The Unbearable Banishment: Warren Zevon

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Warren Zevon

Warren Zevon is one of the best and most underappreciated lyricists that this country has ever spit out. To wit: (Stick with this. It starts off good and it achieves greatness.)

Mr. Bad Example

I started as an altar boy, working at the church
Learning all my holy moves, doing some research
Which led me to a cash box, labeled "Children's Fund"
I'd leave the change, and tuck the bills inside my cummerbund

I got a part-time job at my father's carpet store

Laying tackless stripping, and housewives by the score
I loaded up their furniture, and took it to Spokane
And auctioned off every last naugahyde divan

I'm very well acquainted with the seven deadly sins

I keep a busy schedule trying to fit them in
I'm proud to be a glutton, and I don't have time for sloth
I'm greedy, and I'm angry, and I don't care who I cross

I'm Mr. Bad Example, intruder in the dirt

I like to have a good time, and I don't care who gets hurt
I'm Mr. Bad Example, take a look at me
I'll live to be a hundred, and go down in infamy

Of course I went to law school and took a law degree

And counseled all my clients to plead insanity
Then worked in hair replacement, swindling the bald
Where very few are chosen, and fewer still are called

Then on to Monte Carlo to play chemin de fer

I threw away the fortune I made transplanting hair
I put my last few francs down on a prostitute
Who took me up to her room to perform the flag salute

Whereupon I stole her passport and her wig

And headed for the airport and the midnight flight, you dig?
And fourteen hours later I was down in Adelaide
Looking through the want ads sipping Fosters in the shade

I opened up an agency somewhere down the line

To hire Aboriginals to work the opal mines
But I attached their wages and took a whopping cut
And whisked away their workman's comp and pauperized the lot

I'm Mr. Bad Example
(etc.)

I bought a first class ticket on Malaysian Air

And landed in Sri Lanka none the worse for wear
I'm thinking of retiring from all my dirty deals
I'll see you in the next life, wake me up for meals

My God! That contains more plot and imagery than a typical Michael Bay film. He even worked in a clever rhyme for chemin de fer, for cryin' out loud! The song has no bridge. He just keeps slamming you with one great chorus after another and throws in two refrains. Nothing is more refreshing than a great song about something other than heartache. The last thing this world needs is yet another weepy ballad from a Sensitive Singer Songwriter. Barf. They are almost always dull and disappointing.

As long as I'm holding class today, if you really want to treat yourself to a big, satisfying slice of 60's pop pie, go into iTunes and grab a copy of "Five O'Clock World" by The Vogues. The disjointed note sequence played on an acoustic guitar in the song's intro will stay with you for the rest of the day. Every time I hear it, I wonder how they were able to come out of it and craft a song, but they did. The tune itself borrows from Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang," which fits in perfectly with the theme of having to survive the 9 to 5 grind. Class dismissed.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might want to check out the Bulletin Board at www.warrenzevon.com. And hey, NJ isn't so bad -- in June, we're hosting the annual WZBB Zevonathon here in Jersey for the fifth time. (I'm a fourth-generation native New Yorker who is now a 20-year NJ resident.)
Charlene

April 29, 2008 at 1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very exciting story indeed.

His hair was perfect!

WZ had timeless brilliance and a little rhythm. He died too young.

Ralph's friend

July 6, 2008 at 7:24 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home