White Label Wednesday: Daryl Hall & John Oates, “Your Imagination”

Written by Music, White Label

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It’s quite possible that this song is the “Sliding Doors” moment that put me on the musical path that I would ultimately follow.

This is strange, when you consider that “Your Imagination” is the fourth, overlooked single from the band’s 1981 mega-hit Private Eyes album – and the only single of the 13 singles the band released in a four-year span that didn’t crack the Top Ten – but the video for the song featured something that I had never seen or heard before: an extended version of the song. This mix itself is nothing special – it has your typical instrumental build-up and a mix-out point for the DJ – but that hardly mattered. The mix opened up a whole new world of possibilities to me. You mean there are people who take a finished song and then screw around with it? That’s awesome!

I proceeded to spend the rest of my high school years as that kid who took his records, which by then consisted mostly of 12” singles rather than albums, and made his own versions of the songs by hitting ‘pause’ on the tape deck at just the right time. It’s a miracle that I ever managed to kiss a girl before college.

“Your Imagination” is a pretty slinky tune compared to the straight-up pop of “Did It in a Minute” and “Private Eyes.” It’s as if the band had finished recording “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do),” and decided to take it a step further, both in terms of the white boy soul (Shhhhh! Don’t tell Daryl Hall I said that. He thinks it’s a racist term) and the new wave keyboards. In retrospect, I can see why it didn’t do as well as the band’s other singles; it’s just not as accessible, with that unconventional back-and-forth vocal in the chorus (though it features some of John Oates’ finest work, if you axe me), and you just know that the lite rock stations found the rhythm to be too “jarring.” A hilarious notion, given that some of those stations now play “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”

Hall and Oates would go on to use 12” mixes of their tracks for several other videos, including “Family Man,” “Say It Isn’t So,” “Adult Education,” “Method of Modern Love,” and particularly “Out of Touch,” where the band had moved far enough up the remix chain to have their songs mixed by WLW’s all-time favorite, Arthur Baker. (His dub mix of “Out of Touch” is pure batshit crazy genius.) By that time, I was officially down the remix rabbit hole – ask anyone who knew me back then, they’ll tell you, and some of them will use rather strong language – and I stayed there until approximately 1995, when I woke up one day and realized that the scene had left me behind. (Insert Abraham Simpson’s “I used to be ‘with it,’ but then they changed what ‘it’ was” speech here.) Still, it was a pretty good run while it lasted, and I discovered tons of bands that I otherwise would never have heard. Only now do I realize that I have Daryl Hall and John Oates to thank for this. Go figure.

Here’s the video that started it all, for better and for worse.

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Daryl Hall & John Oates – Your Imagination (Extended Version)