'80s stars Hall & Oates back in spotlight

Sun Mar 28, 2010 7:31pm EDT
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By Ann Donahue

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - When Greg Kurstin, half of esoteric Los Angeles pop duo the Bird and the Bee, speaks of Hall & Oates, it's in a reverent tone usually reserved for devout believers meeting a major religious figure.

"'One on One' is the perfect song with the perfect production," he says with unblinking earnestness. "I strive for that level of greatness every day."

On March 23, Kurstin and bandmate Inara George released their homage to the pair, "Interpreting the Masters Volume I: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates," on Blue Note. It's the latest example of the unlikely pop-culture resurgence for the fourth-best-selling duo of all time (13 million albums shipped, according to the Recording Industry Association of America).

In the past two years, Hall & Oates' music, which peaked chart-wise during the first term of the Reagan White House, has been featured in everything from tastemaking films like "(500) Days of Summer" to taste-questionable outlets like QVC. The driving force behind the resurgence is twofold: the giddiness of 30-something nostalgics like George and Kurstin, and the willingness of Daryl Hall, 63, and John Oates, 61, to connect with these fans in the free-flowing back-and-forth of today's media world.

Jonathan Wolfson has been the band's publicist for five years; he took over as their manager in 2009. He remembers being a teenager in New York, sitting in the nosebleed seats and thrilling to Hall & Oates performing "Maneater" live. Now, Hall & Oates are his sole clients, and he navigates opportunities for exposure for the act from a two-story, peach-colored strip mall in the west San Fernando Valley.

"Daryl and John allowed me to push on their behalf," he says. "A lot of the bands get in the way of themselves. I feel like I work with them -- obviously, I work for them -- but I feel like I work with them."


Oates, for one, is appreciative of how the duo's music is branching out into everything from film to online animation; it stands as a comeuppance to those who once questioned the relevance of their music. "We were not in the cool club with the rock press," he says. "But in the end, it's the songs that stand the test of time -- they've been covered, sampled, and there's a generation of creative people who grew up with our music."   Continued...

<p>Daryl Hall (L) and John Oates of the duo Hall &amp; Oates perform after receiving the BMI Icons award at the Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) Annual Pop Awards in Beverly Hills, California May 20, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>