On record, the Philadelphia popsters’ ‘Family Man’ is the potentially harrowing tale of an ordinary Joe sorely tempted by the advances of a voracious lady of the night (“Leave me alone / I’m a family man / And my bark is much worse than my bite / Leave me alone / I’m a family man / If you push me too far I just might”).
So how did the pair choose to represent this noirish tale on video? With shadowy streets, Edward Hopper-esque cafes and an alluring femme fatale? No. By taking the lead from St Bob Geldof (who commemorated the 1979 San Diego school shooting spree of 16-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer by arsing around in a classroom with his band of merry men The Boomtown Rats in the video for ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’) and making one of the most inexplicable music promos known to man.
Immediately, something’s up. An agitated Hall breaks the fourth wall as a pair of cheaply rendered computer sprites fill in for the song’s anti-hero and his tormentor, while Oates and crew are jiving around in a pastel-coloured house, sharing nothing approaching a dress code. Before long, a catastrophic mistake is made as a host of dancing Jedward-haired children are drafted into the whole unholy equation and a bizarre game of familial relations are played out as a Lego-headed dad (presumably the Family Man of the title) descends into a ghoulishly-lit, desperately creepy TV underworld. It doesn’t help that Daryl Hall is taking none of this remotely seriously.
From a visibly clean shaven Hall deciding to shave anyway, to an extended dance sequence involving some of the whitest moves of all time, none of this makes the blindest bit of sense. In particular, parents worldwide should cover their eyes at the moment when a session guitarist, legs akimbo, fretwanks manically over a bed full of cowering children in a darkened room.
Finally, the promo dissolves into horror, as hordes of family members look on in disgust like statues at the television which is playing… the video for ‘Family Man’ by Hall and Oates!?! Apart from the mindbending nature of their choice of viewing, it is never made clear what has upset them so much. Dad’s decision to nearly, but not quite, go with a hooker (Did he tell them??)? The frightening guitarist on the bed? Oates’ moustache and braces-with-T-Shirt combination? Answers on a postcard.
Insanity? A treatment written on the back of a cigarette packet? Or latent genius? Fuck knows. They simply do not make them like this anymore. Watch below for five minutes of madness that would give David Lynch sleepless nights…