‘Everyone kept saying how great it was’: The huge Hall and Oates hit that almost wasn’t

Voices, Hall and Oates’ 1980 breakthrough album, was their most collaborative — a project that found Daryl Hall and John Oates writing and recording together along side their crack new band, with little outside help. They’d even jettisoned their producer.

“We made this record in a very traditional, old-school style,” Oates tells Chris Williams of Wax Poetics. “We had a great band and we were in the studio and we cut tracks.”

That throwback approach took a back seat, however, with “Kiss on My List.” The album’s breakout hit had a completely different genesis, and very nearly didn’t make the final tracklisting for Voices at all — a move that likely would have changed Hall and Oates’ fortunes forever.

“The song ‘Kiss On My List’ came from left field,” Oates admits, calling it a song that Janna Allen came up with. “Daryl, as a favor for her, was going to put it down as a quick demo in the studio — so she would have something for herself, because it was one of the first songs she had ever written. So he went in with a drum machine and piano and actually recorded the song that way. I distinctly remember it wasn’t going to be on the album, because it was just this one little thing that Daryl was doing for Janna.”

The more they listened to “Kiss on My List,” however, the more they liked it. “That demo, when other people started to hear it and our manager heard it, everyone kept saying how great of a song it was and how we should put it on the album,” Oates says. “So, we ended up taking that original demo that Daryl put down with the drum machine and keyboard, and that became the basis of the track. We fleshed out the rest of the track with guitar and vocals. And, obviously it became a big hit.”

The late Allen, who died of leukemia in 1993, would end up playing a huge role in Hall and Oates’ platinum-era — co-writing “Private Eyes,” another No. 1 single, as well as “Did It in a Minute” and “Method of Modern Love,” both of which went Top 10.

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