Parting Shots: Daryl Hall (Relix Revisited)
From the June 2010 Relix, anticipating his Bonnaroo appearance…
Daryl Hall and Chromeo
One might think, at 63 years old with 29 Top 40 hits under his belt alongside musical partner John Oates, Daryl Hall might be resting on his laurels. Instead he’s challenging himself more than ever with his web-based show Daryl’s House which sees Hall working with musicians ranging from KT Tunstall to Chromeo (the latter of which he’ll take the stage with at this year’s Bonnaroo for a special one-off performance). Here, Hall reflects on his early days, solo career and upcoming collaborations.
While The Righteous Brothers were the first act to be labeled as blue-eyed soul, it was a term often used to describe you and John early on. Did you ever find that term problematic?
American music has always been this thing of interplay between African and European influences. That’s the core of American music, the way it goes back and forth on both sides is where the vitality is. Some people do it better than other people, and that confused people every once and a while. People like The Righteous Brothers early on— they were singing real soul music. They didn’t know what label to put on that and put— what I thought—was a racist label. Which implies there’s something weird about it—blue-eyed soul—it’s a term I’ve always been uncomfortable with. You don’t call someone a brown-eyed opera singer if they’re a diva in opera and they happen to be black.
In general, were your records with John Oates albums or collections of songs?
Always albums. I have never made an album, nor has John, that wasn’t a conceptual piece. It’s better to be listened to in the order we put it in. We tell stories. And the way we lay the songs out, and the secession of songs, really has a lot to do with how we’re thinking and how we’re feeling. Never was it just about writing individual songs and sticking them together.
Your first solo album Sacred Songs was recorded in 1977 with Robert Fripp and RCA didn’t want to release it. You and Fripp gave it directly to journalists and DJs who drummed up support for its eventual release in 1980.
We felt very strongly about it. It wasn’t the first time or the last time that I ran up against the establishment. I became indie early on. I was one of the first large selling artists to voluntarily go indie and tell the record companies to go fuck themselves.
Fripp has speculated that if Sacred Songs had been released in 1977, during the height of the punk rock zeitgeist, it likely would have positioned you as an innovator akin to David Bowie.
I agree with his assessment. That was part of our frustration. We knew what we did. There were certain writers like Roy Trakin and some other people like David Wild, people who I still know actually, who were big champions of this record and helped us out and wrote about us where and whenever they could. But the machine, especially in those days, was not geared up to accept this from me. They wanted “Rich Girl 2,” which is okay, too. I was prepared to do that, but in another format. I was doing what I was doing, but whoever said the record companies had any brains?
For the Chromeo set you’re doing at Bonnaroo, can we expect an expanded setlist from the Daryl’s House performance?
That’s exactly it. We’re going to try to really recreate that feeling we had in the room in front of a lot of people which is hard to do. But we’re going to try and keep that vibe as much as we can. It will be a lot of the songs we did on that show and of course we want to expand on that too because we have a longer set. We’re going to do a little rehearsing, but I don’t want to over rehearse it. We want to leave room for whatever happens.
Of all your Daryl’s House collaborations thus far, what musician pushed you the most musically?
I’ve been pushed in so many directions, I don’t think I can give you one person. The latest one with Toots Hibbert—he pushed us in the craziest direction because he started playing songs at random that we didn’t even know. If that’s not pushing you, I don’t know what is. And musically, oddly enough, Company of Thieves. They have very intricate music.
Is there anything on the horizon for Daryl’s?
I’m reuniting the ‘80s Hall and Oates band, among other people, and we’re going to do a day of T-Bone, all of his favorite songs. After that we’ve been talking to a couple of people—Ben Folds and Animal Collective want to come on the show. [ Ed note: Hall’s longtime friend and musical right-hand Tom “T-Bone” Wolk died of a heart attack in February. ]
Hall and Oates is the most successful duo in history but no Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nod. Does it matter to you?
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to me is a remnant of another generation of journalism and it represents things that don’t exist any more. [The Rock Hall] is dead and they don’t know it; I call them the zombie nation. Their way of thinking, what they consider to be valuable or important, is not what the world is about any more. Their egos are so big they don’t understand that.
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