"It was a physically freeing moment. I'm sure it didn't mean anything to anyone else, but it was very important to me."
- John Oates, on the shaving of his moustache.
As a young adult in the 21st century, one cannot help but be mesmerized by Hall and Oates. I have to admit, I am entirely fascinated with them. Why? How? Well, I think of it like this. Rarely have I found a teenager or young person my age with whom I could strike up a conversation about Daryl Hall and John Oates, they are simply lost in obscurity in this day and age. The surprise to me lies in that for all they are, Hall and Oates were once the most successful rock duo in the history of mankind (they surpassed the Everly Brothers in 1984, according to the Recording Industry Association of America).
For all intents and purposes, the whole of their careers and popularity seems like some sort of ridiculous concoction by a laughing God. Daryl Hall and John Oates met in the late 60's in Philadelphia, where they had both grown up having experienced a passion for the joyful sound of Philly Soul, as it was called. One night they were both playing a show (in separate bands) at a local Philly Theater when a knife fight broke out as they were talking backstage. Fearing for their lives, Daryl Hall and John Oates fled using a freight elevator. After talking in a coffee shop, they decided they had a lot in common, and ultimately started writing music together while they were college roommates at Temple University. They would soon form their own group, Hall and Oates. These two dudes from Philadelphia had a strange sound that combined the soul they had heard in their youth with elements of folk, rock, and pop music.
Daryl and John moved to New York and after much chagrin found themselves with a young inexperienced manager who nobody had heard of - Tommy Motolla, who would go on to become a legendary industry leader. He signed them to Atlantic, possibly the biggest record label of the era, in 1972, and they released their first album, "Whole Oats" - possibly the least creative of creative album titles. On their next album, "Abandoned Luncheonette", they scored their first pseudo-hit with "She's Gone" - A song Oates had written when he was stood up by a girl on New Year's Eve. The duo hadn't made their breakthrough quite yet. It wasn't until 1975 when they released their fourth album, self-titled "Daryl Hall and John Oates", that Hall and Oates would become successful. The reason seems like perhaps the ultimate rock star cliche - A song about your girlfriend.
Daryl Hall had fallen head over heels for a young woman named Sara Allen, a beautiful stewardess. One night, she came over and he told her he wanted to know what she thought of the latest song he had written. She sat down, and without warning Daryl played for her on a keyboard a song he called "Sara Smile". Sara Allen relays the evening as a very endearing experience, and it is perhaps the heartfelt true nature of the song that made it so popular - It was an instant hit, topping the charts. Deciding to cash in on the song's success, the label re-released "She's Gone" which also made it's way in to the Top 10, peaking at No. 4.
The duo had moderate success with the rest of the 1970's, scoring their first number one hit with "Rich Girl" in 1977. Sara Allen and her sister Janna Allen would be with the band the whole way, often contributing to the writing process. However, Hall and Oates hadn't even gotten started yet. They began producing for themselves, and in 1980 they released "Voices", which scored some of their biggest hits, including "Kiss On My List" and "You Make My Dreams". In 1981 they released "Private Eyes" which had two number one hits, one of which, "I Can't Go For That" actually spent a week on the R&B charts, which isn't common for two white guys. In 1982, they released "H2O", which features what is probably their most well known song, "Maneater".
By 1984, they were on top of the world and played the Apollo Theater live with The Temptations - Daryl and John's childhood idols. Deciding there was really nowhere to go from there, they decided to give it a rest. They both took a hiatus and have released a few albums since then, none as successful as in their heyday. Daryl Hall and Sara Allen split up in the early 90's following the death of their longtime collaborator/Sara's sister Janna Allen from cancer, and Hall now lives a quiet, reclusive life in London, England. Oates married and had a son with whom he lives on a ranch in Colorado.
Over the last few years, a new generation of fans seem to have embraced and accepted Hall and Oates for what they were, gaining them a newfound respect. Possibly the result of aging, however, Daryl and John finally seem in on the joke. In 2004, Oates leant his vocal talents to a track for the Handsome Boy Modeling School album "White People", which also featured such varied artists as the RZA, Cat Power and The Mars Volta. And in 2007, audiences of the critically acclaimed HBO Musical-Comedy Show "Flight of the Conchords" were treated to a cameo appearance by Daryl Hall - as the Host of a truly terrible World Music Open Mic Night.
Interesting Facts about Hall & Oates:
In the 70's, there was apparently some sort of gum sweepstakes where if you got the right gum wrapper, Hall and Oates would have to come play in your school cafeteria. Daryl and John didn't mind that much.
Daryl Hall once invented a half-guitar half-mandolin. He called it the "mantar".
The cover of their 1975 self-titled album was designed by some European they had never met before, and once released had much of America asking "How gay are Hall and Oates?" The two appear very androgynous looking on the flashy silver cover. Hall has stated he looks like every girl he ever tried to date.
Despite being entirely ridiculous by today's standards, their music was really extremely well-produced and ahead of it's time.
The cover of their 1979 album "X-Static" is a picture of a radio in a wet plastic bag. Nobody on earth knows why.
Being absolutely huge in the early 1980's meant that Hall and Oates were on the front lines for the birth of MTV. They were constant guests, and if you are ever able to catch their music videos (created before anyone knew quite how to design a concept for a music video) they are truly inspiringly bad.
People never stop to think about it, but I find it interesting, especially since there are so many songs about girls out there. If Sara Allen is in the grocery store, and "Sara Smile" comes over the in-house radio, she becomes so overcome with emotion she has to leave. After all, not everybody has a song written about them.
Over the decade or so Hall and Oates were in the musical spotlight, they scored 29 Top 40 hit singles, including 6 No. 1s.
If anything I have said has led you to believe I don't dig Hall and Oates' style, I must apologize. I have noticed in lending out my copy of "Rock and Soul Part 1", their early compilation album, it is truly a milestone of my cd collection. I recommend that album, particularly if you would fear to venture (and rightfully so) in to their more obscure tracks. It really does offer pretty decent evidence as to how these two white guys from Philly could get so damn huge.
Daryl Hall and John Oates' Discography includes:
Whole Oats (1972)
Abandoned Luncheonette (1973)
War Babies (1974)
Daryl Hall and John Oates (1975)
Bigger Than The Both of Us (1976)
Beauty on a Back Street (1977)
Along the Red Ledge (1978)
Private Eyes (1981)
Big Bam Boom (1984)
Live at the Apollo (1985)
Ooh Yeah! (1988)
Change of Season (1990)
Marigold Sky (1997)
VH1 Behind the Music: Hall and Oates; Bravo Musicians: Hall and Oates; AMG All Music Guide at www.allmusic.com.