John Oates on shaving off his iconic mustache: 'It symbolized the person I didn't want to be'

John Oates, one half of the musical duo Hall & Oates, has just written a memoir. Entitled "Change of Seasons," it chronicles his rise to fame with Daryl Hall and his burnout from fame. The "Private Eyes" singer, 68, now lives in Colorado with his wife and son. He spoke to Fox News about his book:

Fox News: You write about shaving your iconic mustache. Was that a hard thing to do?
John Oates: Not really! Think about this crazy life. You spend your life in a hotel room in a different city every day where you really don’t have much contact with the outside world, get picked up by a limousine, you get taken to a venue, you don’t see anyone, you get thrown out on the stage, you play the show, you go back to the hotel.

So you end up looking in the mirror a lot. And the more I looked in the mirror, the more the mustache began to look funny to me in a weird way and I began to trim the mustache. Finally one day I just shaved it off. I said, ‘I can’t be this guy anymore.’ It symbolized the person I didn’t want to be. It was kind of a first step in the process to transform my life.


Fox News: You really had a rock star lifestyle: the cars, the plane, houses, apartments.
John Oates: I had two planes! Look at Justin Bieber! He probably buys a car every day.

Fox News: And you gave it all up and moved to Colorado.
Oates: I totally started over again. I reimagined my life as what it could be and I knew if I stayed on the same path that I would just stay in the same place and I had to start over again. It was almost like a shedding of the skin, a real rebirth. I went to nothing. I rode the bus, I rode my bicycle for two years and I started a family, built a house and had a real life.

You have to understand something: I was on the road from the time I graduated college in 1970 until 1986 without ever stopping. Not once. The only time I stopped was to write some songs, record an album and then go right back on the road. I never had a real life. I had a protracted adolescence of sorts where you can just [act] like a completely irresponsible teenager even though you’re in your 30s. It doesn’t matter. Everyone was there to allow you to indulge in your weakness, whatever it was. If it was drugs it was drugs, if it was girls it was girls. Whatever it was it doesn’t matter. And this whole infrastructure is around you to allow you to indulge yourself in whatever you want to do.

Fox News: It must have been scary to give that all up.
Oates: I think it was actually brave on my part if I have to pat myself on the back. I think it had a lot to do with my lower middle-class upbringing and my parents. I think in the end I reverted back to being somewhat sensible and I didn’t want to go down in flames. I wanted to live a real life. As most people sit around and fantasize about being rock stars, I sat around and fantasized about being a regular person.

Fox News: The most shocking part of the book is that you found out you were broke in 1986 after selling 80 million records. How is that possible?
Oates: I know it’s shocking, but what happens is artistic personalities tend to not want to be bogged down with business and the intricacies and the hassles of the crazy details involved in the music business. So they tend to find people who are surrogate father figures in a way who say, ‘Let me take care of this crap for you and you guys go out there and party and get laid and have fun and be pop stars.’ And it’s very easy really to just do that. And when you do there is always [someone] there ready to take advantage of that situation. It’s as simple as that.

What happens is this ...if you’re having success go up the record labels and say, ‘Hey we’re having all this success, tons of money coming in over time but we don’t want to wait for it, we want it now.’

So basically they give you a large cash advance upfront and they get the rights to collect the royalties as they dribble in. When you’re operating a business and you’re trying to go on tour and you have immediate costs, you have to pay the band, crew. You have to keep people on retainer, all these things you need cash for so of course they gave us the cash and we spent it.

We spent it on our own careers but we also spent it on houses and cars and girls and a million other things. So then when the hits stop and you have already spent the cash, sure there’s money dribbling in but it’s also going into the recored company’s coffers as opposed to yours.


Fox News: It’s pretty rare that you guys stayed together and don’t hate each other.
Oates: We don’t hate each other. It’s funny, we’re very different as people but where we have our commonalities is in the music. We have the same drive, the same artistic sensibilities. We respect each other in terms of our lifestyle differences but there’s a thing that happens musically when we’re together that you can’t replicate.

Fox News: And finally, favorite Hall & Oates song?
Oates: I would say 'She’s Gone' because it was the song that started it all for us, but I have so many favorites. We have so many hits and it’s an incredible thing that we can [come] out and play these songs and they seem to have lasted and many of them sound as good today as they did 30 years ago. I’m just very proud of the legacy we created.