Hall & Oates

She's GoneAbandoned Luncheonette
Las Vegas TurnaroundAbandoned Luncheonette
Sara SmileDaryl Hall & John Oates
Rich GirlBigger Than Both Of Us
Do What You Want, Be What You AreBigger Than Both Of Us
I Don't Wanna Lose YouAlong The Red Ledge
Kiss On My ListVoices
You Make My DreamsVoices
I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)Private Eyes
Out Of TouchBig Bam Boom

Hall & Oates photo 1

Daryl Hall & John Oates



Hall & Oates playlist




Contributor: Chris Dodge

I’ve stopped calling the music of Daryl Hall and John Oates a guilty pleasure these days and, instead, I’m happy to declare my admiration for (most of) their songs in recognition of them being one of the most commercially successful duos of all time. The turning point came at a Hall and Oates gig at the Hammersmith Apollo a few years back, when I was delighted to spot the ‘Jesus of Cool’, Nick Lowe, sitting a few seats in front of me. If H&O are good enough for one of the undisputed musical greats then I figured they’re certainly good enough for me. You can be sure I shook Nick’s hand that night and, in that typically awkward exchange between fan and musical icon, informed Mr Lowe just how much his music meant to me!

In Rolling Stone’s top 20 greatest duos of all time, admittedly against stiff competition, Hall and Oates don’t feature. This is fairly typical of their perceived influence and reflects the disdain some critics have for their musical legacy. It’s true that some of their back catalogue is for diehard fans only and the dodgy 80s music videos certainly don’t help their case (see Out of Touch for case in point). Ken McIntyre, writing for Classic Rock in 2018, perhaps captures one of the chief reasons for most critics’ indifference: “Their music did not inspire pain, punishment, lust, arson or depression. Instead, they provided the soundtrack for your best moments: first dates, proms, weddings, anniversaries, anything involving blue skies and warm breezes.”

However, they have seemingly influenced many other musicians and artists alike. Even Michael Jackson himself allegedly told Daryl Hall that he had stolen the bass line for Billie Jean from I Can’t Go For That. Perhaps even more surprising, the duo also appears to have a significant following in the rap scene with their songs being regularly sampled. For further evidence, check out the intriguing variety of artists (see clips below) who have appeared on Live From Daryl’s House and performed unique versions of I Can’t Go For That with Daryl and his band:




As for me, like many of my early vinyl purchases, I came across an album of theirs by chance, outside the local music shop, being sold for less than half price as part of a clearance sale. The record was Private Eyes. I liked the cover but at that point hadn’t heard their music. The album had done well in the UK, reaching number 8 in the charts, largely on the strength of I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) which hit the same position in the Singles chart. And, by now, the duo was a massive success in the States, thanks to a string of successful singles from the excellent Voices album but the UK was much slower to catch on and, despite another successful follow up with H2O, the Brits never really fully embraced their music beyond Private Eyes and H2O.

Personally, the more I delved into their back catalogue, the more I was drawn to their early 70s records when they were developing their own unique mix of R&B, Philly soul, rock and other elements. The 80s albums contained some fine music but at times were overshadowed by the glossier, slicker and bombastic musical trends of the day. Few can argue with the fact that Hall and Oates have written some classic songs through the decades including the aforementioned I Can’t Go For That, Rich Girl, Sara Smile and possibly their best ever song She’s Gone. In recent years, Daryl Hall appears to be downplaying John Oates’ contributions, however my personal favourites are their relatively infrequent co-writes (such as She’s Gone) or where Oates’ vocals are more prominent. There’s no doubting that Hall has a fine, soulful voice and this is wisely utilised to maximum effect on their most well-known singles, but Oates is an underrated singer and songwriter in his own right.

According to John Oates’ autobiography “Change Of Seasons”, She’s Gone originated from a refrain he had created, the lyrics reflecting how he had been stood up on a recent date. Hall then added the classic alternating chord riff with the pedaled bass note on a Wurlitzer electric piano which formed the intro and verse to the song. This was the defining moment in their musical partnership. Their classic 70s album Abandoned Luncheonette followed on the Atlantic record label with the legendary Arif Mardin producing and adding brilliant string and horn arrangements. Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song) is based on a Philly-style chord progression and a great example of Oates’ songwriting contribution at a time when their partnership was on an equal footing. In his memoir, John Oates disputes being a duo and instead describes the pair as being “two creative individuals with mutual respect for each other’s artistic skills”; he points to the fact that all their albums always refer to them as ‘Daryl Hall and John Oates’ rather than ‘Hall and Oates’ in order to make the distinction clear. Noticeably in recent years and over the last few spasmodic albums in the 2000s (they haven’t released anything new since their Christmas album in 2006), Daryl Hall has been much the dominant force. Musical collaborations have extended beyond the duo and have included successful ‘hit-writers’ of the era. However, this hasn’t particularly brought any further recognition or record sales. As a result, the pair seem content on touring the greatest hits with a few choice deep cuts spasmodically added to the set-list essentially giving the loyal audience what they mostly have come to hear. Their shows are slick, tight and lean thanks to the quality of musicians accompanying them.

As far as this playlist goes, most of their well-known songs are included, although there’s a few notable exceptions in favour of a couple of classic album tracks or relatively unsuccessful singles, namely Do What You Want, Be What You Are and I Don’t Wanna Lose You. I could have easily filled the playlist with more tracks from two of my favourites: Abandoned Luncheonette or the Silver Album, or even dipped into their decidedly more adventurous records such as War Babies or Beauty On A Back Street, both of which I’m very partial to. No room therefore for Maneater, Private Eyes or One On One on this occasion.


Their last great single in my opinion, Out Of Touch, is rightfully included though (despite the video), which should have been a sizeable hit in the UK (having made number one in the States). The best of their 90s input is Marigold Sky released in 1997, which contains some fine songs but barely dented the top 100 in the States. Therefore, the pair are destined to be a nostalgia act for many. For me, Daryl Hall and John Oates are an important addition to Toppermost and deserve a deeper dive for the curious or sceptical.





Hall & Oates official website

Hall & Oates discography

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Hall and Oates

John Oates on 50 years with Daryl Hall (GQ 2021)

Hall & Oates biography (AllMusic)

Having discovered With The Beatles in his parents’ record collection at the tender age of 7, Chris become an avid music fan and his musical tastes are eclectic to say the least although a sizeable portion of his records are from the 1980s to mid-1990s when he didn’t have a family to spend his money on. Chris is on twitter @chjdod.

TopperPost #1,041


  1. Sean Farrell
    Oct 4, 2022

    This is a very good article about H&O. I can’t disagree with any of it. The only thing I’d say is I think Michael Jackson used the whole vibe of I Can’t Go for That to write Billie Jean and not just the bassline. (The basslines are actually different from each other.) I’d have probably found room for a non-hit from Private Eyes or H2O which are brimming with good songs. Go Solo is fab. But that’s a personal thing. Thanks, Chris.

    • Chris Dodge
      Oct 4, 2022

      Thanks Sean. You’re absolutely right. The two songs certainly share the same groove if not identical bass lines. Apparently the conversation took place during the recording of We are the World and, according to John Oates’ autobiography, Jackson said he also enjoyed dancing to No Can Do in his bedroom and was heavily influenced by the track for Billie Jean. So, I’ll take that to mean that Hall and Oates were also partly reasonable for Jackson’s impressive dance routines! Shame they didn’t pick up any tips from the Thriller video otherwise their own videos may have been a whole lot better.

  2. Alex Lifson
    Oct 7, 2022

    Great article Chris. I too, have always been a fan. More so of the early music rather than the “poppy” material. If I had to add a song to the list, It would be Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid. A rather “heavy” track for them but one that shows that they could go in that direction, should they choose.

  3. Chris Dodge
    Oct 8, 2022

    Thanks Alex. It’s always fascinating which tracks outside the obvious hits resonate with different people. Quite partial to songs from Big Bam Boom but, like you, tend to listen to their 70s output much more these days.

  4. David Lewis
    Oct 18, 2022

    Hall and Oates are superb songwriters and the songs are of the highest musicianship. Nice list.

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