Day 271: “You Can’t Do That”

When was it recorded?   Feb. 25 (and May 22), 1964

When was it first released, and on which album?   Mar. 20, 1964 as the B-side to “Can’t Buy Me Love” (later on “A Hard Day’s Night”)

Who wrote it?   Lennon

Have I heard this song before?   Yes

What my research dug up:

According to the Beatles Bible, “Lennon’s autobiographical lyrics show the jealousy and possessiveness he felt towards women at the time. The music, meanwhile, was based around blues changes and US soul and R&B.” Specifically John cited Wilson Pickett as inspiration, although Richie Unterberger pointed out Pickett had only recently (at that time) begun recording songs under his own name and wondered if the inspiration was more retroactive on John’s side of thing.

As Alan Pollack wrote, “Generally speaking, “You Can’t Do That” foreshadows a heavier, harder-rocking sound for the group that would infiltrate an increasingly large portion of their repertoire over the next couple or three albums. …It’s tough, tense, and jumping out of its skin with an off-beat attitude and a matching list of colloquial phrases rarely heard if ever, in a pop song of the time.”

The Fab Four recorded nine takes (though only four were complete) of “You Can’t Do That” on Feb. 25, 1964. Take Six appeared on “Anthology 1” in 1995.

The song was completed the same day, the first song to be completed before filming for “A Hard Day’s Night” began, according to Wikipedia. It’s also worth noting that “You Can’t Do That” features John on the lead guitar and George on his (then new) 12-string Rickenbacker guitar.

“You Can’t Do That” appeared as the B-side to the “Can’t Buy Me Love” single (released Mar. 16 in the US and Mar. 20 in the UK) before appearing on the album “A Hard Day’s Night.” As a B-side, it charted at #1 in the UK and #48 in the US.

Quoth the Beatles Bible, “On 22 May 1964, after ‘You Can’t Do That’ had already been released, George Martin overdubbed a piano track onto the song [arguably for the album version of the song]. It was never used.”

Perhaps the most famous factoid about “You Can’t Do That” is that it originally appeared in the film “A Hard Day’s Night.” The song was selected for the closing concert at the Scala Theatre, and the scene was filmed Mar. 31, 1964. A clip of the scene was used to promote the film on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on May 24… and the song was then excised completely from the movie. The scene wasn’t officially released until 1994’s documentary “The Making of ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’”

An instrumental version of the song also appeared in the film “Help!”

“You Can’t Do That” fared better in the Beatles’ live repertoire. According to my sources it was typically the second song performed during their live shows in North America and Australia. The Fab Four also performed it at the New Musical Express Pollwinners’ Concert (Apr. 26, 1964) and on TV show “Blackpool Night Out” (Jul. 19 July).

Also also also, the Beatles recorded “You Can’t Do That” four times for BBC Radio.

  1.   Feb. 28, 1964 for “From Us to You” (aired Mar. 30)
  2.   Mar. 31 for “Saturday Club” (aired Apr. 4)
  3.   May 1 for “From Us to You” (aired May 18)
  4.   Jul. 14 for “Top Gear” (aired Jul. 16)

Surprisingly, none of these appeared on 1994’s “Live at the BBC.” The final version did appear on last year’s “On Air – Live at the BBC Vol. 2.”

You can find all their other live performances on YouTube, including a cool clip from the “Ready Steady Go!” show.  If you’re anything like me, you won’t get sick of this number.




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