The career-spanning, four-disc box set Do What You Want, Be What You Are: The Music of Daryl Hall & John Oates comes out October 13, and in anticipation of its release, the 1980s pop superstars recently made a special stop in Bootleg City for an interview. (Okay, so their tour bus caught a flat. They were reluctant to talk at first, but once I proposed an alternate option — community service — they perked right up.)
Me: You two have been making music together for nearly 40 years. What do you consider to be the secret to your success?
Oates: Well, Daryl and I have a healthy balance of give and—
Hall: (interrupting) Take one-fourth of John and three-fourths of me and you’ve got the winning formula. We’re the Beatles of the post-Woodstock generation, no question. It was the same with them in their day: three-fourths Lennon and McCartney, one-fourth George, and one-fourth Ringo.
Oates: I’m pretty sure that adds up to—
Hall: The most successful rock ‘n’ soul group of all time, right after the Beatles. Exactly.
Me: Alright. Well, speaking of the Beatles, they achieved quite a lot in the ten years they were together, but you get a sense that after a while they felt overwhelmed by the whole aura of “the Beatles.” Did you two ever consider breaking up so you could establish your own musical identities?
Oates: Well, again, there’s the balance—
Hall: (interrupting again) Like tires, you know? Balancing tires. Some people say John’s the third wheel in this group, but he’s the fourth — because I’m three-fourths of the winning formula, right? We’re not a bicycle, we’re a … Well, I guess you need four tires for a car … and I don’t think of us as a tricycle, so … Okay, here’s the new formula — I’m four-fourths of why we’re successful, and John’s one.
Oates: That still equals five-fourths.
Hall: Hey, how ’bout that — just like the Beatles!
Oates: We’re not the Beatles. Please, just— … For the record, I don’t think we’re the Beatles.
Hall: Confidence, John, confidence! So what if no one buys your solo albums? You’ve always got us. And the sound I created for us. Hey, Mr. Mayor, did you know that? That I created the Philly soul sound? [Philadelphia International Records founders Kenneth] Gamble and [Leon] Huff came first, but my spiritualist says there’s a strong chance I was their great-great-grandmother in a previous life, so in a way I gave birth to them, and then they gave birth to my sound before John and I got the chance to—
Oates: (screaming) Enough! For God’s sake, what the hell is wrong with you?!
Hall: What? What’d I say?
Oates: I can’t do this anymore.
(Oates yanked off his lapel mike and stormed out of the room.)
Hall: I’m really sorry about that, Mr. Mayor. That was uncalled for.
Me: It certainly was. (screaming) Where do you get off treating a beautiful, sensitive, beautiful artist like that?
Hall: Man, what is with you short people today?
Me: That’s what I’m talking about. You have a partner who’s on the small side who doesn’t have a Napoleon complex and that’s how you treat him?
Hall: Hey, he knows where his bread’s buttered.
Me: He told you that?
Hall: Well … not in so many words.
Me: Daryl, I’m about to administer some tough love. Can you handle that?
Hall: Of course I can. As four-fourths of the most successful rock ‘n’ soul—
Me: Stop it. Stop talking.
Hall: Excuse me?
Me: Stop talking, and stop bragging, and stop using terms like “rock ‘n’ soul.” Look, everybody knows you’re a terrific singer and a talented musician. No one’s questioning that. So cut it out with the ego trips. You’ve accomplished a lot. Your legacy is secure.
Hall: What do you mean “accomplished”? Why the past tense?
Me: Oh, c’mon, you don’t really think—
Hall: You’re not going to call us “1980s pop superstars” in the intro of this thing, are you?
Me: No. Why would— No, of course not.
Hall: (screaming) I knew it! How am I supposed to gain any traction as Hall & Oates— I mean, how can John and I gain any traction as Hall & Oates when people keep dwelling on the past? Yeah, it was great — we were bigger than the Beatles and Jesus combined. But this thing is just beginning. The best is yet to come. Why can’t you see that?
Me: What I see is a man who should be proud of all he’s done. A man who shouldn’t let the critics get to him.
Hall: Wait, the critics don’t like me?
Me: No, no, I meant the old critics, not the new ones. Not the ones who discovered you through Chromeo or, like, the Death Cab for Cutie guy’s semi-ironic appreciation.
Hall: “Semi-ironic”? That’s not what [Death Cab's Ben] Gibbard said to me!
Me: What I read on Pitchfork a few years ago sounded semi-ironic, but maybe it was just me. Forget I said it, okay? Bottom line is, people love Hall & Oates, even if they don’t know it. C’mon, let’s stay focused here — we’re starting to make a dent.
Hall: Says you!
Me: Yeah! That’s right! Says me! And me also says you need to go find John and apologize for treating him like he’s a second-class citizen. Because as I recall, nobody’s bought your solo albums recently, either.
Hall: Whoa. That’s low, Mr. Mayor.
Me: No. That’s life, Daryl.
(I then put my hand on an adult-education textbook for emphasis. Daryl acted like he wasn’t impressed, but he totally was. Right then Oates walked back into the room.)
Oates: I, uh … I think my comb fell out of my back pocket. You guys didn’t see it, did you?
Me: Daryl, now that John’s back, why don’t you tell him what you just told me?
Hall: What, about us being bigger than Jesus and the Beatles? That’s old news to John, but if you want, here’s the backstory: see, in 1984 Jesus visited me in a dream and said, “I’ve decided to pass the torch to—”
Me: No! John, Daryl’s really sorry for the way he acted.
Oates: No, he’s not.
Me: Yes, he is. Tell him, Daryl.
Hall: Hey, he’s the one who interrupted a great interview.
Me: It wasn’t that great. Tell him!
Hall: Fine. John, I’m … I’m sorry, okay?
Me: And nobody cares about Hall if there’s no Oates.
Hall: Well, I don’t know about—
Me: You don’t know what you’d do without him? Neither do I. Because you guys are a team. You need each other. And people still need your music in their lives. Your music — the music you made together.
Hall: Yeah … yeah, he’s right! Just like my great-great-grandchildren, Gamble and Huff. It’s written in the stars!
Me: Sure, whatever makes you understand the yin-and-yang concept.
Hall: Funny story — the drawing of yin and yang came from a cocktail napkin I scribbled some lyrics on in 1971.
Me: Aaaaagggghhh! I will not let you break my brain, lion face!!!!
Oates: Hey, put the letter opener down!
(I resheathed the letter opener and backed away from Hall’s jugular.)
Oates: Look, it’s cool, Mr. Mayor. The truth is, my book agent loves these crazy stories of his, and I got a good advance on my memoirs thanks to those Jesus bits. So keep ‘em coming, Daryl.
Hall: You mean it?
Oates: Yeah, brother. I do.
(Hall and Oates grabbed each other’s right hand as if they were about to arm wrestle, just like on the cover of their Rock ‘n Soul Part 1 LP. Then they stared at each other and began to sweat profusely, just like on the back cover of their H2O LP. I got the impression that they always make up this way.)
Me: Woo-hoo! I feel like Bill Clinton negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine.
Oates: Yeah, ’cause that solved everything.
Hall: Mr. Mayor, did you know Private Eyes was Arafat’s favorite album? …
… And so it went. But the fact that Daryl mentioned Private Eyes, one of the albums he made with John, instead of 3 Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine, his 1986 solo effort, showed real progress on his part. I was proud of what we accomplished that day in Bootleg City, and what H2O will continue to accomplish as partners.
This week’s featured bootleg, courtesy of Addicted to Vinyl‘s Matt Wardlaw once again, is an audio rip of Hall & Oates’s Rock ‘n Soul Live DVD, which also contains their 1985 Live at the Apollo performance, featuring David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick(s) of the Temptations. The Rock ‘n Soul Live concert was recorded in March of ’83 at the Montreal Forum, and the Apollo Theater set was taped on May 23, 1985.
Rock ‘n Soul Live
Diddy Doo Wop
Kiss on My List
Art of a Heartbreak
One on One
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling
I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)
Wait for Me
Open All Night
You Make My Dreams
Room to Breathe
Live at the Apollo
You Make My Dreams
Get Ready (with Eddie Kendrick)
Ain’t Too Proud to Beg (with David Ruffin)
The Way You Do the Things You Do (with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick)
My Girl (with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick)
Everytime You Go Away
When Something Is Wrong With My Baby