Whether you initially fell victim to the warm ‘70s blue-eyed soul of “Rich Girl” or the infectious smooth ‘80s electro R&B of “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do),” most pop music fans have had one of Hall & Oates’ hit songs lodged deep in their cranium at any given moment from 1976 to 1985. During that period Hall & Oates racked up a staggering 15 Top 10 hits, six of those being number one, making them the most successful duo in rock n roll history. They were also a staple on burgeoning new music video channel MTV which helped cement them as mega stars during the 1980s. Then came the angst-ridden and indie rock landscape of the ‘90s, and except for oldies radio, the duo fell below the popular radar up until the last few years.
Well wouldn’t ya know it? Hall & Oates are now experiencing a resurgence in popularity with both old and younger fans alike. It also doesn’t hurt that hip artists such as Phoenix, Chromeo, and Gym Class Heroes name drop Philly’s own as a major influence turning on a whole new generation of listeners. And with this new wave of popularity has come a slew of new projects including Live At Daryl’s House web cast, John’s solo careerand critically acclaimed live concert series “The Story-Behind-The-Song,” an appreance on Flight Of The Conchords, a new Box Set, and there is even talk of a possible cartoon in the works. I caught up with John, truly one the nicest guys in rock ‘n’ roll, one July morning, while he was out and about in his home town of Aspen, Colorado.
So when the two of you first got together to jam was there a magic moment where it was like, ‘Man! Me and this guy are meant to write songs together!’?
It was the exact opposite. I joined Daryl’s band as a guitar player, he had lost his guitar player. My band at the time was falling apart anyway. And then we got together and it wasn’t really happening and we came to the conclusion that this will never work, let’s just be friends. And then we eventually we learned from each other and it obviously came together.
How do Hall & Oates operate as a songwriting team? Who writes most of the songs?
I think one thing you have to understand, we don’t always write songs together, we write by ourselves and with different people. Its a very open-ended relationship in that way and I think that’s why its worked for us for so long. We were very conscious of that from the very beginning.
After the success of ‘She’s Gone,’ ‘Sara Smile,’ and ‘Rich Girl,’ it wasn’t till the dawn of the 1980s, specifically with the Voices album, that things really blew up for you guys. What do you attribute that shift in success to?
It’s very simple, we started to produce ourselves with our own recordings and production, which except for the early ‘70s when we were working with Arif Mardin, after that I don’t want to say we floundered around, but we definitely experimented. We did an album (War Babies) with Todd Rundgren, we also did a number of albums with a guy named John Forester. Toward the end of the ‘70s we were like, ‘Ya know what? Let’s make our own records.’ That was the Voices album and we figured out that we are best left to our own devices and did things on our own terms and tremendous success followed.