I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)

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"I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)"
Single by Daryl Hall and John Oates
from the album Private Eyes
B-side "Unguarded Minute"
Released December 14, 1981
Recorded March 1981
Genre R&B
Length 5:09 (album version)
4:14 (video edit)
3:45 (single edit)
6:05 (extended club mix)
Label RCA
Producer(s) Hall & Oates
Daryl Hall and John Oates singles chronology
"Private Eyes"
"I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)"
"Did It in a Minute"

"I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" is a song by the American duo Hall & Oates. Written by Daryl Hall and John Oates, and co-written by Sara Allen, the song was released as the second single from their tenth studio album, Private Eyes (1981). The song became the fourth number-one hit single of their career on the Billboard Hot 100 and the second hit single from Private Eyes. It features Charles DeChant on saxello.[1]

"I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" is one of 14 Hall & Oates songs that have been played on the radio over one million times, according to BMI.


Daryl Hall sketched out the basic song one evening at a music studio in New York City, in 1981, after a recording session for the Private Eyes album. Hall began to play a bass line on a Korg organ, and sound engineer Neil Kernon recorded the result. Hall then came up with a guitar riff, which he and Oates worked on together. The next day, Hall, Oates and Sara Allen worked on the lyrics.[1]

Speaking about the meaning of the lyrics, John Oates has stated that while many listeners may assume the lyrics are about a relationship, in reality, the song "is about the music business. That song is really about not being pushed around by big labels, managers, and agents and being told what to do, and being true to yourself creatively." This was done intentionally, he explained, to universalize the topic of the song into something everyone could relate to and ascribe personal meaning to in their own way. Naming "Maneater" as another example, he revealed that this was a common theme for the group's songs.[2][3]

Chart performance[edit]

On January 30, 1982, "I Can't Go for That" ended a 10-week run at the top of the Hot 100 by Olivia Newton-John's song, "Physical" (which had knocked out Hall & Oates' "Private Eyes" from the top spot). The song also went to number one on the Hot Dance Club Play chart for one week in January 1982.

Thanks to heavy airplay on urban contemporary radio stations, "I Can't Go for That" also topped the US R&B chart, a rare feat for a white act. According to the Hall & Oates biography, Hall, upon learning that "I Can't Go For That" had gone to number 1 on the R&B chart, wrote in his diary, "I'm the head soul brother in the U.S. Where to now?"

It also peaked at #1 on the Radio & Records CHR/Pop Airplay chart on December 18, 1981 staying at the top of the chart for six weeks and remaining on it for fifteen weeks, making it their biggest hit on the R&R airplay chart.[4] This single was also the first top 10 hit for the duo in the UK peaking at number 8 in the UK Singles Chart.

Awards and accolades[edit]

"I Can't Go for That" was voted number six on VH1's list of "The 100 Greatest Songs of the '80s."

Influence on "Billie Jean"[edit]

According to Daryl Hall, during the recording of "We Are the World", Michael Jackson approached him and admitted to lifting the bass line for "Billie Jean" from a Hall and Oates song, apparently referring to "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)." Hall says that he told Jackson that he had lifted the bass line from another song himself, and that it was "something we all do."[1][14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-01-09. Retrieved 2014-01-13. 
  2. ^ Something Else! (24 March 2014). "Hall and Oates' 'I Can't Go For That' isn't about what you think it's about; neither is 'Maneater'". Something Else!. Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
  3. ^ Kauffman, Leah (18 March 2014). "John Oates on his new album, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, and what 'I Can't Go For That' is really about". Philly.com. Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
  4. ^ a b http://wweb.uta.edu/faculty/gghunt/charts/halloates.html
  5. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Daryl Hall & John Oates search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  6. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Daryl Hall & John Oates – I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  7. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Daryl Hall & John Oates – I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)". Singles Top 100. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  8. ^ http://wweb.uta.edu/faculty/gghunt/charts/Songruns/H/HallandOates/i_can.htm
  9. ^ "Daryl Hall & John Oates – Chart history" Billboard Adult Contemporary for Daryl Hall & John Oates. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  10. ^ "Daryl Hall & John Oates – Chart history" Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for Daryl Hall & John Oates. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  11. ^ "Australian Chart Book". Austchartbook.com.au. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2016-10-19. 
  12. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2016-10-19. 
  13. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1982/Top 100 Songs of 1982". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 2016-10-19. 
  14. ^ Eskow, Gary (April 1, 2006). "Classic Tracks: Hall & Oates "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)"". Mix Online. Retrieved January 5, 2017. 
  15. ^ Hall, Daryl (July 10, 2009). "Michael Jackson Remembered: Daryl Hall on the Ultimate Video Star". The Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 15, 2010. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Physical" by Olivia Newton-John
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
January 30, 1982
Succeeded by
"Centerfold" by The J. Geils Band
Preceded by
"Turn Your Love Around" by George Benson
Billboard Hot Soul Singles number-one single
January 30, 1982
Succeeded by
"Call Me" by Skyy
Preceded by
"Wordy Rappinghood" / "Genius of Love" by Tom Tom Club
Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single
January 23, 1982
Succeeded by
"You're the One for Me " by D. Train