You Can't Do That

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"You Can't Do That"
US picture sleeve (reverse)
Single by the Beatles
from the album A Hard Day's Night
A-side"Can't Buy Me Love"
Released16 March 1964 (US)
20 March 1964 (UK)
Recorded25 February 1964
StudioEMI Studios, London
GenreRock and roll, rhythm and blues[1][2]
Producer(s)George Martin
The Beatles UK singles chronology
"I Want to Hold Your Hand"
"Can't Buy Me Love"
"A Hard Day's Night"
The Beatles US singles chronology
"Twist and Shout"
"Can't Buy Me Love"
"Love Me Do"

"You Can't Do That" is a song written by John Lennon[3][4][5] (credited to Lennon–McCartney) and released by the English rock band the Beatles as the B-side of their sixth British single "Can't Buy Me Love".[6] It was later released on their third UK album A Hard Day's Night (1964).


One of Lennon's semi-autobiographical songs,[5] "You Can't Do That" "contradicted the genial tone with its tense threats, sexual paranoia and nagging, dragging groove", wrote Robert Sandall.[7] The song's theme of jealousy was revisited in other Lennon compositions, such as "Run for Your Life" and "Jealous Guy". Influenced by the then relatively unknown Wilson Pickett,[3] it is rooted in the twelve-bar blues form, with Lennon introducing a discordant sharp 9th (F) on the D7th chord, pointedly emphasising "…I told you before…" and then pushing this note for the exasperated "Oh!" before resolving to the song's key of G.[8] Lennon also composed and played the guitar solo.[3] The work reflected Lennon's love for hard-edged American R&B—"a cowbell going four in the bar and the chord going chatoong!" as he put it.[9]

George Harrison wrote the intro and outro guitar riff in the studio, according to Tom Petty in Rolling Stone. When asked by Petty how he came up with it, Harrison recalled "I was just standing there [in the studio] and thought, 'I've got to do something!'".[10]

With filming due to begin on A Hard Day's Night, film director Richard Lester needed the Beatles to provide him with original material ahead of production; "You Can't Do That" was selected to be part of the Scala Theatre "live performance" scene in the film, but was dropped from the final cut along with "I'll Cry Instead" and "I Call Your Name". The recording took nine takes to complete, and was considered for the A-side of their next single until McCartney wrote "Can't Buy Me Love".

Recording and release[edit]

"You Can't Do That" was recorded on Tuesday, 25 February 1964, in EMI Studios in London.[11] An early take with a guide vocal is included on Anthology 1.[12] It was the first song completed in the week before the Beatles began filming A Hard Day's Night, though "I Should Have Known Better" and "And I Love Her" were also started on the same day.

Whilst in New York for The Ed Sullivan Show, guitarist George Harrison was presented with a Rickenbacker 360 Deluxe electric 12-string guitar worth (in 1964) $900.[4][13] Only the second one produced, it was heard for the first time on "You Can't Do That" and gave the song its distinctive chiming sound.[4]

The song was first released as the B-side of the "Can't Buy Me Love" single on 16 March 1964 in the United States by Capitol Records and on 20 March 1964 in the United Kingdom by Parlophone. It was the Beatles' seventh US single and sixth UK single.[6] It was later included on the A Hard Day's Night album in the UK, and The Beatles' Second Album in the US.[6]

The Beatles were filmed miming to "You Can't Do That" as part of the final concert sequence in the A Hard Day's Night film. The filming took place on 31 March 1964 at the Scala Theatre in London, but was not used. It was, however, broadcast on The Ed Sullivan Show on 24 May.[14] The performance is included in the documentary The Making of "A Hard Day's Night".

The Beatles recorded "You Can't Do That" four times for BBC radio in 1964. It also became a part of the group's live repertoire that year, and was the second song in their set—after "Twist And Shout"—during their Australian and North American tours.[14]

According to Mark Lewisohn's book The Beatles Recording Sessions, George Martin overdubbed a piano track to Take 9 on 22 May 1964, ostensibly for the album version of this song, but it was never used.


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[3]

Notable recordings[edit]

Harry Nilsson version[edit]

"You Can't Do That" was covered by Harry Nilsson for his debut album Pandemonium Shadow Show (1967). Nilsson re-arranged the song making it somewhat slower. He also worked references to 18[15] other Beatles tunes in the mix, usually by quoting snippets of Beatles lyrics in the multi-layered backing vocals.

The track was Nilsson's first hit as a performer; though it stalled at #122 on the US charts, it reached the top 10 in Canada. It also (along with the rest of the album) established Nilsson as a favourite performer of the Beatles. Famously, Lennon listened to Pandemonium Shadow Show for 36 hours straight after being given a copy by Derek Taylor; he then called Nilsson to congratulate him, which started a friendship that would last for the rest of Lennon's life. Later, in a 1968 press conference to announce the formation of Apple Corps, Lennon was asked to name his favourite American artist; he replied, "Nilsson". McCartney was then asked to name his favourite American group, and replied likewise, "Nilsson".

Other cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ Pollack 1992.
  2. ^ Unterberger 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d MacDonald 2005, p. 106–107.
  4. ^ a b c Harry 1992, p. 715.
  5. ^ a b Miles 1997, p. 164.
  6. ^ a b c Lewisohn 1988, p. 200.
  7. ^ Sandall 2000, p. 114.
  8. ^ Complete Scores 1993, p. 1077.
  9. ^ "70 - 'You Can't Do That'". 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  10. ^ "George Harrison | 100 Greatest Guitarists". Rolling Stone. 18 December 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  11. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 39.
  12. ^ Lewisohn 1995, p. 34.
  13. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 81.
  14. ^ a b The Beatles Bible 2008.
  15. ^ "Song of the day: Harry Nilsson – "You Can't Do That"". Peter's Power Pop. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  16. ^ Deming, Mark. B-Sides the Beatles at AllMusic. Retrieved 27 December 2016.


External links[edit]