zdbd – Help I’m A Rock

The first of two or three ‘weird’ songs near the end of Freak Out!, Help I’m A Rock is almost entirely comprised of nonsense language and vocalisation over a rhythmic, broken-robot guitar and drum riff that reminds me of the more experimental side of Josh Homme’s work. The song mimics peaking in tongues, as various people spout gibberish, growing in intensity as the clockwork riff marches. Soon a tubey guitar tone comes in with a lick, and yet more voices emerge from the distance, chirping and jabbering.

About two minutes in, a sudden psychedelic breakdown occurs, with screeching wooshing redolent of David Lynch’s horrifying soundscapes. A screeching guitar, like a wounded eagle, cuts through the noise, and after only a few seconds we’re dropped right back into the original riff – but now the nonsense vocals are English. It’s as though we’ve undergone some profound change in those riotous moments; the tornado has taken us away from Kansas, and suddenly we understand the meaning behind the words. A chorus of voices, lead by a shouting Zappa, begs for help; he’s a rock, you see. “It’s a drag being a rock,” he says, which has gotta be true. He claims he’d even “rather be a policeman,” which says something about how lousy being a rock is, that he might wanna be a cop instead. The lyrics shift, and Zappa finds himself begging again: “Help I’m a cop,” over and over, before deciding he’d prefer to be the mayor instead. Weird vocalisations continue throughout as the prominence of the funky riff grows. Zappa vocalises at the bottom of his range, like some mortified, maudlin spirit.
The song includes an unedited mis-speak; Zappa relates a brief anecdote, seemingly spontaneously, and leaves a false start in the mastered track. He’d do this other times in his career – most famously in Muffin Man.

Unease dominates the final bit of the song, and the riff gives way to a fragmented breakdown complete with cackling vocals and sex sounds while the percussion randomly penetrates the noise, fuelling it. The breakdown suddenly gives way to the second of the ‘weird’ Freak Out! songs, It Can’t Happen Here.

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