Daryl Hall and John Oates – Out of Touch

First Hit #1: December 8, 1985

I’m not sure what I think about the big electric piano that is starting to be a touchstone of the decade’s music. On one hand, it sounds very big, it’s an arena-filling sound that can be accomplished with a relatively small instrument. It makes songs sound crushing and huge, which is a pretty cool effect when you’re driving around or sitting in your living room. On the other hand, it’s a sound so tied to one specific point in time that it can’t help but date a song, and even if pop music is winding back towards the ’80s at the moment the flagrantly artificial keyboard sound is one of those that can be a turnoff if you’re not expecting it.

This is all relevant to Out of Touch just because it uses that sound and it made me think about whether or not it was welcome. But Out of Touch isn’t quite concerned with being a big, arena-filling rock standard as it is with just playing with all the new toys that the decade brings. It’s something that happens with a lot of bands when they get a bit of money and get the chance to explore, and Out of Touch is a song which features all the latest in ’80s instruments and layers everything on top of one another. It’s a successful merger of all the different movements going on at the time, but it’s the smaller touches that stand out. For instance, the main melody is played on what sounds like a children’s xylophone, and it sounds absolutely great. For all the big moments the song tries to deliver, it’s the small that actually pushes through the mix.

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One Response to Daryl Hall and John Oates – Out of Touch

  1. RBerman says:

    The layering is key here; it has one of those openers designed to call attention to each layer by adding it separately to create a musical cake. The video above is an extreme example since as a dance remix, it stretches out all the musical ideas. But even the single mix (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_8KR-n2fBQ) takes 40 second to get to the singing part. And in that 40 seconds of layer building, we’ve really heard all we need to know about this song musically.

    The lyrics about a strained relationship have a couple of good lines too: “Broken ice still melts in the sun.” “Smoking guns hot to the touch/ would cool down if we didn’t use them so much.”

    A couple of stray observations: The layering effect lends itself well to concerts by modern looping musicians like Imogen Heap (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25VGdNU3nrU) and Phil Keaggy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rero_qy3fc). For another great New Wave song with a prominent glockenspiel, see Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dopneKcyNXU)

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