How urban audiences beat the rock cognoscenti in giving Philly soul-pop princes Hall and Oates their long-overdue props.
Engineer Jimmy Douglass, who currently works with producers Timbaland and Pharrell Williams, toiled through the “She’s Gone” sessions with Mardin, Hall, Oates and studio musicians that included Ralph McDonald and Bernard Purdie. “Daryl’s voice was just sick,” Douglass says, “and when they did ‘She’s Gone,’ there are so many parts to it, so many dynamics, it was just amazing. I played it for so many people who loved it, but no one at the label felt it was a hit.”
When the track was released as a single initially in February of ‘74, it went nowhere nationally, but garnered spins on Philly radio, where it was embraced instantly. Its failure to gain traction in mainstream circles allowed for more traditional R&B acts to take the same song and turn it into a smash hit. In fact, Tavares, which consisted of five brothers from Massachusetts, covered “She’s Gone” on their Sept. ’74 sophomore album Hard Core Poetry and made it a favorite on black radio far beyond Philly’s borders.
“We were working with the production duo Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, and they were the ones who suggested we cover the song,” Chubby Tavares says from his home in Rhode Island. “We were able to take the song to No. 1 on the R&B charts, then Lou Rawls covered it, trying to knock us out the box, but it didn’t work. We should’ve been able to make it a pop hit, but in those days, it was tough for a black act to cross over, so our label (Capitol Records) didn’t even try.”
From the tone of Tavares’ voice, he’s still heated by the label’s lack of vision. “We made ‘She’s Gone’ into an R&B hit, so, we should’ve been able to make it a pop hit. But, in our business, politics is everything.”—M.G./Additional reporting by Havelock Nelson
PW's Music Issue 2014