So I’m cruising down the San Diego Freeway just before four, a.m., battling
the liquid fog on my windshield, listening to XM. Wait any longer, like last
week, around five, and it’s a whole new day. It’s scary. But, last night, it
was still nighttime. And I heard "Be Nice To Me".
Todd Rundgren might be famous for "Something/Anything?", and that album is
great, but the masterpiece came just before, "The Ballad Of Todd Rundgren". My
favorite cut off that album is "A Long Time, A Long Way To Go", but just to
hear ANYTHING from that record warmed my heart. Especially this personal track
so deep into the evening.
And then I heard "Do What You Want, Be Who You Are".
There used to be something called album cuts. Then again, with the state of
Hall & Oates’ career at that time, totally in the dumper, it’s hard to
characterize any of the tracks on "Bigger Than Both Of Us" as hits. At least before
the record was released. Nobody was paying attention to Hall & Oates and then
came "Rich Girl".
By this time everybody had an FM radio in their car, AM was transitioning out
of music completely, but this one song, which was too catchy for FM, it
provided a last hurrah for the amplitude modulated format.
Oh, today you can hear "Rich Girl" as part of the act’s canon. But, in the
fall of ’76, Hall and Oates had NO profile. This was like a blast across the
transom in "Master and Commander". It was beyond infectious, it was PURE JOY!
And hearing pure joy back in ’76, you bought the album. And that’s when I
became a fan. For "Bigger Than Both Of Us" was rich and textured, "Rich Girl"
was just the frosting.
Sure, "Crazy Eyes" was an exquisite amalgam of Philly soul and rock, but the
song that I couldn’t shake, that got under my skin, was "Do What You Want, Be
What You Are".
It started off like the kind of music we hated. Something from the late
fifties, with a jazzy guitar, a LAZY jazzy guitar, no fuzztone, not in your face,
and then in came Daryl Hall…
Do what you want girl, be what you are
There ain’t no right or wrong way
Just a play from the heart
Today music is a dance floor soundtrack.
Back then it was about setting your mind free, taking you on a journey,
visiting emotions you lost touch with, others that were too familiar. It was an
I mean I’m racing the sun back to my house. Any later and dawn will creep up
on me. And, like the last tune in a late night jam session, out of the
speakers is coming this stylized, lazy track that not only reminds me of thirty
years back, but cuts straight to my heart, still sounds fresh today.
It ain’t a sign of weakness girl, to give yourself away
Because the strong give up and move on
While the weak, the weak give up and stay
Ain’t that the truth. The icons, the ones the magazines tell us to fall in
love with, they don’t really want to play, they’re constantly scanning the
landscape, looking for something better. Then again, the weak ones are afraid to
be on their own, afraid to take chances, afraid to lose what they now have.
The only choice you really have is to play from the heart. And this song, it’s
like the coach your parents and friends are not. It’s your one true friend,
instructing you, pushing you to be all you can be, yourself.
And I’m pulling up to my garage. Fearful I’m going to wake up my landlady,
after all my garage is under her building. But I’ve got to hear that one
verse, the one I can never forget.
Do you believe in hot cars, leather bars, or movie stars
Is that what’s real
Payin’ dues, in Earth Shoes, Chicago blues
Is that how you feel?
I had Earth Shoes. They had negative heels. The ball of your foot was
higher than your heel. I broke my leg. I asked the orthopedist if I could still
wear them. I was a slave to fashion. But only in this one area. Still, to
hear this reference, this hearkening back to a bankrupt company, it made me feel
I was part of something, a continuum of culture.
That’s L.A. Everybody believes in the phony. Actually, that’s why I like it
here, everybody’s so into their own false trip of acquisition, of making it,
that they’re not paying attention to you, you can be who you are.
Or can you…
You can change, but you can’t conceal
What’s deep inside you
It’s your game, it’s your deal
Do what you want to do
But be what you are…
That’s the question. Can we be who we are.
Listening to today’s pop music…the question never comes up. In a culture
where the musicians themselves have sold out to the corporations, how could it?
But in the seventies, the only thing that mattered was the art. Could you
make a record that penetrated people’s consciousness? That they had to buy not
because they needed to look cool, be part of a group, but because they needed
to be FULFILLED?
So, play. Don’t limit yourself. Experience everything. Take risks.
But whatever you do, don’t ever forget, be what you are.