Category Archives: Feng Shui

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Phunk Shui” by John Oates

Hall & Oates indirectly propagated the first music I remember hearing while in public with their hit “I Can’t Go For That”. John Oates is turning 68 today. He recorded his first single the same year he enrolled at Temple University,where of course he met Daryl Hall. And as for them as a duo,the rest is history. Throughout their decade and a half career peak of being the most commercially successful American duo in rock history,Oates generally only had one or two songs on each of their albums that he sung lead on. While Daryl Hall began a solo career in the mid 1980’s,it would take Oates another 16 years to release his very first solo album,which he entitled Phunk Shui.

Around the time I picked up this album,there was a lot of talk within my family about the Chinese philosophy of Feng Shui. This basically reduces down to harmonizing everyone with their surrounding environment. In that case,it had to do with the structural orientation of doors in our townhouse apartment closing directly onto each other. But seeing the title associated on this John Oates album with the funk music genre,before even hearing the album,reminded me of how much of an effect the energy created by this rhythm based music had on my own spacial orientation. When I finally heard the title song of John Oates album,the whole idea that the title projected completely clicked.

A heavily processed Clavinet sounding keyboard opens the song,before the hit hat kicks in the groove starts right up. The James Brown style rhythm guitar gets going heavy on the refrain. The melody changes up just before the chorus with the organ mixed high while the keyboard sound that opens the song opens up for the choral refrain. Oates sings the song in both the middle,high and bass end of his vocal change. On the bridge of the song,the organ references the descending opening electric sitar of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed,Sealed And Delivered” before going into a rock guitar solo from Oates. This solo continues onward as the chorus repeats to the songs fade.

Considering that live band funk was few and far between from the late 90’s through the 2000’s,this song was a tremendous revelation. It also showcases how important funk was to the success that Hall & Oates had during their late 70’s and early 80’s peak. Songs such as the aforementioned “I Can’t Go For That” and “Method Of Modern Love” both showcase that influence. He mentions P-Funk,Ohio Players,Gap Band and Morris Day as making a huge impact on his sound. Along the way he even brings out how so many contemporary pop acts have neglected funky musicianship just to make money. And that now that “things have gone wrong”,the time has come to relight the funky fire.

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Filed under 2002, drums, Feng Shui, Funk, Hall & Oates, John Oates, keyboards, organ, rhythm guitar, rock guitar, Uncategorized