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Hall & Oates: 5 Songs That Should’ve Been Hit Singles

hall and oates

Over the last four decades, Hall & Oates has sold more than 40 million records thereby making these two the third best-selling duo ever. And with six number one hits and 34 charting tunes, the group has definitely struck a chord with the public…repeatedly. But what did we overlook while sampling from their 18 albums of original music? Are there songs that should’ve been singles that weren’t? The short answer is, of course there are. Below are five hits that could’ve been, dating back to their early days as a pair of rockers from Philly on through Big Bam Boom (1984), which marked the end of their era as consistent chart-toppers.

1. “Fall in Philadelphia” from Whole Oates (1972)
This tune shows off some great piano work and sounds somewhat as if it were a collaboration between Elton John and Little Feat. The song starts with Hall and a simple keyboard riff rooted in the blues then segues directly into a New Orleans jazz hook and a funky chorus that then leads into some oh-so-smooth harmonies. Oates keeps the vibe going on guitar while the lyrics recount the struggles the duo faced getting this first album out: “The shower stall is leakin’ / And the ceiling’s fallin’ in / And I’m getting twenty bills to every letter.” Well that grim reality eventually changed!

2. “Nothing at All” from Daryl Hall and John Oates (1975)
At first this one feels very much akin to “Sara Smile” with that noodling intro of muted guitar and synth strings but when the vocals come in, all that changes. This ballad is pure post-breakup as Hall reminisces about what went wrong. (Or is he simply trying to fool himself into thinking that this relationship itself was “nothing at all”?) Admittedly, “Sara Smile” has a more soulful sound but “Nothing at All” is its perfect complement – a dose of blue-eyed melancholy.

3. “It’s Uncanny” from No Goodbyes (1977)
It’s hard to resist this song from the get-go with those opening R&B horns which immediately detour to a groovalicious hook backed by a climbing bass line. The electric guitar fills sound like something from a Dan Fogelberg throwback and a later six-string solo is simple but effective, a treatment the band would take in future releases. Arguably one of the pair’s most joyous recordings, this piece was intended to celebrate Hall’s girlfriend at the time who had the ability to shock him with just how wonderful she made him feel. Listening to “It’s Uncanny,” you’ll share that feeling of pleasure.

4. “The Woman Comes and Goes” from X-Static (1978)
This backroom-of-the-bar rocker features the syncopated keyboard percussion and the sultry sax that would eventually become H&O’s signature. (In particular, the song really seems to foreshadow that later hit of theirs “Adult Education.”) Hall’s vocals are solid; Oates’ harmonies, sweet. Today, the song can almost sound like a pastiche of the band’s techniques but had they released “The Woman Comes and Goes” as a single back in the day, it’s hard to imagine it not getting major rotation on the radio.

5. “Gotta Lotta Nerve (Perfect Perfect)” from Voices (1980)
Hall’s hair was no stranger to New Wave so it makes sense that their discography would include a Devo-style number that’s a bit doo-wop, a bit reggae crunchy-chord progression. Atypical? Sure. But “Gotta Lotta Nerve” is irresistible fun. Audacious? Yes, that too. But as the song says “We’re talking 16 tons of nerve.” For that alone, this should have charted. Why not? The album had four other top 40 singles including “Kiss on My List” and “You Make My Dreams.”

– Will Wills

Photo credit: Haa & Oates by Andy Lyons/Staff (courtesy Getty Images)


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About

Will Wills — a native-born Italian, raised in the US — does a killer impersonation of Mario (“a-letsa-go!”). Generally, you’ll find him frenetically bouncing between software development at a large US firm, leading a local dance/pop band, playing COD and watching MST3K. Yes, he’s sleep deprived, but you can follow his resulting incoherence at @WillrWills or his band at @WillsAndTheWays or his blog, "A Day in a Monkey's Life," if you’re suffering from insomnia, too.

16 comments on “Hall & Oates: 5 Songs That Should’ve Been Hit Singles

  1. Avatar

    Great pair to write about in your first published article. Way to go Wills!

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    Mike Forster

    This artical, with appreciated attached samples, was well written and eye/ear opening to outline the fact that although I thought I was a H&O fan, I really was not aware of a bulk of their catalog of work. I had not heard any of these songs, having only feasted on their mass hits throughout the 80s, and seeing them in concert twice. Thanks for the revalation Bill.

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      I’ve always liked them and the research proved they’ve always been solid musicians and sure understand harmonies. Thanks for taking a look at it, Mike!

  3. Avatar

    I’ve always love Hall & Oates and you’ve ingited in me a passion to go back through their discography and listen to some of those “deep cuts!” (And what a great contribution Charlie DeChant’s awesome sax work adds to the duo?)

  4. Avatar

    Great article. Love the songs. Always had a soft spot for the sultry sax of the 70s and 80s, so ‘the Woman Comes and Goes’ was my favorite. Hall and Oates are classic. Thank you for mining these gems.

  5. Avatar

    Well, NOW you’ve done it. We’ve gone with you down the Hall and Oates wormhole, listening to long forgotten gems and realizing how much great music they’ve given us! Thanks to Will Wills for the reminder!!!

  6. Avatar

    One of my all time favorite groups. Great article and nice work uncovering some hidden gems. They are still going strong today!

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    Scott Duncan

    I was fortunate to live in Philly in the Pre-H&O days when Daryl, for example, was in a band called Gulliver with Tim Moore (“Second Avenue”). Their first album, Whole Oats, was a favorite of mine when it first came out. John played with a band called Valentine before H&O with a lead singer named Frank Stallone (yep, Sly’s brother).

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    Scott Hawthorn

    Don’t overlook ‘Go Solo.’ It;s stunning.

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    I have been with Hall & Oates since it started and Sara knock my socks off its my favorite and Me and Mrs Jones is also my favorite when Hall &Oates had there series at Darls home I liked that very much to Diane Birch did a good job with the horns. When Johns friend of 30 yrs died that was something he had good thoughts of Diane to I really like the series I never missed and the Golden girls quoted they did not miss a series also so a lot of people love that group.

  10. Avatar

    One song I always liked was The Last Time from Along the Red Ledge album. With George Harrison on the guitar and great harmony, this one should have been a hit

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