10 Underrated Hall and Oates Songs

Saturday, November 05, 2016

I love Daryl Hall and John Oates. Gosh, it feels refreshingly easy for me to say that today.

Believe it or not, it wasn't easy being a teen fan of Hall and Oates in the '80s. Yes, it should have been a piece of cake during their heyday, with so many catchy, easily charting hits such as "Private Eyes", "Kiss On My List", "Say It Isn't So", "Did It In A Minute", "I Can't Go For That", "Maneater", "Out of Touch", and countless others.

Yes, it should have been. Except I was 12 years old when my infatuation started, and I went to a junior high where it was all about how "cool" you were by the brand names of clothing that you wore, and the music that you listened to.

And for some reason, Daryl Hall and John Oates weren't cool in my peers' eyes...and even by family members, for that matter.

My classmates teased me, my sisters said that they were gay, and even my friends at the time (who were into Duran Duran and Tears for Fears) thought they were lame by comparison. Recently I stumbled upon a Rolling Stone interview with them at the time Big Bam Boom was released, and the reporter opens the piece by describing the unintentionally amusing questions that viewers called in for them during a MTV program. Every single one sounded like it came directly from one of my nitwit peers back in the day:

"Are you guys fags?"
"Why are you dressing like you're into punk these days?"
"How did you make the drums (in the "Out of Touch" video) so big?"

Needless to say, I believe that Hall and Oates never got the proper respect in some circles that they deserved back in the day. Part of that may have been because their music wasn't so easy to categorize. Were they pop artists? Rock? Soul? Easy listening? All of the above, in my opinion.

And also freaking awesome!

It's now been more than 40 years since I fell in love with Daryl Hall and his "blue eyed soul" voice, face, and musical talent...and John Oates' humorous sidekick camera hamming (and his musical talent as well.) And I think I still love them and their music just as much as ever before. As I binged my way recently through every music video that I remembered (and some I had never seen) I swear I could feel my vibration rise...those feel-good endorphins kicking in. Suddenly I'm a young teen again, and I'm waving my H&O freak flag proudly.

(By the way, my crush ended when Daryl grew out his hair into an overgrown, badly permed mullet by 1985. When he came out on stage at the 1985 Liberty concert sporting the 'do as well as tight pants, I felt that he was trying to emulate David Lee Roth or somebody. I much preferred the Daryl from the early '80s with the blazers, sideburns, and shorter pompadour hairstyle. My, but he was dreamy back in those days. Whenever I heard "Kiss On My List" I pretended he was singing about me.)

Where was I? Oh, right -- respect. How can anyone diss a band where G.E. Smith is the lead guitarist??? Or that has the coolest sax player that is STILL with the band? (Something I learned during my trip down memory lane: Charles "Mr. Casual" Dechant doesn't appear in a single H&O music video without wearing sunglasses.) My favorite line-up of this group is always going to be these guys, plus the late Tom "T-Bone" Wolk on bass and Michael Curry on drums.

I also want to set one thing straight, because it's been bothering me for all of these years: Daryl Hall and John Oates are NOT gay. Sure, Daryl had that androgynous look for a while during the '70s (he even appears wearing a dress and high heeled sandals in the promotional video for "She's Gone" -- look up this odd gem of a video sometime.) And yes, the guys allowed themselves to be made up in make-up for their fourth studio album simply titled "Daryl Hall and John Oates." (Hall later said he resembled the type of woman he wanted to date.)

I hate to burst the naysayers' bubbles, but Hall has been married twice -- and was in a long-term relationship with Sara Allen (yep, the woman that "Sara Smile" was written for--and who also co-wrote many of the band's hits) for nearly 30 years. (He also cheated on her which resulted in him becoming a father, which I'll get to in a minute.) Oates is still married to his second wife. Whenever the gay question came up in interviews, Hall would respond that Oates just wasn't his type--too short and dark.

Speaking of Oates, it was a shock to see him sans mustache eventually in his career. (Not to worry; his facial hair lived on in a cartoon dedicated to his trademark, called "J-Stache.")

I could go on and on about my love for H&O, but this blog post is about ten songs of theirs that I would consider underrated...songs of theirs that should have charted higher or simply have never received any radio play...and there are many, stretching back to Whole Oats, their debut album. (Joke time...what did these guys do before they were famous? They were truck drivers...hauling oats! Ba da bump!)

Las Vegas Turnaround (1973)

"Sara Smile" wasn't the first song H&O wrote about Sara Allen; she also appeared in "Las Vegas Turnaround", a breezy little tune about her adventures at the time as an airline stewardess.

"Back Together Again" (1976)

A groovy lost tune from the disco era and the Bigger Than Both Of Us album, this one reached #28 on the U.S. music charts. I love the juxtaposition of Hall's falsetto with Oates' vocals (Oates also takes full credit on the writing honors for this one.) To the best of my knowledge I have NEVER heard this one on the radio which defies logic.

"It's a Laugh" (1979)

We've all been here.

"Intravino" (1979)

Other than the depressing "Red Red Wine", how many pop songs do you know that sing the virtues of the grape-derived alcohol? Given how prevalent wine tours and drinking has become over the past 15 years or so, this song seems ahead of its time -- and has a great, fast pulsed New Wave sound to it.

"Every Time You Go Away" (1980)

Better than Paul Young's cover, in my opinion, with a gospel-like sound to it. This appeared on Voices.

"Your Imagination" (1981)

Remember when Daryl Hall and John Oates showed up at your work's office building to film a music video? Me neither, but this overlooked gem that appeared on the highly successful Private Eyes album failed to go high on the charts for some reason.

I'm guessing that Hall wrote this, again, about Sara Allen. He admitted to having flings to People magazine, stating that he often had to deal with his girlfriend's "traumas." Allen's suspicions were well-founded: in 1983, Hall had a one-night stand with an 18 year-old fan after a concert which resulted in her getting pregnant. Now in his 30s, Hall's son says his father, sadly, won't have much to do with him despite being proven his biological parent with a DNA test. The mother says the band's crew would regularly pull good looking girls from the audience at shows to meet the guys backstage--she compared the room she waited in as the cattle call area.

I was kind of disappointed to learn that Hall and Oates resorted to this kind of behavior...but such is the life of a rock star, especially once they make it big, I guess.

"Family Man" (1982)

Yes, this song WAS a hit--albeit a bit of a lost one in my opinion--and I've always felt the guitar licks by G.E. Smith and Oates in this one were under appreciated.

"Possession Obsession" (1984)

I love this track from the Big Bam Boom album. The message is still relevant today, and it's always nice to hear Oates take the reins and sing lead. If I remember correctly, it deserved more radio time and a higher place on the charts.

"Bank On Your Love" (1984)

Also from Big Bam Boom, this sexy rocker with just the right amount of country twang is probably one of the duo's least known songs and really shows their versatility. I can think of a multitude of other artists that could have covered it but to the best of my knowledge, no one's ever touched it, although Billy Gibbons did a nice version of it with Hall on Live From Daryl's House.

"Do It For Love" (2003)

As some people may remember, Hall and Oates split up in 1985 to pursue solo projects. They reconciled and recorded a new album in 1988, but I've always felt a bit of the gold they struck with their '70s and '80s' hits was lost. "Do It For Love", though, which was released in 2003, seemed to retain some of that magic but updated for the new millennium.

I'm going to remain a Daryl Hall and John Oates fan 'til the day I die. What underrated or favorite tracks would you add to my list?


  1. I kinda had the same attitude about Hall and Oates as you did back then. They represented "pop music", which I professed to despise, because back then I was too cool for school, at least in my own mind. But I secretly liked them, and regarded them as a guilty pleasure, like Abba.
    Now I'm perfectly okay with liking their music! One of my personal favorites is "Some Things are Better Left Unsaid." And that girl in the video for "Adult Education" just knocks me out. Yow.
    Great post! I had forgotten about "It's a Laugh'! Great song. I'm gonna have check that out on the U-Tubes.

    1. I never understood the video for "Adult Education." I assume someone was influenced by Raiders of the Lost Ark for that one. I guess not everything from the '80s needs an explanation.

  2. Thank you. I always thought Daryl Hall's reading of "Every Time You Go Away," left Paul Young's in the dust. Loved the gospel feel, too.

    "Your Imagination" should have gotten more love, too.

  3. OH my goodness! How have you missed "Open All Night" all these years? It was a side B for one of the hits off H2O- I think Maneater. I worked at a small out of the way bar during the slow hours so often listened to the b sides on the jukebox. This was one that I got other folks to play and like. We actually campaigned to get out local radio station to play and they did all of one time- at something like 2 o'clock in the morning. lol

    1. Because the list was only for 10 songs. :) "Wait For Me" is another one I would include.

  4. My gateway song to H&O was their cover of You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling.

    1. A lot of fans prefer their version over The Righteous Brothers.


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