One on One: Getting back to Hall & Oates

One of my first musical memories is sitting in my kitchen and watching my parents dance and sing to Hall & Oates' "Maneater." I remember being fairly freaked out by the hook: "Woah here she comes/watch out boy, she'll chew you up." It made my 4 or 5-year-old self think of my mom playing cookie monster and eating my dad. Freaky. A lot of us grew up listening to Hall & Oates, and they've enjoyed a much deserved resurgence in the past few years. I've come to love these guys, but it wasn't always like that.

Like a lot of twenty-somethings, Hall & Oates sailed back into my life on the smooth winds of the Yacht Rock phenomenon. If you happened to not have an internet connection five years ago, here it is.

I jumped in full force and loaded my iPod with "Rich Girl," "Private Eyes," "You Make My Dreams Come True," and more. I started a yacht rock band with my re-mustachioed dad as the lead singer. Even my original music took on a smooth 70s sheen. Our cover band was successful and a couple even drove from Milwaukee in sailor hats and boating shoes to see us play. Rock n roll dreams, people.

Then something changed. I soured on the whole cover band thing and turned on the music as well. The overly complex chord changes; the silly outfits; the incessant flute playing--it all seemed too much. I mean, look at these guys!

And this guy:

And, finally, this guy:

My family and friends remained captivated by Yacht Rock--and especially by Hall & Oates--but I became a hater. Until Chris Corsale saved me.

Chris and I were chatting one day when Hall & Oates came up. I made some comment and he looked at me like I was crazy. "Oh no, man, you got it all wrong. Hall & Oates brought soul and R&B to white radio and that was a huge deal." I started reading and listening more and realized he was completely right. These guys were Philly soul torchbearers. They wrote soul songs with just enough rock to appeal to white America. They loved doo-wop and vocal groups, and had a deep relationship with the history of soul music. They cut a live album at THE APOLLO with the goddamn TEMPTATIONS. In 1987. This must have been a life long dream come true for two guys from Philly.

I also stumbled upon Live From Daryl's House. The premise is simple: Daryl and his ace band back up rising artists. They do a few of the guest's tunes and a few from the H&O catalogue. Then they eat some delicious food. The band absolutely nails everything they do. They can sound like the Dap Kings or Chromeo. And the backups? Holy shit.

I absolutely love hearing Daryl advise up-and-coming artists on their careers. He's incredibly humble and down to earth, and he truly understands the new direction that the music industry is going in. The show is free to watch online and he's built a huge following and a ton of goodwill with fans and new artists. He's re-introduced himself to a whole new generation of fans.

After our set at Summerfest last year Chris and I caught Hall & Oates. It was another revelatory moment. The same band from Live at Daryl's House just killed it on stage. The backup arrangements were perfectly executed. But Daryl Hall outshone everyone on stage. The guy is 65 years old and probably can't hit all the notes that he used to. He uses that to his advantage by reworking melodies and carefully improvising on most of the tunes. I felt like I did after opening for Otis Clay, Bettye Lavette, or Charles Walker--this guy is a master and I just went to school.

So I'm 100% back on board for Hall & Oates. It feels damn good to be back in the fold. Here's a new favorite of mine: a soulful ballad called "Do What You Want, Be Who You Are." This is an amazing live rendition. Enjoy.

- Brendan