John Oates Unveils Mini-Doc on the Making of “Maneater (Reggae Version)”

Written by Peter Burditt

Videos by American Songwriter

John Oates released a reggae remix of the Hall & Oates classic “Maneater” in May. In light of the song’s success and the fans’ curiosity regarding the inspiration and production of the song, Oates shared a mini-documentary on YouTube, which reveals the entire process behind the singles’ construction. 

The song’s origin goes all the way back to the early ’70s when Oates took a trip to Jamaica and fell head over heels with the reggae genre. So much so that Hall & Oates covered the reggae song “Soldering” written by Jamaican musician Stanley Beckford, which they released on their 1975 self-titled album.

Five or so years after the release of the project also referred to as The Silver Album, Hall & Oates came up with the idea for their song “Maneater.” However, the song was never originally intended to take the form of an ’80s pop song. Instead, Oates envisioned the piece as a reggae tune. This creative idea was dismissed, speculatively, due to the fact the song wouldn’t have reached the enormous popularity it did if it didn’t stay within the pop genre. 

Though, after 41 years of sitting on the idea, Oates finally got the opportunity to see his original vision come to fruition. Oates stated in the mini-doc that to create this song, he had “to approach the reggae version of ‘Maneater’ as if [he] was a new artist. As if [he] was not associated with Hall & Oates.” 

In accordance with his mindset, Oates said that he wanted to make the song “fresh again” and also wanted it to “really work with the vibe of the players that were going to be here in the studio.” 

The players Oates is speaking of are Jamaican reggae figures Native Wayne Jobson (producer), Sly Dunbar (drums), Chinna Smith (guitar), Chris Meredith (bass), and Robbie Lyn (keys). All these artists accompanying Oates on the piece have quite the musical track record, as their individual histories include working with numerous reggae acts, including Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Toots and The Maytals, and Lauryn Hill. 

Amidst the musical facts mentioned in the doc, Oates also reveals new information about the song’s lyrics. “The song is really about New York City in the ’80s, a crazy place that would chew you up and spit you out” and not about a “woman…who told a filthy joke in public,” he said. 

After all this time, Oates is just excited to see the project “come full circle and for the first time actually record in Jamaica.” 

Photo Credit: David McLister

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