By Keith Sharp
John Oates may be the lesser known component of the iconic Daryl Hall & John Oates tandem yet the release of his autobiographical, John Oates “Change Of Season” ,( St Martin’s Press, available Tuesday) provides an insightful look at his career both as part of one of rock music’s most enduring duos as well as a creative individual who is equally at home behind the steering wheel of a race car or in the cockpit of his own private plane.
On the phone from his Nashville residence as he and Hall are preparing to launch a major 29-date North American tour in partnership with British icons, Tears For Fears, starting May 4th in Tulsa Oklahoma and concluding 28th July in Los Angeles (with Canadian stops in Toronto 19th June and Quebec City 21st June), Oates is eager to promote his memoir in advance of his band’s forthcoming schedule.
The book, named after a Hall And Oates’ 1991 album release, is a title which reflected a critical turning point in their illustrious career at that time but also explains Oates’ own personal journey from bohemian folk artist, to rock superstar to reinventing himself as a solo performer who has now come full circle to reunite with his cohort of some 45 years.
Yes, the history of Daryl Hall and John Oates (the name Hall and Oates never appears on their album titles) is fully chronicled in Oates’ book from their tenuous beginning with Atlantic Records in 1972 through their superstar 80’s period on RCA Records, where they sold over 60 million records and enjoyed six No 1 singles on the Billboard Charts to a financial upheaval in 1988 following a move to Arista Records when their former manager, Tommy Mottola left them to head Sony Music leaving Hall And Oates about nine million dollars in debt.
“The whole process of writing this book was very therapeutic,” noted Oates whose precise recollection of names, dates and events were aided by his on-going penchant for detailing his life in a series of journals. “It took me almost two years to complete this book but it was well worth the exercise. During the whole writing process, I remembered things that I might have totally forgotten had I not completed this book.”
Calling the book “Cnange of Seasons”, Oates noted that the release of their 1991 record came during a transformation within the band, where they virtually stopped touring as a duo and dealt with some crushing financial obstacles before committing to developing their own solo projects.
“Both that album and this book are about transformation,” Oates explained. “While we were making that album, we were trying to find a way to go forward. We were finding out a methodology, a strategy to continue making music while not trying to be a caricature of ourselves”
It’s hard to imagine that after more than a decade of hit records (“She’s Gone”, “Sara Smile”, “Rich Girl”, “Maneater”, “Kiss On My List”, “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do”), “Out of Touch”), in the 1980’s, a string of platinum albums that sold over 60 million copies and constant global touring, Hall and Oates found themselves heaviily in debt. But it happened.
As Oates chronicled in his book, both he and Hall were happy to receive funds to finance an exorbitant lifestyle from their manager Mottola without asking for any financial records only to find to their horror, that when Mottola moved on to become head of Sony, he left them in dire financial straits.
“I guess we are not the first musicians to be taken advantage of,” sighed Oates. “It’s still going on today. But really, we only have ourselves to blame. As a manager who went out there, fought for us and kicked some serious ass, Mottolla did all of that. Where he wasn’t such a great manager was in fiscal responsibility. He should have made us more aware of the things we were doing and the ramifications of what would affect us later on – that’s where he fell short.”
“But I don’t blame him, I blame me,” Oates continued. “I should have made myself more responsible and spent more time being concerned about the paperwork we were signing, without even looking at it. When these things bit me on the ass, I only had myself to blame.”
As they faced their financial woes, Hall and Oates also realized that the music industry was rapidly changing. “At the end of the Eighties, Grunge became the new zeitgeist, it was anti-harmonic and anti-melodic, it wasn’t what we were about,” allowed Oates. “We consciously and voluntarily pulled back which might not have been the smartest thing to do from a commercial point of view. But it allowed us to go our own way and become independent artists.”
Hall And Oates were later partially vindicated when comments from outgoing BMG president Michael Dornamann (who had purchased RCA) led to them hiring a team of lawyers who discovered they were owed literally millions of dollars in unpaid royalties. as well as being able to regain control of their publishing rights.
Both Hall and Oates took advantage of this time lapse to strike out on their own. Hall launching his own web television series; “Live From Daryl’s House” while recording seven solo albums (the last one being his 2011 “Laughing Down Crying” release) while Oates recorded with and produced other artists (Canada’s Parachute Club and Australia’s Ice Works) while penned seven of his own solo records and is currently working on No.8.
The pair were inducted into The Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame in 2003, made The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in April 2014 have a star on Hollywood’s Walk Of Fame, and the current nostalgia boom surrounding a vinyl popularity wave has mean’t Hall And Oates still enjoy a massive following. Triggered by a 2015 comeback concert in Dublin Ireland., Hall and Oates struck out on a major tour in 2016 with Sharon Johnson & The Dap Kings to be followed by their joint headline sojourn with Tears For Fears this summer.
Oates is aware that Hall has always garnered the majority of attention but his book illustrates that it was he who produced the core idea for hits like “She’s Gone” (prompted by being stood up on a New Year’s Eve date), “Maneater” and “Out Of Touch”
“I am aware that Daryl’s voice became the Sound of Hall And Oates and I would never try to diminish his importance. I have been standing next to him for some 40 years and I know the talent that he is,” informed Oates. “My ego is not so fragile that I have an inferiority complex. I wanted to write my own story so that people will know more about me and maybe they will have a greater appreciation for me as both an artist and a person.
With new management in the form of a youthful Jonathan Wolfson revamping and re-establishing the duo’s image, a tour with Tears For Fears, who have had their own history of breaking up and reforming, seems like an ideal collaboration.
“There’s such a great synergy between Tears For Fears and ourselves,” enthused Oates. “They have a new album, they wanted to go back on the road and linking up with them seems like the perfect storm. I don’t think that anyone who comes to the show will walk out afterwards and say, they didn’t get enough hits.”
JOHN OATES CHANGE OF SEASONS: A MEMOIR
WITH CHRIS EPTING
AVAILABLE MARCH 28TH 2017
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