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Warren Zevon: The Excitable Boy by Iman Lababedi

If a great artist is gonna die of terminal cancer, let it be a Dennis Potter… or a Warren Zevon. The great English Telewriite Potter turned his brain into a Disneyworld attraction in his last two television plays. Zevon turned his terminality into songs of loss, sickness and love (on his final album The Wind). I wish neither of them were dead but both used their infringing finality to produce art.
Zevon was the undisputable ONE. The saving grace of Southern California. When we punk cynics in the seventies would sneer at the pop pulp pap Fleetwood Mac or the Eagles -all those drug addicted, wife swapping, sun soaked half wits, they could say but what about alcohol addicted Warren Zevon and we’d have to concede.
The music was Cali soft rock without the soft. The usual executioners and drug buddies adding  a keen sheen to Zevon mayhem. Jumping from genre to genre but essential rock balladeering he speeded up at will.
I wrote about horrorcore elsewhere today but Zevon was the real hardcore. A sardonic wit sneaking outta the No Tell Motel not to leave behind a woman but because he couldn’t pay the bill. Boxing matches on the TV, dying in Denver, beating up a woman in the Beverly Wilshire, ripping people’s lungs out in the UK, chopping off heads, playing mercenary from Lebanon to Berkeley, watching hockey,  burning down houses, smoking the shit and completely baffled by love, Zevon was with us till his ride was here and then he left us.
I was going to write a full blown discography but there is enough of em around and any way it’s not what I do any more. Then I was gonna just do I shuffle but I’ve decided to do a shuffle and skip songs I don’t feel like writing about.
Desperoados Under The Eaves – “If California slides into the ocean, like the mystics and statistics say they will, I predict this motel will be standing till I pay my my bill”… This version is off the rarities album so you miss the orchestration but the guitar playing is better. When I compare Zevon to a Chandler or a Cain this is what I mean.
Lawyers, Guns And Money – A martial beat excites a political based sneer at the dead end of the Carter regime where spy vs spy lived on in the cold war while the world stabbed itself in the back.
Looking For The Next Best Thing – It sounds like a pop move that isn’t coming off at all -an 80s synth pop where the lyric has the usual cleverness but the muic is heading charts wise.
Excitable Boy – The formal introduction to how Zevon attacked his keyboards with a strong rhythm stroke suited to his story, here, of a mass murderer. The sax break and the back up chicks turn a black joke purply.
Studebaker – Warren’s son Jordon does a great job on this trip to nowhere…
Accidentally Like A Martyr – I seem to be falling on Warren’s great second album for some reason: a full blown rock ballad. Stunningly beautiful and it should be part of the rock canon (is only “Werewolves Of London” considered timeless?): “The hurt gets worse and the heart gets harder”. Lovely, sad, very moving stuff. The other side of the boy.
She’s Too Good For Me  – As long as we’re getting mushy. The shadows were getting shorter, the days coming to a stop, and Zevon wrote this lost love song: “I have everything that she wants and nothing that she needs”.
Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead – “You won’t need a cab to find a priest…” A bluesy romp of extended weirdness.
Mutineer – Bob Dylan – Zevon recorded “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” just before they did (“OPEN UP”) and Dylan covered this live and released it on the excellent tribute album Enjoy Every Sandwich. Dylan gets every single bit, “Grab your coat, let’s get outta here…”
The Factory – Kicks some royal fucking butt – “saying ‘yes sir’, ‘no sir’ ‘yes sir’ ‘no sir’ WORK”.. This is an unbelievable tough piece of blue collar furiousness without an ounce of sentimentality, hygienic or otherwise. That’s R.E.M. rockin out with him? “Eh?” you say. 1987 R.E.M.
Ain’t That Pretty At All – Now here’s the moral: Warren would rather feel pain than feeling nothing at all. And if you don’t second that emotion don’t waste your time with rock music, it’s not for you.

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