It Can’t Happen Here. Can It?

Rainbow’s Apocalyptic Song 36 Years Later –

It’s Easy To Believe That Someone’s Gonna Light The Fuse

Hard rock band Rainbow’s lyrics, usually evoke the mystical or tongue in cheek double entendre imagery.

But one song, Can’t Happen Here from the album 1981 Difficult To Cure still resonates with issues that are as relevant today as the day the song was written in 1981.

With music by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and lyrics by bass player Roger Glover, Can’t Happen Here asks the ultimate question: Is it possible someone will push the button and bring on Armageddon?

The lyrics:

Can’t Happen Here
(Blackmore, Glover © 1981)

Contaminated fish and micro chips
Huge supertankers on Arabian trips
Oily propaganda from the leaders’ lips
All about the future
There’s people over here people over there
Everybody’s looking for a little more air
Crossing all the borders just to take their share
Heading for the future

And we’re so abused and we’re so confused
It’s easy to believe that someone’s gonna light the fuse

Can’t happen here, can’t happen here, all that you fear they’re telling you, can’t happen here

Supersonic planes for a holiday boom
Rio de Janeiro in an afternoon
There’s people out of work but there’s people on the moon
Looking for the future
Concrete racetracks nationwide
Juggernauts are carving up the countryside
Cars by the million on a one way ride
Using up the future

And we’re so abused and we’re so confused
It’s easy to believe that someone’s gonna light the fuse

Can’t happen here. can’t happen here, all that you fear they’re telling you, can’t happen here
Can’t happen here, can’t happen here, all that you fear they’re telling you, can’t happen here

Satellites spying for the CIA
The KGB and the men in grey
Wonder if I’m gonna see another day
Somewhere in the future
We got everything we need for a peaceful time
Take what you want but you can’t take mine
Everybody’s living on the Siegfried Line
Worried ’bout the future

And we’re so abused and we’re so confused
It’s so easy to believe that someone’s gonna light it
Easy to believe someone’s gonna light the fuse

Can’t happen here can’t happen here all that you fear they’re telling you can’t happen here
Can’t happen here can’t happen here all that you fear they’re telling you can’t happen here
Can’t happen here can’t happen here all that you fear they’re telling you can’t happen here
Can’t happen can’t happen all that you fear they’re telling you can’t happen
Can’t happen here
Can it?

Previous to Rainbow’s song, the title, It Can’t Happen Here comes indirectly from a 1935 Sinclair Lewis novel. It’s a dystopian story of America being run as a dictatorship. In the book, Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, runs for President of the United States, campaigning upon fear and promising drastic economic and social reforms. He promises voters a return to patriotism and traditional values. After he is elected, President Windrip takes complete control of the government. He rules as a dictator with the help of the military, similar to Hitler. When published comparison’s were made to populist Louisiana politician Huey Long who was preparing to run for president in 1936. Before the book’s publication in October, Long was assassinated on September 10, 1935. The book has sold well recently as some see parallels to Donald Trump’s ascendancy.

Rainbow 1981 photo: Ross Halfin

Rainbow’s version of Can’t Happen Here is much darker than just a U.S. dictatorship.

In a 1982 interview with Kerrang! magazine, Blackmore said, “Oh yeah, I’m a real doom merchant. Mr. Happy, you know, Roger Glover, always looks for the good in people. but I always look for the bad.”

But Glover was not Mr. Happy with his lyrics to Can’t Happen Here. The song lays out the problems the world was facing in 1981; heightened tensions in the Middle East; pollution; the depletion of natural resources; runaway technology; spying; propaganda; immigration and the vast amount of people getting the shaft. Can’t Happen Here questions the path humanity was taking and raises the fear and real possibility that someone would launch “the bomb” triggering the end of the world. For Rainbow this was not Starstruck or Man on The Silver Mountain.

The song may now be 36-years-old, but the threat that “someone’s gonna light the fuse” is as real as ever.

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