Hall and Oates at Massey Hall (178 Victoria), Tuesday (December 7), 8 pm. $45-$55. 416-872-4255. Rating: NNNNN
Quick now, what's the best-selling duo in rock history? The Everly Brothers? Good guess. But in 1984 the Recording Industry of America announced that Hall and Oates had surpassed the Everly Brothers as the most successful duo.
Remember Sara Smile? Maneater? Kiss On My List? Oh, yeah.
And while you may not think of the then mulleted pop rock duo as particularly relevant in the contemporary music era, Hall and Oates still own that distinction today.
"Nobody can beat us. It's impossible. We've been together for so long we won by default," says John Oates, the formerly moustachioed one, on the phone from Connecticut on Thanksgiving Day in the U. S. of A.
"We have to rehearse with the band, and then we're going to have a dinner."
About to embark on a major tour, they've gotta shape up the tunes off their latest record, Our Kind Of Soul, for live showcasing. It's collection of soul covers like Rock Steady (Aretha Franklin), Neither One Of Us (Gladys Knight and the Pips) and Use Ta Be My Girl (the O'Jays) as well as three originals. There was a system to picking the tunes.
"Many people when they do albums of other people's songs pick songs they grew up with, but these songs are a bit different. They're actually all contemporary with our actual career. In every instance there's a connection between the songs that were chosen and our personal and professional lives, whether it's because we knew or worked with the artist or producer or knew the songwriter."
Oates points to the tune I Can Dream About You, from the ridiculous 1984 rock musical Streets Of Fire, featuring a 19-year-old precociously sex-potty Diane Lane. Remember?
"Dan (Hartman) originally wrote that song for us. We used to hang out together, and he said, 'I wrote this great song for you guys,' but we were just finishing up our album H2O and we didn't have room on the record for any new material or need any new material, so we never got around to doing it. Now, 20-odd years later, we've done it."
Hartman died five years ago, so he never got the chance to hear it.
And then there's O-o-h Child, made famous by the Five Stairsteps. It was over 30 years ago that John Oates met Daryl Hall at a big soul revue at the Adelphi Ballroom in Philadelphia.
"Both Daryl's and my separate groups had singles out. We were teenagers, and the local radio station was holding a record hop. We were going to lip sync one of our tunes. (See, Ashlee? Everybody does it.) The Five Stairsteps were headlining. We were all kind of hanging around backstage when this huge gang fight broke out in the crowd and we all ran out the back."
The rest is adult contemporary history.
So all this makes Oates how old?
"I'm 32. I was born in 68."
Nuh-uh! I'm 32 and I was born in 1972.
"I'm bad at math."
He's is, however, good at keeping it hip, with a pop soul track on Handsome Boy Modeling School's latest offering, White People.
"If I'd known what it was going to be called, I wonder if I would have done it."
"No, it was actually great. Those guys are great, really creative. Dan (Nakamura) contacted me with the idea, and I thought, 'Well, OK, I like collaborating with people. '"
What he didn't know was that it was going to be a duet with jazz piano heartthrob Jamie Cullum.
"I wrote, I sang, I played some guitar. A month or so went by and I was backstage at the Songwriters Hall of Fame (Hall and Oates are recent inductees) and this little guy comes up to me and goes, 'Hey! I'm Jamie Cullum. It was great working with you.' I thought, 'OK, I have no idea who this guy is,' and finally I gave up and asked what he was talking about.
"And he goes, 'The song we did together. With Handsome Boy Modeling School.' And I was like, 'Oh! What did we do?' And he said, 'I sang with you on that song.'
"So I called Dan and said I'd met this guy and he's telling me he worked with me and I have no idea what he's talking about, and he's like, 'Oh, I forgot to tell you. We put Jamie Cullum on your track.' He sent me a copy, and it came out really great."
Twenty years ago this sort of thing couldn't have happened. The wonders of technology.
"Who knows how they did it? I should ask them."