Hall&Oates - I can't go for that - 80sneverend - Respecting limits

Respecting limits

Daryl Hall & John Oates – I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)

Yeah I, I'll do anything that you want me to
Yeah, I'll do almost anything that you want me to
Yeah, but I can't go for that
No (no), no can do
#Hall&Oates #ICantGoForThat

Mid December 1981 marked the outcome of one of the most famous songs in the incredibly long career of a duo that was certainly underestimated in Europe, because they always aimed more at the American market than the European one, and we are talking about Daryl Hall and John Oates.

In the United States, in fact, Hall&Oates have had an incredible, and absolutely deserved, career and success, while in Europe they have always remained somewhat niche performers, although certainly esteemed and loved by all.

Hall&Oates have had a very long and very particular journey, if we think that in September 1981 they released their tenth studio album, Private Eyes, preceded a few weeks earlier by the single with the same title, which of course went immediately to the top of the charts. But the success of this first single was quickly hidden some ten days before Christmas, when the beautiful I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do) was released.

The song, as often happens, had been composed almost by chance during the recording sessions of the album: Hall and Oates created the bases of the various instruments following the inspirations they had in mind at that moment, and within a few hours the song was more or less ready. To tell the truth, the lyrics were missing, but the following day came the fundamental contribution of Sara Allen, Daryl Hall’s longtime girlfriend, who composed the lyrics together with him. We can say that Daryl composed, and Sara removed, because it seems that Hall wanted to add more text at the end of some lines, but Sara persuaded him to remove the excess text, arriving at the final version.

The title comes from a phrase Daryl Hall often used when asked to consent to crowds of fans beyond a certain limit. At the time of the song, uncontrolled versions were unleashed on what these limits were that should not be crossed, and in the United Kingdom some also wanted to see references to erotic practices, which was convincingly denied by Hall and Oates, who noted that the English press had the habit to see perversions even where there was really no reason.

Subsequently, in an interview Hall admitted that the concept of not exceeding one’s own limits, although absolutely general, was in this case referred to the requests of record companies, which do not hesitate to increase demands and expectations even when beyond the limits of personal availability. A theme that will be taken up, once again in a non-obvious way, also in a very famous song of the following year, Maneater.

The video for I Can’t Go for That is simple and glamorous at the same time. In fact, if all in all the video shows a fairly simple performance and without special effects, it is also true that Daryl Hall shows himself almost at the top of his personal glamour: long and fluffy blond hair in full 80s style (and we are only in 1981!), brown green suit (probably the same one we also see in the Private Eyes video) which however, with the overexposed effect of the light, becomes the same color as the hair, and the movements of a consummate confidential singer, supported by the choruses and sighs of John Oates.

Together with Hall and Oates in the video we also see another fundamental character for their career: saxophonist Charlie DeChant, known as “Mr. Casual”. DeChant had been playing with Hall and Oates since 1976, and in fact collaborated with them throughout their career, and we will see him with his sax in several other videos such as Maneater or Method of Modern Love.

I Can’t Go for That was so successful and entered so deeply into the taste and culture of the time that it became one of the most covered and sampled songs by far. Twenty-two years later, in 2003, Simply Red composed a song, Sunrise, which in fact has the same base as I Can’t Go for That, a sort of open homage to a great song and its two great interpreters, but there were so many performers who took inspiration from this song, such as Puff Daddy or De La Soul.

There is an important story to tell about this song and all the artists it inspired. In fact, Daryl Hall said that, when in 1985 he showed up to record We Are the World with the supergroup USA for Africa, he was approached by Michael Jackson, who thanked him because from this song he had taken a clear inspiration for the bass line of Billie Jean, and he was hoping that this wouldn’t displease Hall too much, but Daryl was instead amused and flattered by it.

In short, Hall and Oates were certainly great protagonists of the ’80s, especially in the United States, and perhaps they even had the disadvantage of becoming very famous too early, when the ’80s were still immature. But on the other hand, it’s impossible to restrict talent and success when you write unforgettable and beautiful songs like this.

Hall&Oates on Wikipedia

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