Unsolicited Career Advice for … John Oates

Written by Music, Unsolicited Career Advice

It’s interesting to note that, regardless of what he did in the music industry (and what he did is still lost on me) or how much power he was able to wield, Uncle Donnie never got jaded, never lost his enthusiasm as a fan.  Flipping through his correspondence, I am reminded constantly of his deep and abiding love for certain artists, among them Root Boy Slim, the Shaggs, and Billy Squier.  Add to this distinguished list a certain Philly native, as evidenced by the following memo, dated October, 1982. -RS

TO: Oates
FROM: Don Skwatzenschitz
RE: Career advice

This afternoon, I heard the future of blue-eyed soul music, and its name was, simply, Oates. Now, I recall seeing you and the blonde guy on stages in various clubs, soup kitchens, and department store openings back eight, ten, twelve years ago. Even then, I listened to you and thought I was hearing the second coming of the Righteous Brothers (this was years before you actually covered  “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling, ” which blew away the original, particularly the  “Baby, baby, I’d get down on my knees for you ” breakdown). In you, my wee friend, I found the new Bill Medley. Of course, Bill was a tall, clean-shaven guy with straight hair and you’re a short, mustachioed fella with curly hair. That’s where the differences end, little buddy.

So what piqued my interest this afternoon? Well, I put on that brand-spankin’-new album H2O and heard my hairy-lipped paisano (that would be you) sing the next Number One record in the country— “Italian Girls. “ Amazing. I don’t know how you do it. Yes, you had me hooked with  “I’m Just A Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like A Man). “ You made me cry—weep, just like a little girl—with  “Crazy Eyes. “ I practically melted when you sang  “The Emptyness “ in ’77 (even though you spelled it wrong). But  “Italian Girls “—with that  “Faccia bella cara mia ” refrain? I am your servant, Oates. Now and always.  Use me to do thy bidding.

There are some things I’d like to suggest you do to maximize your potential as perhaps the greatest short, mustachioed, curly-haired artist who ever graced the stage with his presence. I humbly place them before you now:

Lose the blond guy. He’s tall, sings well, writes great songs, plays a mean keyboard, and the girls all love him. Other than that, though, what does he bring to your partnership? Seriously—what does he contribute that you couldn’t handle yourself? Would he, could he come up with a verse as trenchant as,  “I drink, I drink, I drink too much vino rosso, no more amarone / I eat, I eat, I eat so much pasta basta, I’m so full and yet so lonely “?

I say,  “Nay, ” my diminutive chum. Show him the door. In Italian, if you like.

Now, no one’s saying this will be easy. To the bulk of the public, you’re inextricably linked to what’s-his-name. So we might need to do some PR work to get things moving. We’ve got to put forth Oates to the public like any other great American brand—like Ferrari, Gucci, Chef Boyardee—associating you with excellence, good vibes, and great music.  “Italian Girls ” will help; I’m telling you, it’s a shoe-in to climb the charts.

Lean on family connections. I was sorry to hear about the passing of your father, Warren, back in April. I loved him as Sgt. Hulka in Stripes—he was robbed when they passed him over for Oscar consideration. You can still use some of the goodwill generated by his life’s work to position yourself as a descendant of greatness. It’s worked for your sister, Joyce Carol, and it can work for you, too.

Get on talk radio. There’s this disc jockey in New York City named Stern, and I think you should check him out. I hear he might be in the market for a producer soon, and you’d be good at that, I think. He never plays records, so this won’t be a music gig per say, but it will get you some exposure. I understand he’s going to be as big as Cousin Brucie.

Positive reinforcement. You need to be confident—confident in yourself, in your voice, in your talent, and in your ability to move forward without the blond guy and be everything you can be. I want you, at least ten times a day, to stop, gather yourself, and say aloud,  “I am Oates! ” Shout it—give it power. You’re a powerful, yet undersized man.  “I am Oates! ” At least once every six months, you need to climb somewhere high—a mountain, or a parking garage, or maybe even that place Stallone ran to in those Rocky movies—get up to the tippy-top and shout,  “I am Oates! ” at the top of your considerable (though, again, undersized) lungs. Feel the power coursing through you as you do this.

Don’t ever change. You must never de-curl your hair, or shave your mustache. The mustache, in particular, is important—it is the source of your strength, your abilities, your very otherness. Your voice will carry you to the top of the charts (again, I cannot stress enough how good  “Italian Girls ” is), but the mustache will carry you further.

You are Oates. I am here to help.

All the best,
Don