So, to the next Warren Zevon LP, “Excitable Boy”. Much anticipated by myself & most of the people I knew. We had played the last one until the vinyl was wafer thin. However great “Warren Zevon” was it did not sell a light. Just got into the Top 200 in the USA. There was a buzz about him because of Ronstadt’s covers & because of his famous mates. I suppose his record label, Asylum, wanted to make him a star with this one.
The 9 songs on the album total just 31 minutes. The production, by Browne & guitarist Waddy Wachtel is rockier, with perhaps less variety than before. But that’s it…it is an essential LP of the 1970s. The title track rushes along getting stranger by the verse. It ends with the sociopath boy building a cage from the bones of the girl he had earlier raped & killed…macabre mayhem…just an excitable boy ! The track that everyone knows Zevon for, “Werewolves of London” follows. A Top 30 single with perhaps the greatest lyrics of any hit single. I had missed a chance to eat at Lee Ho Fook’s in the early 70s, before this song. When I finally did go there, in the 90s, I was pleased that there was a poster of Warren on the wall with the lyrics to “Werewolves”. Yes, I did get a big dish of beef chow mein !
You’ve heard those. Of the “strange” songs I have opted for “Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner”. The story of a mercenary’s ghost who seeks out his murderer across Africa to get revenge. Now these are stories for pop music ! “Knee deep in gore”..go Mr Zevon. The song builds from just piano through the chorus to a climactic last verse. “In Ireland, in Lebanon, in Palestine & Berkeley. Patti Hearst heard the burst of Roland’s Thompson gun & bought it”. End of the song, no last chorus, no fade out. No judgement just the fact of a world of political violence.
“Accidentally Like A Martyr” was always going to be one of my choices here. This live show is from 1982 & does not have the subtlety of the record. No matter, it’s a lovely version. A killer ballad which, in 3 minutes encapsulates the end of a relationship. “The hurt gets worse & the heart gets harder”…oh yeah. The line “should have done, should have done we all sigh” has resonated throughout my life. There will always be a “should have” but there is never any point in any of them. I’m not saying regret is for assholes, just learn & try not to do it again. Jesus , I think you can tell that I have listened a little too closely to Warren’s lyrics…they are just so precise, so good. It’s a great tune as well. He’s is never just about the lyrics.
Another non-album version to close. This, again, is a great version (or why choose it ?) and a chance to see Warren say “improbable & grotesque mischief” (Oh no, this video is now blocked). “Lawyers, Guns & Money” is a short story about a playboy getting hooked up in some overseas shenanigans. The “shit has hit the fan” & the appeal is to his, presumably wealthy, father to bail him out. The protagonist, like that of “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” expresses some astonishment at his predicament…”the innocent bystander” down on his luck. An American abroad. “Excitable Boy” was a Top 10 LP in the USA. Warren was on his way…yeah sure. His taste for the darker sides of life was gonna bite him in the ass.
At the time of this record I was living in Birmingham. There were a group of guys I knew who would take 3 months leave from work & travel to India. For the scenery, you know what i mean. There was always someone over there, someone just returned & others preparing for the journey. We had said our goodbye to one of our friends earlier. We werejust saying how he would be missed. The doorbell rang & it was Micky. We thought we would not see him again for 3 months. He had come to get a copy of “Werewolves of London”. He didn’t want to go to India without it. The thought of this gentle hippie, somewhere in the mountains of Kashmir, listening to Warren’s song still makes me smile. OW WOO !