- Published on 1964
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 12 on “A Hard Day’s Night“
Beatles quotes about “You Can’t Do That”
JOHN 1964: “I’d find it a drag to play rhythm all the time, so I always work myself out something interesting to play. The best example I can think of is like I did on ‘You Can’t Do That.’ There really isn’t a lead guitarist and a rhythm guitarist on that, because I feel the rhythm guitarist role sounds too thin for records. Anyway it drove me potty to play chunk-chunk rhythm all the time. I never play anything as lead guitarist that George couldn’t do better. But I like playing lead sometimes, so I do it.”
JOHN 1980: “That’s me doing Wilson Pickett. You know, a cowbell going four-in-the bar, and the chord going ‘chatoong!’”
About “You Can’t Do That”
“You Can’t Do That” is a song written by John Lennon (credited to Lennon–McCartney) and released as the B-side of their sixth British single “Can’t Buy Me Love“. It was later released on their third UK album A Hard Day’s Night (1964).
One of Lennon’s semi-autobiographical songs, “You Can’t Do That” “contradicted the genial tone with its tense threats, sexual paranoia and nagging, dragging groove”, wrote Robert Sandall. The song’s theme of jealousy was revisited in other Lennon compositions, such as “Run for Your Life” and “Jealous Guy”.
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“.
“You Can’t Do That” was recorded on Tuesday, 25 February 1964, in EMI Studios in London. An early take with a guide vocal is included on Anthology 1. 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.
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.
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.
Meaning of “You Can’t Do That”
The lyrics of “You Can’t Do That” convey a sense of possessiveness and jealousy in a romantic relationship. The narrator expresses discomfort and insecurity about their partner’s interactions with others, particularly with a specific person mentioned in the song. They set boundaries and assert their expectations regarding their partner’s behavior.
Lines like “If I catch you talking to that boy again” and “I’m gonna let you down, and leave you flat” highlight the narrator’s feelings of possessiveness and the warning they’re giving their partner.
“You Can’t Do That” is a song that delves into the complexities of romantic relationships, particularly the feelings of jealousy and the need for trust and communication. It reflects a common human emotion and the challenges of maintaining a healthy balance in a partnership.
- John Lennon – lead vocal, lead and rhythm guitar
- Paul McCartney – backing vocal, bass guitar, cowbell
- George Harrison – backing vocal, 12-string lead guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums, bongos