This week, I heard the big announcement that 70s and 80s hitmakers Daryl Hall & John Oates were teaming up with 80s and 90s hitmakers Tears For Fears on a three-month tour of the U.S. and Canada starting in May! They’ll be making their way to Boston’s famed TD Garden in late June 2017. Some have said the tour lineup combining the different acts is a bit odd, and maybe it is, but it’s a show I’d love to see, considering I never saw either one perform in their 80s heyday.
This tour announcement got me thinking of one song in particular from Daryl Hall & John Oates (based out of NYC by way of Philadelphia), with a lot of history to it – “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do),” from their 1981 Platinum-selling album, PRIVATE EYES.
After a recording session for the album, Daryl Hall started playing a bass line on a Korg organ, which was recorded. Daryl Hall and John Oates worked on the guitar portion of the song, and then Daryl worked with longtime girlfriend, Sara Allen, on the lyrics.
For many years, the lyrics were oft-misinterpreted as being about a relationship. In a 2014 interview about the song, John Oates confirmed that the song was not about a relationship, but rather 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.”
“I Can’t Go For That” was the second single released from PRIVATE EYES, following the release of the album’s popular title track, which was in its second and final week at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-November 1981 when “I Can’t Go For That” debuted on the chart at No. 59.
The following week, Olivia Newton-John’s monster hit, “Physical,” took over the top spot and did not relinquish it for 10 weeks. It ended up being the biggest single of the 80s and on BILLBOARD’s most-recent update on their “Greatest Of All Time” Hot 100 singles, “Physical ranked at No. 8.
While ONJ was enjoying life at the top of the Hot 100, the week after “Private Eyes” fell from No. 2, Foreigner’s “Waiting For A Girl Like You” moved in right behind her. And stayed. And stayed. By the last chart of 1981, “I Can’t Go For That” had climbed to No. 4, while Foreigner had already spent five weeks at No. 2, and ONJ had been at No. 1 for six weeks.
Daryl Hall & John Oates were stuck at No. 4 for five weeks with “I Can’t Go For That,” while Foreigner had waited nine weeks at No. 2 for Olivia Newton-John to drop from No. 1. Well, the next week, January 30, 1982, after 10 weeks on top, Olivia did fall from No. 1 to No. 4. Good news for Foreigner, right? Not so much. After five weeks at No. 4, Hall & Oates leap-frogged over Foreigner’s “Waiting For A Girl Like You” to spend its lone week at No. 1, and in the process, Daryl & John sandwiched No. 1 singles around Olivia’s “Physical.” Foreigner spent 10 weeks at No. 2, a record that still holds 35 years later.
Here’s another rare chart feat for Daryl Hall & John Oates and “I Can’t Go For That” – the week they spent at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, they also spent a week at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD R&B chart, almost unheard of for a white act. Of the event, Daryl Hall said, “I’m the head soul brother in the U.S. Where to now?”
Well, more hit singles on the Hot 100, for starters. “I Can’t Go For That” was the duo’s fourth U.S. No. 1 hit, and they would go on to have two more, “Maneater” and “Out Of Touch.” With 29 Top 40 hits between 1976 and 1989 – 16 of those Top 10 hits, and a total of six No. 1’s – Daryl Hall & John Oates eclipsed The Everly Brothers as the biggest duo in BILLBOARD chart history. They’ve been inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and just last year (September 2016), they finally got a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
Around the globe, fans did go for “I Can’t Go For That,” spending three weeks at No. 2 in Canada, and reaching No. 5 in New Zealand, No. 8 in the U.K., No. 10 in Sweden, and No. 13 in both Australia and Holland. It also spent a week at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, the first of three songs for them to do so.
One more piece of history for “I Can’t Go For That” – during the recording of the “We Are The World” charity single, released this week in 1985 (March 7), and of which Daryl Hall and John Oates were a part of, Michael Jackson (who co-wrote “We Are The World” with Lionel Richie), pulled Daryl Hall aside and said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I stole ‘Billie Jean’ from you,” referring to the fact he pilfered the bass line of “I Can’t Go For That” and incorporated it into the bass line for “Billie Jean.” Of that, Daryl told him, “It’s all right, man, I just ripped the base line off, so can you!” I’d be curious to find out where Daryl got his bass line from. If anyone knows, let me know!
I’ve loved this song as long as I can remember. And I’ve been a Daryl Hall & John Oates fan as long as I can remember. And, if the chance arises that I can see them AND Tears For Fears perform in the same show together after all these years of enjoying their music, well, simply put…I CAN go for that (yes can do)!!