do" and the truly powerful emotions of Hall's interpretation of "I Miss You."

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