Rich Girl by Hall and Oates (RCA, 1977)

I don’t understand why anyone considers Hall & Oates a guilty pleasure. They are the quintessential balance of pop & rock. And it just so happens that they also write their songs from an R&B perspective and that Daryl Hall is the most soulful singer ever to sing pop music. John Oates, when he takes the lead, is a pretty good singer too. He just has the misfortune of constantly being compared to Daryl. Yet their harmonies blend so well you don’t even realize John’s singing.

H&O have had a very interesting career. It took them 4 albums to break through with 1976’s Sara Smile. They seemingly peaked with Rich Girl and had their songs chart lower as each year of the 70s wore on. Then the 80s dawned and after 9 albums in they became an unstoppable Top 40 force racking up 13 Top 10s, 4 of them #1 hits. But Rich Girl was their first chart topper, hitting that zenith in March of 1977, the second single released from the LP, Bigger Than Both Of Us. [It made it to #64 on the Soul charts.]

The story goes that the ‘rich girl’ was actually an old boyfriend of Sara Allen, who was Daryl’s girlfriend at the time as well as co-writer of many future H&O hits. This rich boy was an heir to a fast food chain. Not sure which one, but I hope it wasn’t Gino’s. Daryl met him and thought he was nuts, wondering how is this guy going to function in society. But figured it don’t matter anyway, cause he could rely on the old man’s money. And then Daryl pulled out his Fender Rhodes, and started angrily hitting those opening chords…You’re a rich boy and you’ve gone too far

But then he realized ‘Rich Boy’ didn’t sound right. It made more sense for it to be a ‘rich girl’. And especially after the effeminate cover of their self titled 1975 LP, it was better PR to be angry at a girl than a guy. And, man, those lyrics are cold-hearted. You can get along if you try to be strong, but you’ll never be strong. Snap! It’s so easy to hurt others when you can’t feel pain. Boom! That’s rough! Daryl’s vitriol, our pop delight.

Whenever I hear this song, it takes me back to the arcade at the Downingtown Inn in Pennsylvania. There were hardly any video games back then, but they had Skee-Ball and pinball machines. It didn’t matter. That’s where the kids were. I remember being there Easter weekend in 1977 and hearing that song on the overhead speakers. That’s all it took for me to have that memory.

There’s also a rumor that the Son of Sam used this song as motivation for some of his killings. Some refute the timeline, but the song was released right in the middle of his spree. I would think he might have used Don’t Give Up Us On Baby instead.

Get angry and have a full release with Daryl & John: