I Can't Dance

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"I Can't Dance"
I can't dance.jpg
Single by Genesis
from the album We Can't Dance
B-side"On the Shoreline"
Released30 December 1991[1]
FormatCD maxi, 7" single, 12" maxi
RecordedThe Farm, Surrey; March 1991 – September 1991
LabelAtlantic (U.S.)
Songwriter(s)Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford
Producer(s)Genesis, Nick Davis
Genesis singles chronology
"No Son of Mine"
"I Can't Dance"
"Hold on My Heart"

"I Can't Dance" is the fourth track from the Genesis album We Can't Dance and was the second single from the album. The lyrics were written by drummer Phil Collins and the music was written by the whole band. The song peaked at number seven on both the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart[2] and received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals in 1993.


During one recording session, Mike Rutherford first created the main riff of the song he called "Heavy A Flat", to which Phil Collins suddenly improvised "I Can't Dance!" The riff was actually inspired by a Levi Strauss & Co. TV commercial (in the studio, the song was created under the working title "Blue Jeans") using The Clash song "Should I Stay or Should I Go". Originally the band did not think of it as anything more than a joke, because the song was too simple, too bluesy and completely unlike Genesis' style. Tony Banks said in an interview "It was one of those bits you thought was going to go nowhere. It sounded fun, but wasn't really special".

It was not until Banks added the keyboard sound effects that the song took on a whole different feeling—with a slight edge of humour in it—which made the band decide to record it.

Banks also said in an interview that it showed a kind of direction Genesis could have gone in. Opposite to what Genesis has done as general practice, which is taking an idea and turning it into a long or complex composition, it was just taking an idea, and leaving it alone.[3]

Music video[edit]

The music video (directed by frequent collaborator Jim Yukich) illustrates the artifice and false glamour of television advertisements. Collins commented that the video was designed to poke fun of the models in jeans commercials, and each verse refers to things that models in these commercials do. It begins with Collins (in blue jeans and T-shirt) hitchhiking on a remote dusty road (in Hi Vista, California) when a speeding Porsche 911 goes by, it then reverses and the attractive women inside lets in a lizard instead, leaving Collins standing there. The ending is a parody of Michael Jackson's "Black or White" music video, depicting Collins imitating the "Panther ending" in which Jackson dances erratically. Banks and Rutherford eventually arrive to escort Collins off the set, at which point he goes limp and they have to drag him away.

"Weird Al" Yankovic also created a parody of the "I Can't Dance" video for Al TV in which he appears alongside the band. He added shots of himself to several of the band shots.

The song created the "I Can't Dance dance" (a series of stiff, stylised motions). Collins explained in an interview that when he was at stage school, that he would see kids that would always use the same hand and the same foot when they were tap dancing, meaning they could not co-ordinate. He then copied their movements and the "dance" was born.


Single releases contained an extended remix entitled "Sex Mix". This was later released on the Genesis Archive 2: 1976–1992 box set retitled as the "12" Mix". The remixers were brothers Howard Gray and Trevor Gray of Apollo 440.

The B-side, "On the Shoreline", was also included on Genesis Archive 2: 1976–1992. The song features a sample of guitarist Mike Rutherford's guitar playing that was captured by Tony Banks during a jam session. The peculiar sound (dubbed "elephantus" by the band) was also used in the song "No Son of Mine." Several chord passages also appeared in "Living Forever." Rolling Stone commented that "On the Shoreline" is "enjoyable in an un-ironic way. Here, as usual, Phil Collins sounds most comfortable at the raspy apex of his vocal range, pushing his voice to the breaking point as Tony Banks' synths drift through like mists."[4]

The "Jesus He Knows Me" CD single also included a version titled "I Can't Dance (the other mix)" with a running length of 5:59.

Live performances[edit]

"I Can't Dance" was played live during The Way We Walk,[5] Calling All Stations[6] (with Ray Wilson on vocals), and Turn It On Again[7] tours. On the band's Turn It On Again Tour, it was included as an encore. During live performances, the song was transposed to a lower key to accommodate Collins' deepening voice.

A live version appears on their albums The Way We Walk, Volume One: The Shorts, and Live over Europe 2007, as well as on their DVDs The Way We Walk - Live in Concert and When in Rome 2007.

Rutherford and Daryl Stuermer accompanied Collins doing the walk across the stage.

Ray Wilson continued to cover the song on his solo live album after his departure from Genesis. His version is a bluesier rendition, closer to the original.


In 2007 the German death metal group called Debauchery recorded I Can't Dance and released it on their fourth album, Back in Blood.

In 2014 the Finnish Metal band Sonata Arctica released a cover of I Can't Dance as a bonus track on their album Ecliptica: Revisited; 15th Anniversary Edition. The band made a promotional video which features all of the band members dancing in cities that they visited during their Pariah's Child tour.

Track listings[edit]



  • Fielder, Hugh (2000). Genesis Archive #2: 1976—1992 [CD liner notes]. Gelring Ltd.
  • McMahan, Scott (January 1998). "The Genesis Discography" (PDF). Retrieved 12 May 2006.
  1. ^ "Official Genesis Website". Genesis-music.com. Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  2. ^ Dean, Maury (2003). Rock N' Roll Gold Rush. Algora. p. 317. ISBN 0-87586-207-1.
  3. ^ Banks, Tony. "Interview from The Way We Walk – Live in Concert DVD" (Interview).
  4. ^ Reed, Ryan (10 October 2014). "20 Insanely Great Genesis Songs Only Hardcore Fans Know". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  5. ^ The Way We Walk Tour Songs & Dates
  6. ^ Calling All Stations Tour Songs & Dates
  7. ^ Turn it on again Tour Songs & Dates
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "I Can't Dance", in various singles charts Lescharts.com (Retrieved 10 April 2008)
  9. ^ "Radio 538 - 102 FM - Top 40". December 28, 2007. Archived from the original on December 28, 2007. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  10. ^ German Singles Chart Charts-surfer.de Archived 8 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine (Retrieved 10 April 2008)
  11. ^ Irish Singles Chart Irishcharts.ie Archived 3 June 2009 at WebCite (Retrieved 10 April 2008)
  12. ^ UK Singles Chart Chartstats.com (Retrieved 10 April 2008)
  13. ^ a b c Billboard Allmusic.com (Retrieved 9 August 2008)
  14. ^ 1992 Austrian Singles Chart Austriancharts.at Archived 12 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine (Retrieved 9 August 2008)
  15. ^ "Single top 100 over 1992" (PDF) (in Dutch). Top40. Retrieved 14 April 2010.
  16. ^ 1992 Swiss Singles Chart Hitparade.ch Archived 22 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine (Retrieved 9 August 2008)
  17. ^ "Billboard Top 100 – 1992". Archived from the original on 17 January 2010. Retrieved 30 July 2010.
  18. ^ Austrian certifications ifpi.at Archived 1 February 2010 at WebCite (Retrieved 9 August 2008)

External links[edit]