Almost Hits: Hall and Oates, “Your Imagination” (1982)

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This is the nexus point, for me, when Hall and Oates finally reached everything they had been grasping for in trying to blend their core R&B vibe with the too-cool nihilism of new wave.

True, “Your Imagination” only got to No. 33 in America and just No. 45 in the UK — a deflating end to a string of Top 10 hits spawned from 1981’s Private Eyes, highlighted by chart-toppers in the title track and “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).” Really, though, “Did It In a Minute” (the album’s third single) had already signaled a slow down in the buying public’s fervor, stalling at No. 9.

Still, “Your Imagination” — an idiosyncratic deep cut about romantic paranoia, with a coiled, almost insectile synth-laden guitar signature — may have been the most interesting of them all. Perfectly pompadoured, yet still gritty and true, Daryl Hall displays this canny ability to blend Philly-crooner sensuousness with a smart Reagan-era detachment.

That sound — introduced with John Oates on 1980’s Voices and brilliantly expanded upon here — was their own.

As Hall and Oates continued tinkering with their band, they finally got the mixture just right here, too: “Your Imagination” combined a chugging bass cadence courtesy of the late T-Bone Wolk, who was making his debut with the band; another too-smooth sax turn by Charles DeChant (also featured in “I Can’t Go For That” then “Maneater,” among others), and a nasty little riff from guitarist G.E. Smith — who completely took over this song in a live setting.

Together, they helped push Private Eyes toward a pinnacle for Hall and Oates, both in terms of influence and in terms of MTV-period innovation. “Your Imagination” is a still-underrated blueprint for their turn-of-the-1980s aspirations, distilled into a moment of ear-wormy perfection.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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