Posts Tagged ‘Warren Zevon’

That hungry little daschund!*For mature readers only, and trust me when I say you’ll look at that little dog differently by the end of this article.

But seriously, I’m talking songs about killers. Death Songs. Rock and Roll has been rife with these types of oddities since its inception. Probably the heyday of morbid rock was in the 60’s, with songs like “Dead Man’s Curve” or “Last Kiss” (Pearl Jam did a brutal cover of that one a few years back) although that’s not exactly the type of song I’m going to talk about here. I’ve always been fascinated by the tunes with more of an edge, songs with a more threatening tone if you will. If they have a happy little melody to balance things out, well, that’s even better. Hey, there’s nothing cooler than humming along merrily to a song about a serial killer, right?

So without further ado, a list of my favorites:

Run for Your Life – The Beatles

This gem from John Lennon seems harmless enough, at least until you actually listen to the lyrics. It was on Rubber Soul and John pulled no punches regarding what would happen if his girlfriend left him:

Let this be a sermon, I mean everything I’ve said, Baby, I’m determined and I’d rather see you dead. You better run for your life if you can, little girl, Hide your head in the sand little girl, Catch you with another man, that’s the end, little girl.

Yikes. How in God’s name did that get past the honcho’s way back in 1965? This, my friends, was an early indicator that the friendly moptops weren’t as innocent as they seemed.

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer – The Beatles

This Paul McCartney song (from Abbey Road) is a great example of how downright nasty lyrics can be when hidden behind a catchy tune and how, incredibly, a lot of people miss the point. Hey, it’s upbeat and bouncy, it can’t possibly be about a guy who murders his girlfriend Joan, his teacher, and then the judge presiding over his trial. Or can it? I’ve got to give you the full song on this one:

Joan was quizzical, studied pataphysical science in the home,  Late nights all alone with a test-tube, ohh-oh-oh-oh… Maxwell Edison majoring in medicine calls her on the phone,  “Can I take you out to the pictures Joa-oa-oa-oan?” But as she’s getting ready to go a knock comes on the door…

Bang, bang, Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon her head Bang, bang, Maxwell’s silver hammer made sure that she was dead.

Back in school again Maxwell plays the fool again, teacher gets annoyed Wishing to avoid an unpleasant sce-e-e-ene,  She tells Max to stay when the class has gone away, so he waits behind,  Writing 50 times “I must not be so-o-o-oo…” But when she turns her back on the boy, he creeps up from behind…

Bang, bang, Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon her head,  Bang, bang, Maxwell’s silver hammer made sure that she was dead.

P.C. Thirty-One said “we caught a dirty one,” Maxwell stands alone,  Painting testimonial pictures ohh-oh-oh-oh,  Rose and Valerie screaming from the gallery, say he must go free,  The judge does not agree and he tells them so-o-o-oo,  But as the words are leaving his lips a noise comes from behind…

Bang, bang, Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon his head,  Bang, Bang, Maxwell’s silver hammer made sure that he was dead.

I’m going to tell you something now that you may not believe. I actually heard an elementary music class singing this song at school once. I stopped outside in the hallway to make sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing, and I was sure enough correct.

Awesome.

Excitable Boy – Warren Zevon (must-click link!)

Another great song about rape and murder set to a catchy melody. Hey, he’s just an excitable boy:

He took little Suzie to the Junior Prom Excitable boy, they all said.  And he raped her and killed her, then he took her home Excitable boy, they all said. Well, he’s just an excitable boy.

After ten long years they let him out of the home,  Excitable boy, they all said. And he dug up her grave and built a cage with her bonesExcitable boy, they all said. Well, he’s just an excitable boy.

That last line about building a cage with her bones just finishes it off with the right touch, don’t ya think?

Marie Provost – Nick Lowe

God, I love this song. It’s just chock full of ironic, tongue-in-cheek madness. Basically it’s a song about a silent movie actress who couldn’t adjust when the talkies came to Hollywood. She lives all alone in a house with her little dachshund, becomes depressed, passes out on pills, and uh, things take an ugly turn. Here ya go kids! Sing along!

She’d been lyin’ there for two or three weeks, The neighbors said they never heard a squeak, While hungry eyes that could not speak, Said even little doggies have gotta eat.

And later . . .

Those quaalude bombs didn’t help her sleep, As her nights grew long and her days grew bleak, It’s all downhill once you’ve passed your peak, Marie got ready for that last big sleep.

The cops came in and they looked around, Throwin’ up everywhere over what they found, The handiwork of Marie’s little dachshund. That hungry little dachshund!

She was a winner that became a doggie’s dinner, She never meant that much to me, Whoa oh, poor Marie.

Try though as I might to elaborate on those lyrics, I got nuthin’. That is all.

The End – The Doors

Ooh, this song gave me the willies back when I was a young, impressionable kid (insert age joke here). Even now it’s a powerful song in many respects. To this day it’s hard to believe Jim Morrison went where he went with these horrifying lyrics:

The killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on. He took a face from the ancient gallery, And he walked on down the hall. He went into the room where his sister lived, and then he . . . paid a visit to his brother, and then he . . . Walked on down the hall, and he came to a door . . . and he looked inside.

“Father?” “Yes son.” “I want to kill you.” “Mother? I want to . . . . f**k you.”

Holy . . . what the hell? Man, you think rap music goes to dark places? They got nothin’ on The Lizard King. Whoa.

Timothy – The Buoys

Great song from the early 70’s about three guys who become trapped in a cave and uh… let’s just say only two are left when the rescuers get to them. Hey, nothing wrong with a catchy little song about cannibalism, is there? Enjoy . . .

Hungry as hell no food to eat, And Joe said that he would sell his soul, For just a piece of meat

Water enough to drink for two, And Joe said to me, “I’ll have a swig And then there’s some for you.”

Timothy, Timothy, Joe was looking at you Timothy, Timothy, God what did we do?

I must have blacked out just around then, ‘Cause the very next thing that I could, Was the light of the day again, My stomach was full as it could be,  And nobody ever got around To finding Timothy . . .

So there you have it. My favorite songs about murder, rape, cannibalism, death by dachshund, and screwing your mother.

Have a nice day.

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Warren ZevonLet’s talk about my man Warren Zevon. The first time I heard of him was back in early ’79 when I was living on West 8th Avenue, just south of The Ohio State University campus. I distinctly recall sitting at a table in the since demolished Serene Lounge, a misnamed establishment if there ever was one. I believe Eddie George’s Grill now sits where the legendary Serene Lounge was located. Tragic really.

But I digress.

As I sat there enjoying Happy Hour, a buddy came rushing in and said he had tickets to a show up the street at Zachariah’s Red-Eye Saloon. That’s now The Newport for all the youngsters out there (by the way, I may be off on the dates here and there. Hey, it was the 70’s you know).

Of course, I asked who was playing, and he told me Warren Zevon. Being the sophisticated music aficionado that I was, I immediately jumped at the chance. O.K., truth be told I’d never heard of Warren Zevon. Seems I’d missed the whole “Werewolves of London” hoopla from a few months prior. Go figure. Long story short, I went, was blown away and became a huge fan.

It’s odd but the one clear memory of that night was Zevon mentioning that his dad was named Stumpy. That’s a cool dad name, don’t you think? Anyway, one of my big regrets (among many) is the fact that I never saw Warren Zevon live again.

Here’s some interesting Zevon trivia that is sure to catch a rock fan’s ear. It seems that in the early to mid-70’s, just before they all hit the big-time, Warren roomed with a couple hip-cats named Buckingham and Nicks. How great would it have been to be there when they brought out the guitars or sat at the piano? Not to mention being in the presence of Miss Nicks. Yowza.

Zevon’s music is best known for its wit, humor, and intelligence. A lot of his stuff has historical or political themes, and he was great at putting a wry spin on an otherwise bland topic. I mean, who else would write a song about Roland, a Norwegian who becomes embroiled in the 1960’s Congo Crisis? Warren did when he wrote “Roland, the Headless Thompson Gunner.” You never get that kind of stuff from Bieber, lemme tell ya.

Ah, what the hell, let’s get to the music. If you don’t know much about his stuff, here’s a few songs that will give you a good idea what Warren Zevon was all about. They also happen to be my personal favorites.

Excitable Boy” – This gem is an upbeat little number about a juvenile sociopath’s murderous prom night. What’s not to like? It’s the greatest sociopath song since The Beatle’s “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” It’s been previously mentioned here in the witty, well written, insightful, and fascinating blog entitled “Killer Songs.”

“Reconsider Me” – Nice, slow, haunting song about lost love. The aforementioned Stevie Nicks covered it nicely and liked it well enough to include it in her box set.

Splendid Isolation” – A biting satire against celebrity culture, but only one cat gets mentioned by name. Dig these lyrics:

Michael Jackson in Disneyland

Don’t have to share it with nobody else

Lock the gates, Goofy take my hand

And lead me through the World of Self.

“Raspberry Beret” – Yep, it’s THAT Raspberry Beret. The song is actually Zevon fronting a little combo called The Hindu Love Gods, which included Mike Mills, Peter Buck, and Bill Berry of R.E.M. Just a great cover of the Prince classic.

Detox Mansion” – Great song poking fun at celebrities (again) who go to rehab and act like it’s a living hell for them. This time Elizabeth Taylor and Liza Minnelli get the needle. Pun intended.

Well, I’m goin’ down to Detox Mansion

Way down on Last Breath Farm

I’ve been rakin’ leaves with Liza

Me and Liz clean up the yard.

Trouble Waiting to Happen” – Maybe my favorite Zevon song. It’s a simple tune, really, but for some reason it’s always hit home with me. A sampling:

The mailman brought me The Rolling Stone

Trouble waiting to happen

It said I was living at home alone

Trouble waiting to happen

I read things I didn’t know I’d done

It sounded like a lot of fun

I guess that I’ve been bad or something

Trouble waiting to happen.

A couple of months before he died, Zevon was on Letterman. As you can tell from some of the links, Dave loved Warren Zevon and he’d had him on his show often. Everybody knew Warren was dying, but the guy just carried himself with an air of class and dignity that was remarkable. It was a sad and touching show, and everyone needs to watch it.

At one point Letterman asked Zevon if there was anything he understood now, facing his own mortality, that he didn’t before. Zevon’s reply?

“Just how much you’re supposed to enjoy every sandwich.”

Amen, brother. Amen.

Warren Zevon died on September 7th, 2003. He made an album just before he died called “The Wind” and it was damn good. Regarding his coming passing, he wrote a beautiful goodbye song on the album called “Keep Me in Your Heart.”

As if we had a choice.

Originally published on April 13th, 2012.