HOW WE MET: DARYL HALL AND JOHN OATES

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The Independent Culture
Singer-songwriters Daryl Hall and John Oates are one of the most successful pop duos ever. Their brand of blue-eyed American soul found its biggest British audience during the late Seventies and early Eighties, with numerous Top 10 singles including `She's Gone', `Your Kiss Is On My List', `Maneater' and `I Can't Go For That'; since their debut in 1974 they have released 18 albums (the latest, `Marigold Sky', is their first in seven years). They both grew up in Philadelphia, and were educated at Temple University. Hall, 48, lives in London and New York with Sara Allen, who has co-written many Hall & Oates songs. He has released four solo albums. Oates (far right), 48, is married with one young son. He lives near Aspen in Colorado

DARYL HALL: When I was about 17 or 18 years old I had a doo-wop street- corner group called the Temptones, and one night in 1967 we were supposed to sing at a place called the Adelphi Ballroom in West Philadelphia. There were a lot of R'n'B bands on the bill, including a group called the Masters, which turned out to be John Oates's band. And suddenly, right before we were due to go on, a fight broke out between rival high-school fraternities - which really were just gangs with Greek letters. There were chains and knives and shots rang out. Obviously, the show was over.

We were on the upper floor and there was a lift down to the street, so I ran and jumped into it, and John Oates was in it too. I said, "Oh, well, you didn't get to go on, either. How ya doin'? You go to Temple University, I go to Temple University. See you later, bye." And that was it, that's how we met.

We would see each other in school after that - I was studying music, John was studying journalism - and we'd nod to each other and say hello, and soon we were travelling in the same circles and we realised we had an interest in the same kind of music. And then, since our families came from the suburbs, we both needed places to stay in the inner city, because Temple University is an inner-city school, so we started sharing flats together. After all that time, it wasn't until about 1971 that we actually tried making music together.

He was very different from me, I knew that right away. I remember he was just a teenager but he had a moustache and short hair. He was a college wrestler, a sports jock, and I never really knew people who did that kind of stuff. When we got our first flat together, I said, "OK, we're going to move some furniture." He goes, "OK, I'll meet you at your parents' house at 9 o'clock in the morning." I said, "OK, John, here's the deal. I don't do anything in the morning." He was pretty much a straight arrow, and I was the opposite of that, I was just what you'd imagine a musician to be. I introduced him to lots of things: "Take this, smoke this, try this." I brought him into the world of the late Sixties, shall we say. I was, in that respect, sort of a mentor.

Being at college, I think that's the time when you really start searching for things outside yourself. I grew up pretty much on the streets, in a black neighbourhood, so my perception of music was really formed from living in that area. All I knew was soul music, gos- pel music, and I wanted to learn about other things. John had experience of folk music and bluegrass and blues, and I didn't know any of that stuff. He brought that American folk thing, and that was his important contribution to the creation of the Hall & Oates sound.

I admire the things about him that I'm lacking. He's a dedicated person, and when he makes up his mind about something, he sticks to it. He's meticulous, and I'm not. I look at the whole picture, and I'm a little slack at the details. He looks at the details - sometimes to the detriment of the whole picture. I think that's where the complementary thing happens. He has a very strong sense of loyalty and honour, all those things which are old-fashioned but necessary. He's a good person.

We've grown apart in the sense that it's a working relationship now, whereas it used to be much more personal. There was a proximity, where John was sitting there working on a song on the guitar and I was sitting here working on a song on the piano, and you'd hear the other person's ideas. It's a little more formalised now. But underneath all that is the sort of relationship that doesn't change. I think the things that I saw in him when he was 17 years old are pretty much the same things that I see in him now. Those are the things that I like, and when I see them come out, that makes me happy. It's when they get buried for one reason or another that I get disappointed.

I think that the only person I could say knows me as well as John would be Sara. Apart from her, John and I know each other as well as anyone does. And why not? We've known each other most of our lives.

JOHN OATES: I had just graduated from high school and entered Temple University when I heard Daryl's group, the Temptones, at a black R'n'B show called the Freedom Show at Philadelphia's Convention Hall. There must have been about 12 groups playing, and coming on very early was Daryl's group. They were white, obviously, and the audience was, like, Wohhhh! There were murmurings of, like, "These guys, are they going to deliver or not?" And I remember a very interesting thing happened. Daryl's group were supposed to start a song, and the band wouldn't give them their chord to get the note - they were a purely vocal group - so Daryl sang the note

from his head. He knew what key it was in and he just sang. And I said, okay, they've got something going on here.

Because of the Vietnam war, two of the guys from my group, the Masters, got drafted, and so it was effectively disbanded. So I joined the Temptones as a guitar player. They were just on the verge of breaking up, but that left Daryl and me as friends, hanging out. We became room-mates, we lived a downtown Philadelphia life in that hippy time of the late Sixties.

When I graduated from college in the spring of 1970, I decided to hitchhike around Europe with my guitar and my backpack. I was gone for about four months. The place I was staying in, Daryl's sister had sublet it with her boyfriend through the summer, and I guess they didn't pay the rent, because when I got back the doors were bolted shut, and all my stuff was gone. Daryl was married at the time, and he and his wife had a really tiny house, but he said, "Hey, come and stay with us." So, we were there and we just started writing songs. Our concept was: "Well, you're a songwriter and I'm a songwriter, let's get together and play our songs. You'll accompany me, I'll accompany you, and we'll do it very honest and straightforward. We won't have to deal with band members, and all this other crap, we'll just go out and play." And that's what we did. We never had a masterplan. We never said, okay, we're gonna be the biggest duo of all time. Our first objective was to play, and then it was get a record contract, and then it was go on tour, and it just escalated.

When I met him it was a real dichotomy, because he was very much like me in terms of background, and he liked the same kind of music, so there was that real bond there. On the other hand, he was very different from the other people that I knew because he was more forward-looking. He's always had his finger on the pulse of something: everything from hairstyle and the way he dresses to the kind of things he would think about. And that really appealed to me because my nature tends to be a little bit more laidback, more take-it-as-it-comes, so I think he filled in a gap in my personality.

In a lot of ways he hasn't changed at all. He still has that sense of pushing the envelope, and he has the most uncanny sense of style of anyone I've ever known who's not in the fashion business. He would be wearing a pair of shoes and you would say: "They look strange." A year later, everyone else'll be wearing them and he'll be wearing something else. That's the way he's always been.

He doesn't necessarily have a lot of friends, but the friends he has, he has for a long, long time. A lot of people might think he's stand-offish but they don't understand that he's not interested in casual associations. He's more interested in something with quality.

The thing about Daryl is he's a dedicated life-long musician. His self-identity is completely wrapped up in the creative process, and everything in his life is oriented towards creation. The kind of places he lives - he loves it here in London because he feeds off the musical creativity of the city - and even the way his home is set up, it has to do with writing and keeping his mind active. I'm much more into sports and being outdoors. But he always has a guitar next to this chair, and a tape recorder on that chair. If it means getting up in the middle of the night because a dream makes a song come, he'll get up to record it. I may get the same dream, but I'll go back to sleep.

His creative needs go far beyond the context of working with me, and I have no problem with that. Quite frankly I was hoping he'd have more successful solo albums because it would give me more time off!

! `Marigold Sky' (Eagle Records) is out now.

PHOTOGRAPH BY BRIAN MOODY

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