“Recording that album was where we learned how songs become records. Our producer, the legendary Arif Mardin carefully crafted each song, every bit of nuance, bringing in the perfect players for the right moments. And it all worked together as one beautiful musical tapestry.”
— John Oates in an interview with Chris Epting.
That quote gives us some insight into a masterpiece from a very young Daryl Hall and John Oates!
Celebrating The Brilliant “Abandoned Luncheonette”!
Ready for this? Daryl Hall and John Oates released their second album, “Abandoned Luncheonette” 46 years ago!
That said, it’s still as fresh today as when it was released! My “Sunday Songs” will take a look at the album track by track, so let’s go!
It took twenty-nine years after its release to be certified platinum (over one million copies sold), but it endures as one of their greatest albums ever…
Side One begins with the beauty and breezy track “When the Morning Comes”…
“I went downtown to see milady
She stood me up and I stood there waiting
But it’ll be all right when the morning comes”
The duo harmonize beautifully as you will see from this terrific acoustic live version of the song:
Neat up: “Had I Known You Better Then” written by John Oates, with his vocals dominating…
Here is a gorgeous version the two performed on “Live From Daryl’s House:”
“Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)” is next, and here’s a fun fact:
although written by Oates, the song draws its inspiration from Daryl’s then-girlfriend and future songwriting collaborator Sara Allen, much as the later “Sara Smile” would.
Here is a great live performance from a few years ago in Sydney Australia:
Next up is the album’s greatest hit, although it didn’t become that for several years after it was released!
While an acknowledged H&O classic, the song wasn’t a single at first…it was several years later, as they were wrapping their Atlantic Records deal, that the song took off – and thanks to Daryl’s incredible vocals and the duo’s perfect harmonies, is now one of their most recognized songs:
“She’s gone, she’s gone
Oh I, oh I
I better learn how to face it
She’s gone, and she’s gone
Oh I, oh I
I’d pay the devil to replace her
She’s gone, and she’s gone
What went wrong?”
My wife and I saw Daryl and John live in Los Angeles in september 2017, and here is their live version of this classic song:
The last song side one is from John, the quiet reflective “I’m Just a Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like a Man)”.
Here’s a live version from 1976:
Side Two begins with the album’s title track “Abandoned Luncheonette”:
“They sat in an Abandoned Luncheonette
Sipping imaginary cola and drawing faces in the tabletop dust
His voice was rusty from years as a sergeant on “this man’s army”
They were old and crusty”
As with many of the songs on the album, their lyrics reflect regret and longing…interesting when you consider it’s only their second album.
Here is a phenomenal live performance from 1976:
Love the setting they create with such strong imagery…
“Day to day, to day… today
Then they were old, their lives wasted away
Month to month, year to year
They all run together
Time measured by the peeling of paint on the luncheonette wall…”
“Lady Rain” is next, by far the toughest sounding song on the album – an edge that would become much more pronounced on their next album “War Babies”…here’s a live version from “The Old Whistle Test” show from London in 1976:
“Laughing Boy” is next, and I found another great live performance by the duo – with a bonus: after this song, they go right into “I’m Just A Kid” so you get that as well!
“Everytime I Look At You” is the album’s finale, and longest song at more than seven minutes…and it’s hard-edged yet beautiful…and the only one I couldn’t find any video of, so here is the audio-only track from the album:
I love that song and how it wraps the entire album!
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, from Allmusic, gave the album five stars, calling it:
“the first indication of the duo’s talent for sleek, soul-inflected pop/rock”.
And what of the original “abandoned luncheonette?”
Thanks to Larry Cultrera – here is a photo he took from February 26, 1982!
Cultrera is the Author of:
Classic Diners of Massachusetts
New Hampshire Diners, Classic Granite State Eateries
You can see the story he posted about the real “abandoned luncheonette” here:
The diner on the album cover was formerly the Rosedale Diner, located in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. When it went out of business, its structure was dumped in a small wooded area located along Route 724 in Kenilworth, PA – and was finally demolished years later…but Larry captured a shot that will keep it alive forever!
So there’s a look at the terrific “Abandoned Luncheonette” album – I also took a look at some of my favorite “non-hits” from the duo, like this one:
Click here to see more of my choices:
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Leave a comment about your favorite song on the album, and I leave you with this timeless shot of the duo by legendary photographer Mick Rock!