Welcome to my asylum for ideas and thoughts on movies, politics, culture, and all things Bruce Springsteen.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Excitable boy, oh boy

This weekend, I had the chance to watch the VH-1 tribute special for Warren Zevon, one of music's most talented, irreverent, and witty artists. I must say that I don't know a heck of a lot about his history or am extensively caught up on his recording career. I do have a couple of his albums (thanks, Chris C.) including I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, a fitting, spit-in-the-face-of last September, when Zevon died of cancer. Watching the film of how Zevon recorded one last album before he died in order to leave a final testament was very moving, indeed. To his last, he still had a sense of humor that was sharp, non-politically correct, and ultimately, hilarious. We all know "Werewolves of London" but do we know "The Ballad of Frank and Jesse James"? My favorite Zevon era is one of my favorite all-around times in rock and roll music: the 1970s L.A. singer-songwriter scene. I love Jackson Browne, the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor (he gets included here) and Zevon. The hired studio guns were always top-notch, and the fact that so many artists were friends who swapped songs and musical favors on each others' albums give them a sense of community. It doesn't hurt that they're also stellar pop records. "Poor Pitiful Me", while made famous by Linda, speaks volumes when Warren talks about a little S&M session and how his date was the one who "really worked me over good." Only Zappa would have touched something of that magnitude. "Gorilla, You're a Desperado", while maybe not a poke at Don and Glenn, sure is a slap at late-70s L.A. culture, as the song describes how a gorilla escapes from the local zoo, runs into a lawyer and the two trade identities: the guy's stuck in the miserable zoo, but the big ape takes the guy's car, his apartment and job, and ends up depressed because his life sucks so badly. Now that's clever.
My favorite story that was told in a tribute in one of the many rock magazines last fall described a drug overdose in the late 1970s which terrified Zevon. As he collapsed and began seizing, Zevon said that he prayed to God that he wouldn't die, not because he didn't want to stop living, but so that "Jackson Browne won't write a song about me!" I could not have thought that, but only a witty, off-kilter soul could have.
If anyone has any great Warren Zevon moments, stories, or favorite songs, I'd love to be educated on this great song writer. Until then, I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for that hairy handed gent, who ran amok in Kent.