The Beatles – You Can’t Do That


Transcription available

Level: Int/Adv Tuning: Open G

Includes Transcription

Also featured on the album
4 On 6 – The Beatles for Solo Guitar

4 On 6

Also available on iTunes

“You Can’t Do That” is an early rocker written by John Lennon. I first heard it sometime back in 1964 on The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally. I still remember this song standing out as having a darker, edgier colour than a lot of their other early songs. Harrison’s ”Don’t Bother Me” stood out in a similar way for me.

Per usual, my one man band arrangement of it is an exercise in reducing a four piece band with drums and vocals down to an instrumental arrangement for one guitar.

In addition to compressing the usual guitar, drums and bass, the very prominent cow bell had to be dealt with. As a matter of fact, I sometimes wonder if this wasn’t the original “We need more cowbell!” song. Fear not. This arrangement contains not a single cowbell clank, proving that, yes, you can do that.

It is credited as the first song they recorded featuring Harrison’s new Rickenbacker 360 Deluxe 12 string. This 12-string was used sparsely on a relatively small number of songs, and yet it provided an iconic and influential sound in their early catalogue, also being featured on songs like ”A Hard Day’s Night“ and “Ticket to Ride”. In my arrangement I try emulate the 12-string’s call to arms in the song’s introduction on my 6-string guitar.

This arrangement is played in the key of G in Open G tuning. I was trying to maintain some of the driving momentum of the original – but without drums … or the cowbell. In the end I settled for the thumb thumping out a steady, eighth note bass line on the root of each chord with the harmonized melody line over top. The open G tuning gave me access to several open strings for the bass notes, giving some freedom in the voicing and fingering of the melody and harmony lines. It also simplified accessing some octave fingerings on the ”12-string“ introduction as well as reinforcing a couple of bass lines with octaves.

Beatles Trivia:

As I mentioned, this song was featured on The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally. For those keeping score, in Canada The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally was their third album. If you were in the UK you would have heard “You Can’t Do That” on A Hard Day’s Night; in the US you would have heard it on The Beatles’ Second Album (that’s the album’s title, not a description) . The US and Canadian releases shared a similar album cover, but featured a different mix of songs. So it was with the early Beatles releases — different countries : different albums ; different mixes of songs. But that is a story for another day when grampa lights up his pipe and gathers the kiddies around the fireplace to reminisce.