‘I was like, what is this?’: Opening for David Bowie was memorable for Hall and Oates – sort of

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As Daryl Hall and John Oates worked their way to stardom, there followed the inevitable opening gigs — and the just-as-inevitable opening-gig highlight reel of hilarity. For instance, they once got into a tussle with Ginger Baker (“I guess he didn’t like us,” Oates says), and then there was smoking backstage with Cheech and Chong.

Best of all, though, was playing as a support act for David Bowie’s first American shows, as Oates tells Pat Monahan. This was in 1972, long before Hall and Oates’ ’80s-era breakthrough — heck, even prior to their initial rock experiments with 1974’s War Babies.

“We were in our folk mode,” Oates confirms, “and we didn’t know what he was doing. I had known his previous album [1971’s Hunky Dory], which was a little, kind of folky. And when I saw him backstage, with the shaved eyebrows and the orange hair and the giant platform shoes, I was like, ‘What is this?'”

Things only got weirder later on. “I had made the mistake of taking a Quaaluude,” Oates adds, laughing. “So, I went out in the audience, and I sat down to watch his show. The show started with the theme from 2001 and these strobe lights — and then they came out, as the Spiders from Mars. I had never seen anything like that in my life. It was a totally life-changing experience.”

Understandable. Asked, however, if it was a positive one, Oates can only say: “I think it was; I can’t remember!”

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