presents... Interesting Motherfucker: (noun)
An individual exhibiting such uniqueness or individuality that he or she will cause a roomful of bar cronies to exclaim, "That's one interesting motherfucker!" Actual sexual relations with one's mother are not required.

Click here for more Interesting Motherfuckers.

By Xander Horlyk

I think we're all in agreement here: When Warren Zevon is being literary tough-guy-cocky, he can whup any pretty boy singer-songwriter's ass. And when he's gently weeping into his beer and/or cocaine, telling lurid yet lyrical tales of smirky bellhops and wife stealin' Hula Hula Boys, he can still whup any pretty boy singer-songwriter's ass. Warren Zevon, diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and facing death with his characteristic dignity, courage, and razor sharp humor, can make you cry like a baby. And still find time to kick any pretty boy singer-songwriter's ass.

He's the man that Bruce Springsteen once called "a moralist in cynic's clothing." While admittedly no linguist, David Letterman believes "Warren may be the only man in the history of human communication to use the word 'brucellosis' in a song." Jackson Browne said this of the dude: "Warren Zevon is the first and foremost proponent of the 'song noir'."

Bursting upon the scene over thirty years ago with the All-American mug of a choir boy gone postal, Warren Zevon has been our gleeful musical tour guide to the decidedly prole-friendly world of headless mercenaries, outlaw boxers, French Inhalers, werewolf dandies, desperado gorillas, necrophilliac "Excitable Boys," not to mention a certain 'Liza 'n' Liz,' compadres made down at the "Detox Mansion."

In other words, Warren Zevon is a singer who's never sold a whole lot of records.

Being anything but a mainstream taste, Warren has walked a lonely road in the music biz. Listening to his recent career anthologies, one conjures up an impression of him as being sort of a hair-shirt ascetic, a mad monk, a whacked perfectionist who'd rather die in obscurity than put out a bad CD.

But that, gentle readers, is what makes him such an Interesting Motherfucker.

You see, he's the original, word-weaving, song singing kid from Durango, a yowling, yelping, piano thumping malcontent with balls the size of grapefruit. A rudely talented wild child with unpredictable bolts of infernal genius. Warren is pop music's equivalent of James Ellroy and Ross MacDonald, a funny and funky gentleman scenester, chronicling the deep, dark, narcotic American life.

To be blessed with humanity, mucho musical chops, AND a criminally literate mind is truly one of God's great gifts.

Probably the most well-read and intellectual songwriter in rock, Warren's sophistication and insightful writing style no doubt contributes to the fact that he is not widely known. (Lesson to aspiring AMERICAN IDOL contestants: Being able to quote Kierkegaard at will = not a good thing. Who knew?)

From "Hasten Down the Wind" to "Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me" to "Bad Karma," his observations on life (it'll kill ya), love (shadow, random, abandoned, whatnot), sex (Warren's done for Men Behaving Badly what GIRL, INTERRUPTED did for mental health. He's taken something that's socially painful and made it look fun and danceable), drugs (Pioneer Chicken over on Alvarado, always an interesting tourist destination), and good ol' rock and roll are the most acid, acute, and astute to be found anywhere.

Need proof? Gimme "Desperadoes Under the Eave," for $200, Alex: "...And if California slides into the ocean/As the mystics and statistics say it will/I predict this motel will be standing/Until I pay my bill." Best. Couplet. Ever.

Even his supposed shortcomings are pretty fucking cool. His albums are rarely consistent from beginning to end. They are more like colorful conversations one would have with a spectacularly erudite and gregarious neighbor 'character'-full of extraneous, wandering observations surrounding a few tales that may or may not their basis in reality but are tales you won't soon forget.

As a singer, his voice is distinctive rather than good. His balladering is always sincere, straightforward, and gorgeous. But when the dude's ready to rumble, he punctures the air with a macho array of snarls, growls, and shouts emanating from the lower register of his vocal range. This always keeps his performances lively and entertaining. Whether he's howling like a werewolf or screaming like a freakin' banshee, when you hear that voice, you know it's WZ.

As a child of the seventies, I was too young to have seen him at his blow-dried, blow snorted, blow-jobbed professional peak. I didn't become aware of the Zevon musical canon until much, much later. Maybe this way too quirky and personal a reaction to have a whole lot of resonance. But, whenever, I think of the guy, I will forever associate it with the time I popped my cherry.

(SPOILER ALERT: Yes, this is the time when I reveal how I lost my virginity. PROCEED WITH CAUTION!)

You see, when I was a teenager, I desperately wanted to be one of those mean, nasty little bastards. But in reality, I was just a spazzy, dorky poser playing the part of the cool, outsider, pony boy dOOd. I grew up in a small, Midwestern town once famous for having the world's largest stockyards. When the stockyards closed down, what remained were the bars.

Picture it: A young, inexperienced Xander and my preposterously slaggy high school squeeze nekkin' and fooling around in some anonymous cattle bar on a snowy Iowa school night. "Werewolves of London" is playing on the jukebox. Seizing the moment and remembering how well it worked for Tom Cruise in THE COLOR OF MONEY, I leaped up, grabbed a pool cue and proceeded to do a bumpity-bumpity, hippy-hippy-shake all around the pool table. Drunk out of my cotton pickin' seventeen year old mind, attempting to do pool stunts I didn't know how to do all the while continuing to do my interpretive Tom Cruise-cum-Snoopy-cum-Screech from SAVED BY THE BELL dance, I imagine I caused quite a little ruckus in front of the little lady and the good old boyz.

If you recall THE COLOR OF MONEY, there's a perfect movie moment right at the very end of the Werewolf montage. When Warren is singing the line: "I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's/His hair was perfect/Draw Blood" on the sound track, Tom Cruise maneuvers his stick from his right hand to his left and then with his right hand proceeds to pat his million dollar coif exactly on cue.

Under the influence of alcohol, teenage hormones, and rampant stupidity, I wasn't quite so dextrous. I maneuver the pool cue easily enough and then on the "His hair was perfect," I accidentally whack myself upside the head with the goddamned pool stick. I used the wrong hand to pat down my hair. Yes, I know I'm a pathetic little freak.

Upon regaining consciousness, I see not my slaggy girlfriend but a kindly cocktail waitress who obviously took pity on me. I got me my very own 'French Inhaler.' And an older woman to boot. I was seventeen, she must have been, I don't know 21 or 22. We dated 'til the snow thawed. But, to be honest, I don't think she would have given me the time of day if it weren't for the fact that the music of Warren Zevon moves me so much. And since then, there's always been a part of me that wished that "Mr. Bad Example" was my own personal anthem.

In October, on the LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN, Warren Zevon made his final public performance. When Dave asked Warren if his illness gave him any special insight into life and death, Warren shrugged and said he didn't think so, "Not unless I know how much you're supposed to enjoy every sandwich." There was a hush in the audience.

That night, Letterman ended his broadcast with his arm around the dying singer and said, "Warren, enjoy every sandwich." A perfect ending to a highly emotional hour of television.

It's been a while since we've seen Warren. I hope he's still enjoying every sandwich.


Warren Zevon is the wittiest, most original singer-songwriter cats out there. If you don't believe me, listen to I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD (AN ANTHOLOGY) (Rhino), his two CD, 44 track career retrospective. Even the throwaways pack a wicked wallop.

I'm ecstatic they included "Boom Boom Mancini" in the collection. This hard driving headbanger, long considered to be lesser Zevon, is, nevertheless, one of my personal favorites. In fact, I see some very definite similarities between journeyman boxer, Ray Mancini and our boy, Warren.

Both are hard living, battle scarred 'excitable boys' with fast hands and killer hooks. But the erstwhile Boom Boom was, at best, a street fighter, lacking a certain artful elegance and poetry. He was a brawler. There's nothing wrong with that. Outside of that fateful fight with Du Koo Kim, he lacked that killer instinct to put somebody away.

Needless to say, this has never been a problem for Warren Zevon. He's a lyrical gut puncher. There's a certain magic and majesty as he bobs and weaves. He's brave enough to show his self inflicted welts and his music always leaves internal injuries.

Even in his sweet songs, there's a sense of melancholy that's based upon real human emotion. Take "Desperadoes Under the Eaves": '...Don't the sun look angry through the trees/Don't the trees look like crucified thieves.' Man, I've never looked at trees the same way since.

Or "Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me": '...Well, I met a girl in West Hollywood, I ain't naming names/She really worked me over good, she was just like Jesse James./She was a credit to her gender. She put me through some changes, Lord/Sort of like a Waring Blender.' Yee-oouch!!!

In my opinion, there is no song so elegantly heartbreaking than "Suzi Lightning." What love song is so raw and close to the bone than "Searching for a Heart." '...They say love conquers all/You can't start it like a car. You can't stop it like a gun."

There's a cetain fearless ballsiness in all of his music. Yes, he's lived the rock and roll life. And if he had to do it all again, he would. The good times and the bad. No regrets.

I think it's that sense of pure joy that imbues his wilder entries. Once you think about it, "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" is a cool little toe tapper. Try to listen to the infectiousness of Warren when he portrays himself as "Mr. Bad Example." Nobody makes bad behavior more honorable.

He ends the CD with "Mutineer," a song that his career so perfectly. Warren pegs himself as a badass original and he is thankful for all those he's met along the way. "...I was born to rock the boat/Some will sink. But we will float/You're my witness. I'm your mutineer."

It's been a long and twisted trip, Warren. Thank you for guiding the way.

Xander Horlyk is a very complex young man. Despite exhibiting no discernible musical talent, he was once in a band. Despite having started a three year subscription to DETAILS Magazine, he is not gay. Like Michael Jackson, he believes there is no such thing as bad publicity. Send all complaints to:

Meet some other Interesting Motherfuckers:

Ray Walston by John Saleeby
From My Favorite Martian to Mr. Hand.
Mitch Hedberg
by John Saleeby
The last of the comedy greats!
Al Jafee
by Wil Forbis
Mad Magazine's cartoon master.
GG Allin
by Wil Forbis
Even punks loathed the performer who pushed past the bouderies.
David Allan Coe by Wil Forbis
Country's obscene outlaw walks the line.
Bernie Casey by John Saleeby
The blaxploitation star who rose from the ghetto of professional football.
Bret Easton Ellis by Tom Waters
Peruse the critical overview and interview with the fiction superstar.
Phil Lynott by Wil Forbis
Thin Lizzy's frontman rose from the streets of Ireland to the heights of rock stardom and then descended into the pit of drug abuse.
Louis CK by Sean C Tarry
Marvel at this stand up's ability to phrase the opposite of every song.
Sho Kosugi by Wil Forbis
Fear the power of the Ninja! Fear it, Bitch!
Bill Hicks by Cody Wayne
The mind expanding comedian gets his due.
Warren Zevon by Xander Horlyk
A literary look at "a moralist in cynic's clothing."
Pam Grier by John Saleeby
Sweet Christmas! It's the queen of blaxploitation, Foxy Brown herself!
Jack Webb by John Saleeby
When he created the elite police unit of "Dragnet," Jack Webb laid the first blow against the scourge of America: Hippies!
Doris Wishman by Wil Forbis
The prolific adult film maker, whose work includes the classic Chesty Morgan movies, is probed and prodded.
Dave Thomas by John Saleeby
Wendy's Dave Thomas was all about Biggie Fries, Frosties and love.
Spike Milligan by John Saleeby
Read up on the life of the British comedy scribe.
Toshiro Mifune by Wil Forbis
The Japanese actor who slashed his way through a thousand samurai movies.
Nina Hagen by Wil Forbis
The Wagnerian Banshee who created the blueprint for punk/funk/opera.

Bob and Tommy Stinson by John Saleeby
Get to know the real talents of eighties punk sensations, The Replacements.

Tom Savini by John Saleeby
The king of latex gore.

And there's even more on our main page!

Additional Warren Zevon Material:

Warren Zevon dot com
Keep up on Warren's music and health.

How to Die in Three Easy Steps
Zevon faced death with a sense of humor.

The Zevon fan club
Fans speak!

Columns - Features - Interviews - Fiction - Acid Radio - GuestBook Sign/View - Blogs
View for more sin and wackiness!

Email Publisher