What Led Zeppelin represented to most listeners in the 1970s was power, one that was often feral, usually quite rude, and rarely matched. Although a large extent of their catalogue contained folk songs and acoustic romps, it was the other two-thirds that made the biggest impact. These were the raunchy reinterpretations of traditional blues numbers, plus the raucous speed and precision originals that would go on to inspire scores of hard rock and heavy metal bands for years to come.
Hall & Oates, an American pop rock duo formed in Philadelphia in 1970, weren’t exactly working in the same vein. Although it seems like the two acts occupied completely separate universes, they were actually contemporaries for almost a full decade, with Hall & Oates’ first album dropping in 1972. Filtering their hometown Philadelphia soul sound through a more gentle version of rock and pop music, Daryl Hall and John Oates made the kind of music that no self-respecting Zeppelin die-hard would ever admit to liking.
However, that opinion wasn’t shared by the band themselves, at least according to Hall. In a 1988 interview with SPIN Magazine, Hall & Oates were discussing the then-current state of the music industry. As any hardened professional would, the two basically show up their hands and say “it ain’t like it used to be” back when the band were getting their legs under them in the early ’70s.
“What’s unfortunate in today’s music world is that a new group doesn’t get a chance to make mistakes,” Oates explained. “When Tommy got us signed to Atlantic Records in 1971, we did a dump album like Whole Oates, a smart one with Abandoned Luncheonette, and a fucking weird hard rock one with War Babies, the last of which got us dropped in favour of the Average White Band.”
Abandoned Luncheonette, the duo’s second album, was released in 1973 and initially tanked, leading to a change in sound with 1974’s War Babies. It took a new record company and a new single, 1975’s ‘Sara Smile’, for Hall & Oates to finally get some traction as a major chart act. When they did, the duo revisited one of the Abandoned Luncheonette‘s songs that they believed could be a hit: ‘She’s Gone’. When the track was re-released in the summer of 1976, it became a top ten hit in America, bringing a renewed interest in the band’s back catalogue. But according to Hall, some acts were fans of the band even before they got big.
“We got a lot of mileage from that LP, with people as flattering as Led Zeppelin picking it as a favourite and taking tapes of it from motel to motel,” Hall said. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of public statement from any of the surviving members of Zeppelin that confirms this, but it seems reasonable to think that the two acts crossed paths at some point in the ’70s and someone in Zeppelin mentioned to the duo how much they liked Abandoned Luncheonette. It’s a solid soul album, and Zeppelin were appreciators of good R&B, so it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility.
Or maybe Daryl Hall just made it up to make the slightly past their prime Hall & Oates seem cool again in 1988. In any case, it’s a funny sight to imagine John Bonham busting an easy groove to ‘She’s Gone’ while unwinding in a hotel room. He did love Supertramp, after all.