NPR logo About A Song: 'I Can't Go For That'

About A Song: 'I Can't Go For That'

Earlier this week, Bob and I got together with Song of the Day editor Stephen Thompson and Monitor Mix blogger Carrie Brownstein to talk about music from the 1980s. The question: Were the '80s really that bad? We recorded our conversation, along with a ton of memorable songs from back then. We'll put that up next Tuesday for you to hear and tell us what you think.

All this talk of '80s music this week has overwhelmed my brain with insanely catchy but utterly maddening hits, none more so than the Hall and Oates classic "I Can't Go for That."

Cover shot of Hall and Oates from their album, the Very Best of Daryl Hall and John Oates

I don't like to suffer alone, so I emailed Carrie the words to the song's most mania-inducing cycle: "I can't go for that / No I / No can do." Rinse and repeat. Carrie, in turn, suggested I offer these words up for interpretation.

So, what do you think? Is it just empty pop with a good beat, or is there something deeper going on?

Easy ready willing overtime
When does it stop, where do you dare me to draw the line
You got the body now you want my soul
Don't even think about it say no go
Now I'll do anything you want me to
I'll do almost anything that you want me to
But I can't go for that
No can do
I can't go for being twice as nice
I can't go for just repeating the some old lines
Use the body now you want my soul
Ooh forget about it say no go
Yeah, I'll do anything you want me to
I'll do almost anything that you want me to
But I can't go for that
No can do.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

This is actually one of my favourite songs, it's notable for me in being an 80s song with 80s production where it really works. And without it there's no Say No Go from De La Soul, and if you believe wikipedia, no Billy Jean bass line. That however, may be a claim too far.

Sent by Alex Ingram | 8:02 PM | 8-28-2008

It's funny that you posted this blog right after the favorite cover moments one, because one of my fave cover moments has to do with this tune!

You know how on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, they show all these parties all over the country of people celebrating the new year? Well they're filmed way in advance, so a few years ago my best friend and I were dancers for the taping of the L.A. party, where Donna Summer, Hall & Oates, and Jason Mraz all performed.

Mraz performed a cover of "I Can't Go For That," which I thought was super fun, and a cute little tribute to H&O who were obviously there that afternoon to witness it.

Here's the clip on YouTube: . If you watch carefully, you can see me lunge for the paper New Year's hat Mraz throws into the crowd. After I caught it, some evil girl tore it out of my hands. Guh. But I still love the song (and this cover) anyway!

Sent by Tamara Vallejos | 6:49 AM | 8-30-2008

as for this song itself, i think they may have been trying to be deep but it got lost in 80's production. doesn't move me particularly, but i could see a singer being totally behind these lyrics...

as for 80's music in general, it think it ALL just got lost in the sound of the time. i first learned about folk music after i heard that "land down under" was an old folk song. now folk music is my bread and butter! and exhibit b is doveman's latest release. he really showed (as so many 80's covers have) that there really are beautiful melodies to be had from that time.

Sent by joshua | 2:14 PM | 8-31-2008

C'mon Robin, it's bubblegum! Sometimes it's cloyingly sweet, but Hall & Oates more times than not hit the spot when you're hankerin' for some good ol' pop confection.

What troubles me more about the AMC Blog is this seeming consensus that the 80s were the worst decade for music?

First of all, don't confuse production technique with quality of songwriting, strength of melody or the performances.

Second, as a Gen Xer, I distinctly remember the mood of the 80s being, "Thank god the 70s are over!" Particularly regarding the music. 60s music has the benefit of just being there first when rock & pop were blossoming and everything was new. Jury's out on the 00s.

Finally, my feeling is that the 90s have been the empty pit of music with fewer than usual highlights.

That leaves us with the 80s, man! The last decade of truly inspired LPs coming at a regular rate - the Mtv generation doing what the punks couldn't do--slaying the dinosaurs--the rise of college radio! Thriller for god's sake!!

Sent by Ed | 2:22 PM | 9-2-2008

Watch the video of "Family Man" by Hall and Oats if you want to see a good video. Also, this was a big one from the 80's. You know em, and you love em.

Sent by Kevin Brown | 5:00 PM | 9-2-2008

As I know have 2 young daughters, it strikes me that the cheesy pop of the 80's (which included Hall and Oates among so many others), has been replaced - at least among my kids' generation - by the Radio Disney set (High School musical, etc...). Equally cheesy, but not as "mainstream" as the pop acts of the 80's.

Sent by bill | 12:08 PM | 9-3-2008

I listened to this podcast, and it really reinforces the stereotype of hipper-than-thou NPR douchebags.

All the self-satisfied chuckling almost made me barf.

And one guy said "myocardial infarction". Man, you guys are smart.

Not that the songs in the eighties didn't suck, but the way you all approached it was so Pitchfork Media.

And the dude who liked Tears for Fears totally undermined the credibility of the whole group.

All you did was pick the crappiest music of the time- I'm thinking if you played this week's top ten in 20 years it would suck too. All the cookie monster voiced depressed metal dudes and booty shaking amusical hip[-hoppish stuff.

Sent by nick | 2:38 PM | 9-9-2008

As to the meaning of this Hall and Oates classic...I think Meatloaf summed it up in the 1990's when he said "I will do anything for love, but I just won't do that!"

Ambiguity pleases the masses. It fits whatever situation you the listener is currently going through, went through, or will go through!

Sent by Carrie B.-M. | 3:29 PM | 10-6-2008