‘Only one way for us to go’: A fateful decision propelled Hall and Oates’ unlikely resurgence

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Did stepping away at the turn of the 1990s actually ensure Hall and Oates’ more recent revival — up to and including their induction later this spring in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? John Oates thinks so.

Hall and Oates, remember, put out eight albums in the 1970s, their first decade of recording. They followed that up with another five in the 1980s — each of them, seemingly, a bigger seller than the last. They notched four gold records in the ’70s, and one platinum seller. In the following decade, every album Daryl Hall and John Oates released went at least platinum, with 1982’s H2O and 1984’s Big Bam Boom soaring to double-platinum heights.

As a new decade loomed, however, Oates says the duo could see the writing on the wall.

“We felt like there was only one way for us to go and that was down,” John Oates tells Chris Parker of the San Antonio Current. “We couldn’t be any more successful than we were. If we released a song and it wasn’t a No. 1 record, we were a failure. We didn’t want to get into that. So, I think we both had enough common sense to know it’s better to step away and see where that takes us.”

They released 1990’s Change of Season, which finished with a respectible gold-selling status, then took a lengthy period away. Since, Hall and Oates have only released two original albums, 1997’s Marigold Sky and 2003’s Do It For Love — and yet, somehow, their reputation has grown, as have the audiences. And those fans have only gotten progressively younger, too.

“Our audience has completely transformed over the last five years,” Oates confirms. “We still have our old guard fans that have supported us over the years, but our audience is predominantly in their 20s and 30s.”

He credits the internet, which has democratized music consumption since Hall and Oates left the 1980s hit parade. With hipster decision-makers no longer boxing them out on radio, in record stores and in magazines, successive generations were afforded the opportunity to listen to Hall and Oates without prejudice. And they liked what they heard.

“They’re being influenced by what their peers are listening to or what they may discover on their own,” Oates adds. “That’s probably why people are discovering the depth of our catalog.”

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  • Martin Wagner

    Have loved these guys for years, but I find it weird to hear them say they felt they were being “boxed out” by critics and musical tastemakers. As the article states, all their 80’s albums were monster hits, and as for the critics, Rolling Stone gave “Big Bam Boom” a 4-star rave. Maybe some self-styled hipster critics did slag them, but no one read those guys, while everyone watched MTV, where “Maneater” and “One on One” were on heavy rotation.