It'd be pretty easy to have a laugh or two at Daryl Hall & John Oates' expense. After all, the band (they insist they're not a duo) hasn't had a big hit in at least a decade, and in the wake of Internet cult hits like "Yacht Rock" (go on, Google it for a quick laugh), it wouldn't be a stretch to write off some of their biggest hits as pure kitsch. (Anyone remember "M-E-T-H-O-D O-F L-O-V-E"?) I could have even taken a stab at the Saddam-like mustache Oates sported in the '80s.
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But once I began speaking to Oates and heard how down-to-earth the multi-platinum artist was, it was hard for me to be negative. Then again, it's probably just as hard to have an ego when your rock-star interview is interrupted by the sound of chicken feed being dumped into the back of your pickup. Oates has a hobby farm at home in Colorado where he raises llamas, alpacas, emus, turkeys, peacocks and chickens, and because he was making time for my tight deadline (what a nice guy!), he called me first thing in the morning during a routine trip to the co-op. Plus, he didn't even bother to mask his number, so, yep, I've got John Oates' cell number on my Caller ID.
And it may sound corny, but Hall & Oates' career is headed in a more honest direction these days with its past excesses giving way to a far simpler life. "[During the '80s], we would be on the road for almost a year straight then when we'd break we'd write, record and head right back out again," Oates says. "We've been around for so long and we love what we do, but in order to keep doing it, we came up with a plan that's more natural. Now we can do both things--have a life and make music." Part of that plan involves indulging fans with "Instant Live" CDs (recordings off of the soundboard at each concert) and new studio recordings marketed directly to diehards through the band's own label.
"People always ask me why I'm still doing this, and I always try to make a joke out of it, but actually it's the truth," Oates says. "Hey, I play guitar for a living--how bad could it be? People would love to be in my position, and that's how I look at it."
He's right. After hearing his pleasant attitude about the career I was about to insult, I realized I don't want to make fun of him--I want to be him.