I Can't Dance
|"I Can't Dance"|
|Single by Genesis|
|from the album We Can't Dance|
|B-side||"On the Shoreline"|
|Released||30 December 1991|
|Recorded||March 1991 – September 1991|
|Studio||The Farm, Surrey|
|Genesis singles chronology|
"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 US Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart and received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals in 1993. The song also reached number one in Belgium and the Netherlands while peaking within the top five in Austria, Canada, Germany, and Portugal.
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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.
The Daily Vault's Christopher Thelen said that "I Can't Dance" is "a goofy number that features Genesis mocking themselves for being un-hip. (Best line from this song: "Ooh, she's got a body under that shirt"—dirty old man alert!)" He added, "If you ever get a chance to view the video, watch it; it's hysterical." People Magazine described it as a "melodically fetching, radio-ready track", and "a simple slammer with an arrangement that shows off the group’s remarkable facility for aural atmospherics."
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 at 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 woman inside lets in a lizard instead, leaving Collins standing there. The ending is a parody of the video for Michael Jackson's "Black or White", 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.
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, 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.
Collins told Rolling Stone that the music video and the song were a joke about male models in jeans commercials who could not dance or talk, but could only walk in their jeans. He also said the audience was confused and could not figure out the joke because clearly Phil Collins can dance, as he dances at the end of the video.
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."
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.
"I Can't Dance" was played live during The Way We Walk, Calling All Stations (with Ray Wilson on vocals), and Turn It On Again 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.
Rutherford and Daryl Stuermer accompanied Collins doing the walk across the stage.
CD maxi – Europe
CD maxi – US
- Tony Banks – keyboards
- Phil Collins – vocals, drums, drum machine
- Mike Rutherford – electric guitars, bass guitar
Charts and certifications
In 2014, 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.
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