Hall & Oates enjoying calmer lifestyle

Pop stars glad to be out of the limelight

Music Preview

August 07, 2002|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

In the 1980s, Daryl Hall and John Oates were kings of the pop scene, two kids from Philadelphia whose brand of "blue-eyed soul" won them screaming fans internationally with hits like "Private Eyes" and "Maneater."

But ask Hall now about his life back then, and he doesn't seem to miss it one bit.

"I felt that we were being put into a preconceived sort of a ... we were being put into a box," Hall said in a recent phone interview. "It was like, `Now we know what they are. They are pop stars; they appeal to this; they are that.' But we were much more complex than that. I felt restricted."

Hall & Oates hasn't had a No. 1 hit since 1984 and these days pandemonium rarely ensues when the duo makes a public appearance. But Hall and Oates appear to be enjoying the slower life - and the freedom that comes with it.

"It feels good in every way," said Hall, 53. "We both feel very free. These days we have nothing to lose. We have nothing to prove. All we have to do is make good music and have fun doing it. We're not trying to be pop stars - we've done that. But we certainly want to get on the radio and make a lot of music."

While Hall & Oates may not be a regular on MTV, the duo has been busy. In 1997, Hall & Oates released an album of original hits - Marigold Sky - and in the spring, it released VH1 Behind the Music: The Daryl Hall and John Oates Collection. The latest album featured the first single in five years, "Do It For Love." Hall and Oates also are working on solo albums in addition to a record of more original work tentatively scheduled for release in the fall.

And on Sunday, they trek to Columbia to play at the Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Hall and Oates have been playing together for almost 30 years, since they met in Philadelphia in their late teens.

"I just set out to be the cool kid on my block," Hall said. "Philadelphia in the late '60s when John and I were there was an amazing place to be. It was the beginning of the sound of Philadelphia, and we were part of the genesis of that. I learned from it. It was just the best city for soul music. And I think everything we've done since then has been a reaction to that or using those influences."

But after they became famous, Hall gradually became disillusioned with his hometown and moved to England, where he now lives.

"I don't miss Philly because Philly isn't Philly anymore," Hall said. "The English are very Philly-philic. It's the truth. They love Philadelphia, and they love Philadelphia music. You watch [the British TV show] Top of the Pops and all the dance records all sound like remixes of Philadelphia-style songs."

When Hall and Oates first started out, they were determined to create music that reflected a blend between white and black, which led to the label attached to their work - "blue-eyed soul."

It's a creative accomplishment Hall doesn't appear to take lightly.

"We were the first white band to be accepted on black radio," Hall said. "Our first biggest challenge was getting played on pop radio. That was different then. That was the '70s, and I think people are more segregated now than they were then as far as formats go. Especially in black radio, they don't play many white artists anymore. I'm all for give and take, integration in music. It's a combination of European and African influences put together."

Hall also gives himself and his partner some credit in another arena - the dominance of boy bands in recent years.

"We started a ball rolling," he said. "There wouldn't be boy bands without people like us, for good or bad. Also, whenever you see any kind of cross-cultural kind of music, folk guitar and soul singer, be they black or white, we were sort of the genesis of that.

"I feel that we started something, and I think it was an important thing," he added. "We need to keep that tradition alive in America. It's something that needs to be fought for."

But the main thing Hall and Oates are fighting for today is to be understood by fans who still largely know - and love - them best for songs they wrote more than 20 years ago. "Sara Smile" remains a classic favorite among many, and the catchy "Out of Touch" still is one of the hallmarks of '80s music.

And, while their 1983 greatest hits album sold 1.2 million - according to Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks music sales - Marigold Sky sold a mere 173,000. Hall hopes fans will look beyond the old days, though.

"I would hope that people will respond to the new music as new music," he said. "I don't want to have to compete with my hits. I want them to accept this new phase of our lives. It won't be the intensity of the '80s music, but it's a different kind of perception."

And if this works and the crazy pop star life starts up again, the group may be better able to handle it this time.

"It's something that every successful artist has to go through - a period of time when you're being chased down the street by fans," Hall said. "You either love that and become addicted to it, which I find pathetic, or you get beyond it."

Concert

Who: Hall & Oates with Todd Rundgren

Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia

When: 8 p.m. Sunday

Admission: $29.50 to $40

Contact: 410-481-SEAT or www.ticketmaster.com

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