104. FRANK ZAPPA: You Didn't Try To Call Me

A detailed analysis of the above Frank Zappa composition, including notated musical examples.

You Didn't Try To Call Me


NOTES ON THE COMPOSITIONS INCLUDED HEREIN: "YOU DIDN'T TRY TO CALL ME ... was written to describe a situation in which Pamela Zarubica found herself last spring. Wowie Zowie is what she says when she's not grouchy ... who would guess it could inspire a song? No one would guess. None of you are perceptive enough. Why are you reading this? The formal structure of You Didn't Try To Call Me is not revolutionary, but it is interesting. You don't care."

Ah, but we do!

Key of G Major
Quarter note = ca. 116
There are 98 bars

BARFINDER: The word "you" is on the second half of the second beat of Bar 4; the word "call" is on the first beat of Bar 5.

PERCEIVED INSTRUMENTATION: Vocals, electric guitars, electric bass, piano, xylophone, drums and percussion.

Part 1
Bars 1-4
Introduction ... "You didn't try to"

This is the first chronological track to begin with such a blatantly gorgeous Major Ninth chord! Let's see what FZ meant in the liner notes about the formal structure being "not revolutionary, but interesting." First some pretty interplay between guitar and bass. Be sure to notice the sharp-eleven in the guitar in Bar 4; (the B)!

Is anyone else noticing that FZ seems to greatly favor a stepwise harmonic motion (I-II-III-II-I-bVII, etc.), rather than the usual circle of fifths normality? In fact, the I-bVII progression became horribly overused in the 70's and 80's, but FZ uses this progression and variations upon it VERY often -- and as in the progression transcribed above Bars 3 and 4, with consummate skill and effect.

Part 2
Bars 5-14
"Call me" ... "The One babe"

Back to "interesting, not revolutionary" -- through a bunch of convoluted harmonic moves (interesting, but not revolutionary), when we reach the word "babe" in Bar 13 we have landed on a B Major chord. This pivots to become the V of

Part 3
Bars 15-22
"Tell me, tell me" ... "You didn't try to"

E Major. Bar 20 is in 2/4. The ol' I-ii-iii-ii-I progression, back to the chorus which stays in

Part 4
Bars 23-32
"Call me" ... "The One babe"

E Major. Notice the orchestration getting richer here. And this time the B Major chord (with timpani roll!) in Bar 31 is already a V going back to

Part 5
Bars 33-46
"Tell me, tell me" ... "'Cause I want you"

Bar 38 is in 2/4. More tricky harmonic movement -- specifically a chromatic movement from C# minor (Bar 39 "call") to D Major (Bar 40 "I can't say") -- Long fermatas occur in Bars 43 and 46.

Part 6
Bars 47-58
"You make me feel" ... "alone in my place"

Now in D, FZ climbs the harmonic stepladder, step by step: ii-iii-IV-V-VI ("you-feel-exci-ted-girl). A complete transcription of Bars 47-58:

Bar 58 is in 3/4.

Part 7
Bars 59-93
Introduction ... "You didn't need" to end

After a D.C. (Da Capo -- back to the beginning), a two-bar vamp is created out of Bars 63 and 64 and the trumpet plays this cool lick until the end:

Clean triple-tonguing is not easy, trust an old trombone player!

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