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You Can't Do That

The history of this classic Beatles song


The original US 45 of

The original US 45 of "You Can't Do That"

source: ebay.com

You Can't Do That

Written by: John Lennon (100%) (credited as Lennon-McCartney)
Recorded: February 25, 1964 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: February 26, 1964, March 10, 1964
Length: 2:33
Takes: 9
Musicians: John Lennon: lead vocal, rhythm guitar (1964 Rickenbacker 325)
Paul McCartney: backing vocal, bass guitar (1961 Hofner 500/1)
George Harrison: backing vocal, lead guitar (Rickenbacker "Fire-glo" 360-12)
Ringo Starr: drums (Ludwig), cowbell, bongos
First released: March 16, 1964 (US: Capitol 5150), March 20, 1964 (UK: Parlophone R5114) (b-side to "Can't Buy Me Love")
Available on: (CDs in bold)
  • A Hard Day's Night, (UK: Parlophone PMC 1230; PCS 3058, Parlophone CDP 7 46437 2, US: United Artists UAL 3366; UAS 6366)
  • The Beatles Second Album, (US: Capitol (S)T 2080, Capitol CDP 7243 8 66877 2 2)
  • Along with "I Call Your Name" (from a British EP and the American Beatles' Second Album) and the title track of A Hard Day's Night, this song completes John's "cowbell trilogy," three songs with very similar rhythms, subject matter, and liberal use of the cowbell. (Other Beatles songs use cowbell, but these three are of a piece.)
  • This was the first Beatles song to hint at the anger and frustration, and not just the sadness, that love can cause, making it an important precursor to later Lennon-penned songs like "Run For Your Life" and "Girl." The anger in lines like "I'm gonna let you down and leave you flat" was previously rare in pop music and largely found in blues. Since John wrote this as a 12-bar blues, the lyrical tone is appropriate.
  • "You Can't Do That" originally had a concert scene devoted to it in the film A Hard Day's Night, but the bitterness in the lyrics led to it being excised from the final cut; notice that most of the songs in the film are geared to present the Fab Four as loving and attentive boyfriends.
  • This record boasts three instrumental firsts for the Beatles: John's first lead (and solo) on record, George's first 12-string guitar track, and Ringo's first use of cowbell.
Live versions: April 26, 1964 (New Musical Express Poll Winner's Concert, London), August 21, 1964 (Seattle Coliseum, Seattle, WA), August 22, 1964 (Empire Stadium, Vancouver, BC), August 23, 1964 (Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA), September 2, 1964 (Convention Hall, Philadelphia, PA), September 3, 1964 (State Fair Coliseum, Indianapolis, IN), September 18, 1964, (Dallas Memorial Auditorium, Dallas, TX)
BBC radio versions: 6 (for the BBC radio programs From Us To You, Top Gear, and Saturday Club)
  • George Martin overdubbed a piano track to Take 9 on May 22, 1964, ostensibly for the album version of this song, but it was never used.
  • Although John Lennon later characterized this track as being like a Wilson Pickett song, he seems to have been speaking in retrospect, as Pickett had not begun creating singles like this at the time.
  • Harry Nilsson covered this song (with John's blessing) on his solo debut Pandemonium Shadow Show, but took the opportunity to introduce lines from twenty other Beatles songs into the lyrics.
Covered by: Booker T. and the MGs, Ian Gomm, Harry Nilsson, The Standells, The Supremes, Vanilla Fudge, Bob Welch
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