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Hall & Oates Have to Choose From Their Many Hits

John Oates of legendary pop duo Hall & Oates isn’t shy to admit his group’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was way overdue.

The duo had been eligible for induction since 1997.

“It wasn’t like Daryl (Hall) and I were losing sleep over this,” Oates says. “It was what it was, and I learned in life you can’t worry about stuff you can’t do anything about. A small group of guys get in a room and make decisions based on their personal tastes.

“It has nothing to do with anything.”

Oates, who has traditionally handled guitar, backing vocals and songwriting with Hall, points out many artists who have had tremendous influence on American popular music who haven’t been inducted yet.

“You can’t get involved with the political stuff,” he says, especially after realizing that the duo was the only act to be inducted from Philadelphia. “That’s crazy. Philadelphia has an unbelievable music tradition going back to the early days. All I can say is it’s not very representative of reality.”

That said, he still is happy with last month’s recognition, and he was especially happy when the induction ceremony was over.

“My favorite part of the night was leaving — getting in the car and getting out of there,” he says. “It was a long, long night — ridiculously long night. And we sat there. Everybody gets their due and deserves their moment, but the speeches went on and on. Me and Daryl got up there, and our speech didn’t last five minutes.”

The soulful duo has the nice problem of having too many hits to choose from in concert, including Sara Smile, One on One, Private Eyes, You Make My Dreams, Kiss on My List and, of course, I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).

And there’s Oates’ personal favorite, She’s Gone. He says that song is always at the top of his list.

“It’s a song we wrote together in the early ’70s, and we play it every night and it still sounds good,” he says. “Something about that song brings it all together.”

The show’s not complete without doing that.”

The two are proud that their hits have stood the test of time, though they reinvent them in subtle ways in concert.

“The songs have evolved,” Oates says. “There’s a lot of stuff going on in there that’s not like the record. But there’s certain key elements you keep in there. We take ‘Sara Smile’ and do something at the end where we stretch. ‘No Can Do’ has become a jam session. We let the musicians stretch - do things like that to keep it contemporary.”

They switch up some of their lesser-known songs so “a show in St. Louis may be different from the show in Cincinnati, though not a lot. It keeps us on our toes.”

Some of those songs include “Las Vegas Turnaround,” “When the Morning Comes,” “It’s a Laugh,” “Alone Too Long” and “How Does It Feel to be Back.”

What won’t make the cut is their respective solo work, which includes Oates’ latest album “Good Road to Follow.”

“We both have solo careers, and we keep the solo projects completely separate and I think that’s a good thing,” he says. “I do solo shows all the time, and we have plenty of outlets for our individual stuff. But when we get together it’s all Hall & Oates.”

Oates’ latest album features a collaboration with Vince Gill, Ryan Tedder of One Republic, Bekka Bramlett, Hot Chelle Rae and others.

“I wanted to make some original music,” he says. “I hadn’t done it in quite a while. I had some great ideas and wanted to reach out to people I knew I wanted to work with and people I didn’t know and wanted to work with.”

He started releasing songs digitally as singles, leading to the full album. “The thought of an album was an afterthought,” he says.

“Good Road to Follow” is broken down into three EPs with five songs on each.

“You’ll hear elements that will remind you of Hall & Oates, but I’ve been exploring my roots prior to meeting Daryl,” he says of sounds that include folk, blues and early rock ‘n’ roll.”

Oates had to grow into this role as frontman handling lead vocals.

“It took me a couple of albums to pinpoint where I felt comfortable.”

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©2014 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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