zdbd – It Can’t Happen Here

Perhaps weirder yet than Help I’m A Rock, this tune is almost entirely a-capella. Not for the faint of heart, I’ll admit, but I love it. After the rather formulaic album that preceded it, the sheer audacity of the experiment won me over – not to mention the quality of the vocals and the sardonic take on the topic. The more Zappa insists that “it can’t happen here,” the more I’m certain “it” can.

The layered vocals, with overlapping and contrasting rhythms, fill up what could otherwise be a tonne of empty space, absent any musical instruments. Zappa and his band get amazing mileage from a variety of vocal pitches, rhythms, and harmonies, many of which are highly-processed.
There’s a short break with tinkling piano, over a jazzy drumkit, early in the song, suggesting the tune might be an elaborate, dissonant breakdown, but the a-capella vocals reappear before long: “Who could imagine / that they would freak out / in Washington DC?” which posits the title of the album, before the many voices insist that “you’re safe mama,” which the song itself promises is not true.

The “I remember / doo doo / they had a swimming pool” part is instantly compelling to me with its unusual, cut-off rhythm that only happens two of the three times, before the song moves on. We first meet Susie Creamcheese in this tune – Zappa addresses her directly, and she speaks for herself: “forget it,” she says, before reverberant vocals, promising one last time that “it can’t happen here,” carry us, dissolving, into the stratosphere.

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