Daryl Hall and John Oates – Private Eyes

First Hit #1: November 7, 1981

It was mentioned in a comment elsewhere, but I think I might have to declare 1981 as the year of the hand clap. Jessie’s Girl, Bette Davis Eyes, this song, it was as though suddenly musicians around the world realized that a great way to add a bit of punch to a chorus was to get some clapping in there.

I don’t blame them, Private Eyes has a boost in the silly fun factor just by shoving a bit of clapping in there, and it’s a pretty fun song as it is, an uptempo little number that encourages singing along. Of course, it’s a song that is probably about stalking, which makes the sing and clap along factor seem kind of weird if you think too hard about it, but the lyrics are all over the place anyway so it doesn’t matter that much. Whatever is being sung, at the core it’s just good, simple pop music, and if Hall and Oates played within the rulebook of 80s production trends, they also managed to make simple, catchy songs out of them. Plenty of recording artists did the same tinny piano and clap-laden style, but these two made it work.

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One Response to Daryl Hall and John Oates – Private Eyes

  1. RBerman says:

    The lyrical hook, “Private eyes, they’re watching you; they see your every move,” is more of a pun than anything, with the general idea being, “You think you’re fooling me with your infidelities, but I am not so gullible.” The same theme lurks under Alan Parsons Project’s declaration that, “I am the eye in the sky; looking at you, I can read your mind,” and The Who’s claim that, “I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles.” I continue to be of the opinion that such sentiments usually reflect the guilty consciences of womanizing road warriors more than the misbehavior of the Penelopes they leave back home.

    Musically, some classic elements surface, such as the a capella breakdown. I can’t tell whether the handclaps are real and processed, or synthesized entirely. The guitar is quite compressed. The prominent use of a VIb chord (at the end of the chorus, and on the second line of each verse) is noteworthy from a music theory perspective. The music video is by modern standards miraculously basic too: Five guys on a black stage, singing at the camera. A similar sparseness characterizes their videos for “You Make My Dreams Come True” and “I Can’t Go For That.” Nice shoulder pads, Daryl!

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