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.
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
(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.
What do you think America? Leave your comments on the Guestbook!
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
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