Change of Seasons: A Memoir
By John Oates with Chris Epting
St. Martin's Press, 400 pp., $29.99
It was the winter of 1990 and John Oates was looking at the man in the mirror in his Tokyo hotel room. He and musical partner Daryl Hall were in the country to play a memorial concert for John Lennon, at Yoko herself's personal invitation. But he was going through a rough patch on all fronts: personal, professional, romantic and financial. It was time for a change, and there was one big way to make it happen.
“I felt like there was something wrong with my face. I stared at myself long. Then I realized what it was: the mustache,” Oates recalls in this book. “It took but a few minutes to shed my past. Down the drain it disappeared. With a few swipes of the blade, the albatross was gone. It felt like a ritualistic cleansing.”
The next day, when Oates saw Hall in an airport, the latter blurted out, half-laughing, “What the fuck did you do?” Oates’s response? “It’s just hair, man” – though hair that graced his upper lip for a quarter of a century!
The “mustache incident” is just a minor part of this wide-reaching memoir, but its former owner has a good sense of humor about it: He gets the joke. I mean, some wag even put the mustache in its own adventure cartoon for awhile.
Oates is up front early on about what this book is and isn’t. It is not a biography on Hall & Oates, which he says itself is a misnomer; they have always actually billed themselves as “Daryl Hall and John Oates,” two separate people. Nor is there a ton about Hall himself.
Change of Seasons is strictly Oates’s journey in life, and not just about music. So in addition, there are chapters on Oates’s travels around the globe as a tourist, various hobbies (skiing, race car driving, tennis and…raising guinea fowls). There’s also a very amusing chapter about his relationship (living and post-mortem) with his across-the-street neighbor in Woody Creek, Colorado – Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.
The reader in turn learns that, while Hall may be the “front man” of the duo, Oates is no…well…Garfunkel, having his hand in much of the songwriting and music of the pair’s career. He also espouses his love of genres not normally associated with him, like blues, folk, country and bluegrass (though those who follow his solo career won’t be as surprised).
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It might also come as a bit of a surprise to the casual fan that, when Hall & Oates (sorry, John) began racking up hit after hit in the 1980s (“Maneater,” “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do),” “Private Eyes,” “Out of Touch” and “You Make My Dreams”), they had already been together for a lot of years, releasing music even prior to the early hits “Sara Smile” and “She’s Gone.” And they had known each other even before partnering up as Philadelphia teens with their own groups, first meeting in a cramped elevator while avoiding a gang fight at a concert they were both playing!
Oates writes that after the pair's huge successes (which included filming videos he really didn't care for), then some lean years and a separation, he is just as surprised as anyone at how Hall & Oates have come back and managed to reliably continue to fill large concert venues like the Woodlands Pavilion in 2015. But as Oates has also pursued a solo career, and his family life is settled, he's a pretty content boy from Philly. And he can go for that.