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Daryl Hall & John Oates Are On Our List of the Best Things in Life

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

Daryl Hall & John Oates Live in Dublin

Daryl Hall & John Oates Live in Dublin

Daryl Hall & John Oates

Are On Our List of the Best Things in Life

by Jay S. Jacobs

Daryl Hall and John Oates have had more than their share of highlights in a career that has spanned over 45 years. The guys met as students in Philadelphia’s Temple University and felt an immediate connection and a mutual love of rock and roll and blue-eyed soul. They were signed to a deal with Atlantic Records in 1972, releasing a few critically acclaimed but not overly popular albums. However, back in those days, record labels allowed bands to slowly build up a reputation, and a buzz was building around Hall & Oates’ live performances.

They moved over to RCA Records in 1975, and their RCA debut self-titled album housed their first smash hit – “Sara Smile.” Atlantic took advantage of their new-found popularity to re-release one of their earlier singles, “She’s Gone,” which followed “Sara” right up the charts. They had a few other hits periodically through the rest of the 70s, including the #1 single “Rich Girl” and other favorites like “Back Together Again” and “It’s A Laugh.”

However, it was the turn of the decade that launched Hall & Oates into the stratosphere. Their 1980 album Voices started the deluge of top ten hits with “Kiss on My List” and “You Make My Dreams.” The next year they followed up by the just as popular album Private Eyes, which topped the charts with the title track and “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).” The next year H20 added three more top tens – “Maneater,” “One on One” and “Family Man.” The hit parade continued through the decade – “Say It Isn’t So,” “Adult Education,” “Out of Touch” and many others.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction that they finally received this year was way overdue for arguably the biggest duo of the 70s and 80s.

While the guys have not done an album of original material since Do It For Love in 2003 (they also released an all-covers album in 2004 and a Christmas album in 2006), they have certainly been busy.

Daryl Hall has created the popular internet series Live at Daryl’s House, which is in its eighth year and is now also syndicated on broadcast TV. (Check out our earlier interview with Daryl specifically about starting the show.) He’s also done some solo albums.  John Oates has also been busy, recording his own music and collaborating with other artists.

However, through it all, they never stopped touring as Daryl Hall & John Oates. They play multiple dates together each year, taking fans through their extensive songbook. The guys filmed a smoking hot concert performance in Ireland last year.  Daryl Hall and John Oates Live in Dublin is getting a special one-night limited theatrical release on February 19 through Fathom Events, and then will be released on video on March 31 by Eagle Rock Entertainment.

We were recently able to take part in a conference call with the guys and some other media outlets to discuss their storied career and the release of Live in Dublin.

At this point in your guys’ career as a duo, you don’t really record anymore. You just perform live together. How do you guys view and treat the partnership?

Daryl Hall: John and I started as friends, back when we were teenagers. That friendship, because it was that before it was a musical or creative or business partnership, has sustained us. We’re friends. We’re friends first, partners second. We did all that work together, over that period of time. Through the ’70s and the ’80s, and into the ’90s, and even more recently, really.

John Oates: I think really you don’t have enough time [to record together]. That’s the first thing. (laughs) Secondly, we began to play live from the moment we got together. In fact, that’s what we did. In fact, that’s how we got together. We got together as a reaction to what we were doing with other people. Daryl was doing studio work in Philly and he had made some recordings with some people and he wasn’t satisfied or happy with that situation. I was playing in some blues bands and playing folk clubs and things like that. We got together almost as a reaction to all that, and we said, let’s just go play our individual songs together. You play a song. I’ll back you on guitar and I’ll play a song and you’ll back me on piano or mandolin or whatever. We started playing coffee houses and art galleries in South Philadelphia. That’s how we started our reputation. Really, we were a live group from the very beginning.

Daryl Hall: We have this body of work that we really enjoy playing. It’s hundreds of songs. And we like doing it. I guess that’s the bottom line answer, we like playing together. We like having a band together. We like playing our songs that we’ve created together. Even though we’re not doing anything currently together as far as new things go, what we’ve done in the past is certainly enough to sustain us.

John Oates: We never were anything but a live group, and to this day, we still are. Our recordings came, actually, after that. We started live. I think one of the reasons we’re still around is because we never stopped playing live ever.

The Dublin concert film, did it start out as something that you saw as being a theatrical release? You’ve done a few different live DVDs. What was the scale of the project and how did it come together?

Daryl Hall: We did a tour last summer. We did a UK and Ireland tour last summer, our European tour. I found out that we were playing in Dublin, I had played in the Olympic Theater in Dublin back in the ’90s as a Daryl Hall show. Not with John. My memory of that place was that it was an outrageous concert. There’s something about the crowd, about the room, that was, at that time, very magical to me and really special. When I found out that we were playing there, and that Hall and Oates had never played in Ireland ever, which is kind of strange but true, I suggested that we record and do something with it. Record the performance.

John Oates: I was surprised and not surprised by the audience’s reaction. The only reason I would say I was surprised is I had never played that particular venue. We’d never played in Ireland. I did a songwriter’s festival in Ireland a few years back but never played with Daryl. I knew that it was going to be an exciting night, having never played there. The venue was so cool and legendary. It had so much history. All the ingredients were in place for a great night and a great performance. Certainly, I think we captured it. The band was on fire and the crowd was into it.

Daryl Hall: The [music video] company Eagle Rock, who I’ve worked with before, they got on board and we decided we were going to film the project. Without any idea that what was going to happen happened. After we did it, it exceeded my expectations. It was just an outrageously good night. Not only was the band really on, but the crowd was just crazy. The company called Fathom, who puts these things for theatrical release, saw this performance, and they came to us and said, “We’d like to put this in theaters, if you’re into it.”

John Oates: You put all those ingredients together and you get something very special. I’m so glad we committed to filming this particular show. When you put your eggs in one basket and you say, okay, this is the night we’re going to film this concert. Let’s hope it’s a good one. Here again, all the stars aligned for that.

Daryl Hall: That’s really how it happened, very step by step. I knew it from the beginning that it was going to be a special night, and that’s what it turned out to be.

Fathom does a lot of these one night theatrical releases with a lot of rock bands. Green Day, Springsteen have all done it. Have you ever seen one of them and also what kind of experience you think that a fan will get watching it on the movie screen compared to seeing you guys live?

Daryl Hall: Well, I have not ever seen one because I pretty much never go to the movies. (chuckles) As far as what people will see, I think it’s a really good example of what we do. I was involved in the rough cuts and everything so I made sure that it really captured the moment. As much as you can without actually being in the room as it’s happening. It was a very … What’s the word I can use? A very loose and laid back and direct version of our show. I say this in the best way; we weren’t trying. We were just playing. We were there. There was no pressure. I don’t think anybody in the band felt pressured about it. It just felt like we were really just up there having a good time and experiencing the moment. That communicates in the show and I think that the audience will also experience that.

Not having seen it yet and not having seen you guys in the past few years, I wonder if you feel the concerts you do now like was captured on the Dublin film have a different feel from the shows that so many people saw during the ’80s?

Daryl Hall: It’s really different. A few of the things are different. Number one, back in those days, we were really concentrating on what was current to us at the time. In 1985, we would play music from what was going on in 1985 in our world. What we’ve done in the more recent past is that … our set, it varied. It changes night to night, and it comprises of songs that we’ve written over all of our career. We’ll mix songs from 1972 with songs from yesterday. In that respect, it’s a much more varied show and it doesn’t relate to just one moment in time or anything like that.

With your long career and so many classic songs, how do you decide which songs you wanted to perform in concert? Specifically to the Dublin show, knowing that people around the world were going to be seeing the show? Did that affect the set list at all?

John Oates: Not really. Not very much. That set list is capturing a moment in time. It’s the set list that Daryl and I have been working off of, with some variation, over the past year or so. It changes. It evolves. We drop certain songs. We add certain songs. But the core of the set are the big hits. In a way, I believe we have a professional responsibility to play those big hits. We’re proud of them. They’ve stood the test of time. That’s why they are the songs they are.

Daryl Hall: Our set list changes all the time. We put our set list together depending on what occasion we’re involved in. The mood of the room. It’s a very flexible thing. We sometimes change it on stage. We’ll say, let’s not play this. Let’s play that instead. As far as agreement, I think it’s the whole band agreement, really. We play what we feel is appropriate to the moment.

John Oates: In that regard, we have a really good problem. We have a lot of hits. We sneak in the deep tracks, and we do that because we like it and because we feel like it shows a little bit more of a broader scope of who we are and what we’ve accomplished over the years. I would like to go more in that direction one day, but the Dublin show is capturing the moment in time. If we do another DVD in two years or whatever, it’ll be a different moment in time. This is the band. This is the Hall and Oates band right now, right as it is today, with one of the best backing bands we’ve ever had. With Daryl and I, I think performing pretty well at the top of our games, so I think it’s a great moment to capture.

Daryl Hall: Our band, without any doubt in my mind, this is the best band we ever had. A lot of these guys have been with us for a long time and there’s a few new guys, but the combination is just the best. They understand us and we have a fantastic communication and understanding of the music. So I think it’s better than it ever was. I guess that’s the best way I could put it.

Tell me a little bit about the band, where they’re coming from, and what it was like playing with this group.

John Oates: I’m very stoked on this band. I’m very high on this band. Daryl and I have been very fortunate over the years to have incredible musicians surrounding us. They have been a big part of our success and what we’ve done over the years. I have to always give credit for the band, the various bands. This particular line up is really amazing.

Daryl Hall: The oldest member is Charlie DeChant, who plays saxophone and some keyboards. He’s been with us from almost the beginning, from 1975. He is by far the longest and oldest member of the band. Then let’s see. The second person would be Eliot Lewis is our keyboard player. I’ve known Eliot for a long time. He’s been with me for quite a long time too, since the ’90s. Klyde Jones, the bass player, I’ve known since the early ’90s and he’s played with us on and off for that period of time as well. He’s been a permanent member of the band more recently. Brian Dunne is a relatively recent drummer. I’d say now, it’s been about five-six years that he’s been with us.

John Oates: When our long-time collaborator and producer and friend, Tom “T-Bone” Wolk passed away, there was a period of time when I think we were playing as though he was there, even though he wasn’t there. It was this limbo where it was neither here nor there. As time passed, we had some new members join the band and as the new members joined, his legacy kind of faded away a bit and the new band took on their own personality. As they took on their own personality, I think it gave Daryl and I a renewed enthusiasm and a renewed inspiration for the older music, because they play it with such passion and they’re so good. The singing is absolutely off the charts. Some of the best singers … Every one of the singers in this band could be a lead singer in any band.

Daryl Hall: Shane Theriot is the newest member. He’s the guitar player. After the death of my friend T-Bone, who played guitar, we had a bit of a scuffle to see who was going to take his place. For a while, Paul Pesco was playing guitar and now Shane has taken that role and done an amazing job. Did I miss anybody? I don’t think so. That’s the band.

John Oates: Like I said, I’m very high on this line up. I think capturing this line up for the Dublin DVD was a really amazing thing to do, and I think it really represents where we’re at right now, who we are, and where we’re coming from.

Does the relationship with the songs and the music change over the years? Do the songs feel different to you now than they did in ‘75, ‘85, ‘95, whenever you did them?

Daryl Hall: Some of these songs that we play and still deal with, the songs that I wrote when I was 21 years old. Twenty years old. Twenty-two. My life has changed. What was real has become ironic, and what was ironic has become real. All these kinds of things. Life changes the perception of the songs. What surprises me is how a lot of these songs that I wrote when I was a kid seem to have come true in my later life. That constantly surprises me.

John Oates: That’s the beauty of a well-crafted and well-written song. It can be interpreted and re-imagined in a lot of different ways. That’s why our songs have been sampled so many times and they’ve stood the test of time. It’s all about the meat and potatoes, about if the song really got it, do you know? Can you sit there with an acoustic guitar or a piano and play that song for someone and achieve the same emotional impact that you can do by fleshing it out with a complete production and a recording? Here again, all about the songs.

Was there a particular point in time that music began to speak to you?

John Oates: From birth. Really, honestly. I started singing when I was a little kid. I have a recording of me singing “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” when I was two years old at Coney Island Amusement Park in New York. Then I have another recording of me at the same amusement park when I was about eight or nine, singing “All Shook Up.” I’ve been playing guitar since, I think, six years old. It’s just been part of my DNA, I guess.

This year is the 35th anniversary for Voices. What’s your 2015 take on that? That really was a kickstarter album for your guys.

John Oates: It’s a very important album. I would rank that probably in the three or four most important albums we’ve ever made for a lot of reasons. One, it was the first album we produced ourselves. It was a chance for us to stand on our own creative feet, for better or worse, which is always exciting and scary at the same time. For us, it worked out very well. It set the tone for what we would do for the decade of the ’80s. It coincided with the birth of MTV and videos.