The year is 1974. Daryl Hall and John Oates have recently released their second album, Abandoned Luncheonette, which includes a single titled “She’s Gone.” The song, reportedly about Hall’s divorce from his first wife, would peak at #60 on the Billboard Hot 100 (although it would later rise as high as #7 when a more pop-friendly version was released after the success of the group’s song “Sara Smile”). Even though it is still almost a decade before the commercial success of the VCR, and seven years before the debut of MTV, the group decides to record what was then referred to as a “promotional video” for the song. And thank God they did, because it is amazing.
Shot with a budget of what appears to be $100 and a gift certificate to a discount Halloween costume store, the video features Hall & Oates sitting in mismatched chairs and lip-synching along to the lyrics of the song. Very little happens beyond that, but what does happen is some of the most hilarious, trippy, low-budget action you will ever see. I cannot stress this enough: Watch this video. Then, when you are done, join me on the following slides for a breakdown of the highlights.
Let’s begin by setting the scene. Daryl Hall, seated to the left in one of the more 1970s-looking chairs you will ever see, is wearing a plush black robe, black socks, and possibly high-heeled sandals with white straps. John Oates, seated to the right, is wearing a sleeveless tuxedo shirt, bow tie, tuxedo pants, and definitely high-heeled platform dress shoes. One casual, one formal, seated in a mostly empty room, with no explanation given for any of it.
My working theory is that it’s the morning after a huge party. Hall has already woken up and showered, hence the robe. But Oates, who definitely knows how to party, has just arisen moments ago, still wearing most of the tuxedo he showed up to the party in even though it was a casual affair, and missing the sleeves he ripped off at some point during the night after screaming “F*CK SLEEVES” to no one in particular and for no apparent reason. And with those three sentences, I have already put more thought into this video than everyone responsible for creating it. You are welcome.
We have to talk about Oates’ hair situation. While he would later become known for rocking an incredibly righteous mustache, what he has going here is more of an unkempt wild man look. And when you combine it with the intense, serial killer stare he has going on, that dumb sleeve-ripping-off thing I was joking about a second ago seems totally plausible now, right?
I like to think when Daryl Hall met with his hair stylist before the shooting of this video, he thought long and hard about it, took a deep breath, exhaled, and said “Give me the full David Bowie.”
In an unrelated matter, did you know Daryl Hall now has a web series called Live From Daryl’s House where he invites fellow musicians to come in and jam with him? And did you know that there was an episode with Cee-Lo that featured Daryl Hall and Cee-Lo performing the latter’s hyper-catchy, hyper-profane hit “F*ck You”? Because there was. We live in amazing times.
Anyway, to the plot. To the extent there is a plot. Which there is not.
Hall and Oates have reached the chorus of the song, which features the titular lyric “she’s gone.” And when they say “she’s gone,” a woman walks across the screen, effectively “leaving” as the two men remain seated in their chairs. If this type of extremely literal expression of song lyrics is up your alley, I have some tremendous news for you. But first, a quick disclaimer.
I recognize that it is probably unfair to compare this video to modern music videos. As I said, this was produced seven years before MTV launched. The days of million dollar cinematic videos with multiple locations were even further away than that, and there’s really no way anyone involved with this production could have pictured that as a reality, or the fact that their low-budget promotional video for a song that hadn’t cracked the Top 50 would eventually amass almost 1.5 million views on a website called YouTube. They were just trying out something new, and were probably trying to have a little fun with it.
As Hall & Oates deliver the next line of the chorus, “I’d pay the devil to replace her,” a short, mustachioed man in a hilarious devil costume walks across the screen after the girl, and Hall & Oates literally and actually throw money at him. That is something that happened. I know because after I first saw it, I took a screenshot, went to bed, and checked it again the following morning to make sure someone hadn’t secretly slipped me peyote.
And here’s the best part: It’s not even the top moment in the video. Just wait.
I should also mention that the lip-synching that goes on in this video is half-hearted at best. Example: In this screenshot, Daryl Hall has stopped singing along so he can take a drag off his cigarette. You could argue that music videos have gotten much better since this was filmed, but you would be very, very wrong.
Back to the chorus. Now the girl crosses the screen in the opposite direction. Technically, this means she’s not so much “gone” as she is “still around but periodically taunting them by walking back and forth in front of them without acknowledging their existence,” but seeing as I just pointed out that one half of the group just stopped mid-song for a smoke break, I suppose I shouldn’t split hairs here.
And here’s this guy again.
Be honest, you would read an oral history of the making of this video, right? I want to know everything about it. EVERYTHING. Where they got the wardrobe, who came up with the premise, the list of drugs that person was on, how they convinced this guy to dress like a cartoon devil in front of a camera, whose Monopoly box they raided to acquire all that fake money, etc. Nothing about this is anything less than fascinating to me.
Presented without comment: Daryl Hall singing the lyric “What went wrong?”
Okay, so this is the best part of the video. Maybe of any video.
As Oates prepares to rip out the song’s guitar solo, the devil walks out from stage left, picks up his tuxedo jacket, and helps him put it on. And the tuxedo jacket has super-long floppy sleeves that look kind of like penguin flippers. And then Oates shreds on the guitar. As I said, this video is amazing.
Hang on. I don’t think I made a big enough deal out of this. Allow me to clarify. Here is what is happening in this screenshot: John Oates, one half of the famous “white soul” duo Hall & Oates, is playing a guitar solo in high-heeled platform dress shoes and a tuxedo made up of (a) a shirt with no sleeves, and (b) a jacket with extra-long sleeves that cover his hands by a good 6+ inches. Said jacket makes it appear as though a giant hairy penguin is playing guitar, and was carried out and put on him by a short man in a devil costume. And all of this is happening while his partner, Daryl Hall, sits calmly next to him in a robe, socks, and sandals, and puffs on a cigarette.
Thing about all that for a while.
The video closes with both Hall and Oates leaving the room, and the devil walking back out and taking a seat in Hall’s chair. This brings up an important point: Look at that screenshot. LOOK AT IT. Sh*t is art, son. I kind of want to print it out, blow it up, and hang it above the couch in my living room. If nothing else, it would be a hell of a conversation starter.
This brings us to the end of our discussion. What did we learn? Well, a few things:
- Music videos have come a long way.
- That might not be a good thing.
- Lots of guitarists claim to have Satanic or occult influences, but very few actually have the devil help them get dressed.
- I need that tuxedo.
- Hall & Oates rule.
Best video ever.