Hall And Oates: Bringing Back The Hits Daryl Hall and John Oates have distilled their hit-making career into a new box set called Do What You Want, Be What You Are. The band had so many '80s pop hits that it's helpful to remember that they started their careers as soul musicians. Hear Hall and Oates' interview with Guy Raz.
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Hall And Oates: Bringing Back The Hits

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Hall And Oates: Bringing Back The Hits

Hall And Oates: Bringing Back The Hits

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(Soundbite of music)

GUY RAZ, host:

It's 1967 in Philadelphia. A battle of the bands is going on at a local venue called the Adelphi Ballroom. And during the show, a gunfight breaks out between rival gangs in the audience, and two young musicians who've never met run to an elevator for cover. They would go on to form the most successful pop duo of all time: 20 albums, 60 million records sold, 29 Top 40 hits and six number ones.

(Soundbite of song, �Kiss On My List�)

HALL & OATES (Musical Group): (Singing) Because your kiss, your kiss is on my lips�

(Soundbite of song, �Rich Girl�)

HALL & OATES: (Singing) You're a rich girl, and you've gone too far.

(Soundbite of song, �I Can't Go For That�)

HALL & OATES: (Singing) I can't go for that, no�

(Soundbite of song, �Maneater�)

HALL & OATES: (Singing) Oh, here she comes, she's a maneater.

(Soundbite of song, �Private Eyes�)

HALL & OATES: (Singing) Private eyes, they're watching you.

(Soundbite of song, �Out of Touch�)

HALL & OATES: (Singing) You're out of touch, I'm out of time. I'm out of my head when you're not around. Oh, oh, oh. Oh, oh, oh.

RAZ: Daryl Hall and John Oates took their immense career and have distilled it into a new box set. It's called �Do What You Want, Be What You Are.� They've come into our New York studios to talk about the new collection and to perform a few songs.

Daryl Hall, John Oates, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

Mr. DARYL HALL: Thank you for having us.

Mr. JOHN OATES: Yes, it's great to be here.

RAZ: Let's start at the beginning, at that show in Philadelphia. A lot of people think of Hall and Oates, and they think �80s pop, you know, �Maneater,� �You Make My Dreams,� but you guys actually started out doing soul. Is that what you were doing at that show?

Mr. HALL: Well, yeah. I had a band called the Temptones, which was, you know, we were all part of the Philadelphia soul scene. Well, that was the Philadelphia sound, really, and John had a band, and we - it wasn't a battle of the bands, by the way. It was a battle of the audience.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HALL: We were all - we were battling each other. It was really one of those lip-synch things. It was the Five Stair Steps and�

Mr. OATES: Howard Tate.

Mr. HALL: �and Howard Tate and John's band, my band, and I forget who else.

Mr. JOHN OATES: It was a local radio station.

Mr. HALL: Maybe the Delphonics or somebody. It was a small but mighty scene at the time. It was sort of the remnant of the Chubby Checker days and all that, Bobby Rydell, trying to form a new sound out of what went down before that in the earlier �60s.

RAZ: John Oates, who were you guys listening to at the time? What kind of music were you listening to?

Mr. OATES: Well, you know, we were listening to a lot of different things. I mean, I started out as a - playing a lot of folk music and traditional American music at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and things like that. There was doo-wop music, Gospel music, church music.

RAZ: Your first hit came on your second record, �Abandoned Luncheonette.� That was released in 1973, and the song was �She's Gone.� Sometimes it's been called the quintessential Hall & Oates song. John Oates, what was the story behind it?

Mr. OATES: Well, I mean, I'd agree with you when you say the quintessential Hall & Oates song, but I would not agree with you in terms of our first hit because it really wasn't.

RAZ: Right.

Mr. OATES: It was a song that made, you know, put us on the map but with underground radio, college radio. We were really a cult band at the time, and there was this die hard, you know, small group of people around the world tuning into us. But �She's Gone� had a very interesting kind of gestation, I guess you'd call it. We released it. It really didn't do much, and then a group called Tavares released it as a single, which went to number one on the R&B charts.

(Soundbite of song, �She's Gone�)

HALL & OATES: (Singing) She's gone. I've got to learn how to face it. She's gone.

Mr. OATES: And then later on, after we had �Sara Smile� and �Rich Girl,� Atlantic Records re-released it yet again, and it finally became a hit with us. So - but over the years, it's really been a song that has defined us in so many ways.

Mr. HALL: It defines us as songwriters together, that's one thing, because we don't write all that much together, but that song is so much 50/50. But it also defines the idea that we take a sad subject and put sort of these glorious chords to it. So it doesn't sound sad, but it is sad.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Can you guys play that song for us?

Mr. OATES: Sure.

(Soundbite of song, �She's Gone�)

HALL & OATES: (Singing) Everybody's high on consolation. Okay? Okay. One, two, three, four. Everybody's high on consolation. Everybody's trying to tell me what is right for me, yeah. My daddy tried to bore me with a sermon, but it's plain to see that they can't comfort me. Sorry, Charlie, for the imposition, but I believe I've got the strength to carry on, carry on. I need a drink and a quick decision. Now it's up to me, what will be. She's gone. Oh I, oh I'd better learn how to face it. She's gone. She's gone, oh I, oh I'd pay the devil to replace her. She's gone, what went wrong.

RAZ: That's Hall & Oates performing their classic song, �She's Gone,� at our New York studios.

Gentlemen, you sound better than you probably sounded when you originally performed that song.

Mr. OATES: Well, we've been practicing a lot.

Mr. HALL: Yeah, you know, we've been practicing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Do you guys ever occasionally, Daryl Hall or John Oates, sort of flip through television late at night and stumble upon one of your videos from the �80s when, you know, when you clearly looked differently than you do now?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HALL: Clearly? You know�

Mr. OATES: Well, you know, this is radio. How do you know we don't look exactly the same?

Mr. HALL: Yeah. Yeah.

Mr. OATES: You know, it was - MTV, as far as we were concerned, videos were always a great way of promoting our music, and that's how we looked at it. We did it tongue in cheek. We stood in front of a black curtain with funny clothes and jumped around, and then it evolved into this, you know, Baroque kind of�

Mr. HALL: Yeah, we wore funny clothes and did other things.

Mr. OATES: Jumped around and spent a lot more money doing it.

RAZ: And of course, you had unique hairstyles and�

Mr. HALL: Yeah. All of the above, yes, yes.

Mr. OATES: Well, it was the �80s.

Mr. HALL: Yeah, you've got to remember, the �80s were the decade that style, I don't know, went berserk.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HALL: You know, this is a funny thing. In the doing of this, the box set, not only was I looking through all the music and looking through my journals and all the stuff, but I was cleaning up - I have storage lockers, and I have about eight of them filled with my - everything in my life right now - and I pulled out all the old clothes, you know, and I found all these video clothes, the dog suit I wore on �Out of Touch� and all these crazy things and pictures of the ridiculous hairstyles. You know how big shoulders were in the �80s? It was ridiculous.

RAZ: Oh, yeah.

Mr. HALL: You couldn't get through a door with the shoulders that people wore.

Mr. OATES: Shoulders were big, ties were skinny, and hair was big.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Yeah. Skinny ties are back, though.

Mr. HALL: You know, the early �80s were okay. The mid-�80s went nuts. I'm sorry.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Can we hear one of your songs from the �80s?

Mr. HALL: Sure. Here's one called �Say It Isn't So.�

(Soundbite of song, �Say It Isn't So�)

HALL & OATES: (Singing) Say it isn't so painful to tell me that you're dissatisfied. Last time I asked you, I really got a lame excuse. I know that you lied. Now wicked things can happen, you see them going down in war, but when you play in a quiet way that bites it even more. Now say it, tell me what you want, yeah, I'll do it baby, yeah. I promise right now. Say it, who propped you up when you were stopped, low motivation had you on the ground? I know your first reaction you slide away, hide away, goodbye. But if there's a doubt maybe I can give out a thousand reasons why. You have to say it isn't so. Say it isn't so. It isn't so. It ain't so. It isn't so. Say it isn't so. It isn't so.

RAZ: That just makes me want to crack open a can of New Coke and play with a Rubik's Cube.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HALL: Oh, you're bad, man.

RAZ: In a good way.

Mr. HALL: And make your hair really high.

RAZ: In a good way. In a good way.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Daryl Hall, Michael Jackson is quoted as saying that, �I Can't Go For That,� one of your hit songs, was his inspiration for �Billie Jean.�

Mr. HALL: Well, it's funny how this has gone around and around. I'm the one that quoted that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HALL: What happened was when Michael died, people were asking for anecdotes and, you know, asking me and asking everybody, probably, that was involved with Michael in any way, and I was talking about the �We Are the World� session when everybody was in a room. And one of the things that happened was Michael pulled me aside and told me that, and said - well, actually, it was just sort of a conversational thing, musician to musician: You know, I took �Billie Jean� from, you know, from �No Can Do.� Are you okay with that? And I went: Of course, I'm okay with it. So that's where it all came from.

RAZ: There are, of course, plenty of very famous musical duos. Simon and Garfunkel comes to mind, for example, and just as many stories about how they self-destruct. John Oates, how do you think you guys have managed to stay together for so long?

Mr. OATES: My take on it is that we have this very, very tight musical kind of library that we draw from, and it comes from our roots and growing up in Philadelphia and the kind of music we listened to, kind of families and the kind of areas we - you know, we both were raised only 15 miles apart from each other, even though we didn't know each other.

RAZ: Daryl Hall?

Mr. HALL: What's equally important and important to me is that we have always, from the very, very, beginning, when we first decided to start writing songs together, I think one of the first conversations we had was, okay, we're going to share a stage, but we are not going to just be this - some thing that becomes - I used to call it Martin & Lewis or Abbott and Costello or something, even down to the idea that we, you know, have always insisted on being billed as Daryl Hall and John Oates, not Hall & Oates.

Even though everybody calls us Hall & Oates, we, whenever we can, we say no, we're Daryl Hall and John - we're two different people. We're two distinct people and not to be looked at in just in relation to the other person. But we were kids together.

Mr. OATES: We started as friends, and we grew up - you know, we grew up our entire adult life sharing basically the same experience.

Mr. HALL: Yeah.

Mr. OATES: It's almost - you know, it's like a family. It's a brotherhood. It's beyond friendship, way beyond friendship. Our history is our future.

Mr. HALL: hey, I love that line. I love that line.

RAZ: That's Daryl Hall and John Oates. Their new box set is called �Do What You Want, Be What You Are.�

Daryl Hall, John Oates, thanks so much for joining us.

Mr. OATES: Thank you for having us.

Mr. HALL: Thanks a lot.

RAZ: And can you play us out with a song?

Mr. OATES: You want to do �Sara,� Daryl?

Mr. HALL: Yeah, absolutely. �Sara Smile.�

(Soundbite of song, �Sara Smile�)

HALL & OATES: (Singing) Baby hair with a woman's eyes. I can feel you watching in the night all alone with me and we're waiting for the sunlight. When I feel cold, you warm me, and when I feel I can't go on, you come and hold me because it's you and me forever. Sara smile, Sara smile, won't you smile a while for me? If you feel like leavin', no you can't go. Why don't you wait�

RAZ: And that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. Have a great week.

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