Bringing The Gospel Of Warren Zevon's 'Sentimental Hygiene' To The People

Tragedy and great music on the same day...
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For Zevonologists every LP in his canon is a separate work a place in time. If God exists, Warren will be remembered long after Beiber Fever. In my previous post on Warren I talked about his first LP. I am going to skip around and write about his “comeback” record, Sentimental Hygiene. I am not sure how many recovering alchohlic junkies could make a record so well put together as opposed to his life, drunk or sober.

A little background, I loved every note the man played from his first Jackson Browne-produced Asylum LP in 1976. I had the good fortune to see him on a couple of solo tours of the south when he was trailing off his drunken years. I was at the legendary show in Birmingham, AL when he fired the monitor and sound guys in the middle of his set. I was also at a show the next year when he was almost sober and played a solo set of his songs plus some great covers.

Then he disappeared.

In the intervening years while he wandered through the ins and outs of sobriety, I kept playing his recordings for everyone I knew. I just had a feeling that he would make a great record – and he did. While recording Sentimental Hygiene, I was the  command gofer for 10,000 Maniacs while recording their In My Tribe LP that catapulted them from sleeping on floors to luxury suites. We had one van and a two-bedroom apartment for seven people in our group and Michael Stipe came along just because he was in the same town recording with Warren and having fun with Natalie so it was a bit crowded – but that is another story.

We had a couple of nights off so I didn’t have to shuffle band members back and forth from the studio, so I thought. Natalie and Michael asked if I would drive them to Record One studios. They told me it was a Zevon session and Michael asked if I wanted to stay with them but I declined choosing to go back to our “pad” and hang out with the boys – I have photos. I was in a stupor on the couch when I got the call for Natalie and Michael’s return trip to our apartment.

I can’t remember if it was Michael or Natalie who made the comment, “Danny, you should have stayed, Neil Young and Bob Dylan dropped by and we just recorded their tracks and then sang and played around a piano."

Now keep in mind, Natalie and Michael do not lie but they are not above a joke or two. It was a year later when Sentimental Hygene was released that I found out it really was the truth. I had an invitation to stay for a once in a lifetime jam session and I chose to go back to the apartment – can you say “self-flagellation?”

Move ahead several months and 10,000 Maniacs became huge around the world and Warren also had a larger following with his new record. I am sure it was due to the association with R.E.M., the biggest band in the world at the time, (sorry Bono, it was 1986). I had a little nest egg thanks to the Maniacs and Suzanne Vega’s successes so I started promoting concerts in my new hometown just outside of Albany, NY.

When offered the Zevon tour with X and The Call, I didn’t hesitate and agreed to pay the full $20K price. Lots of other promoters got the tour for less but even now I look at it as a life-changing moment. I didn’t lose money, the show sold out, and I came away with some great stories and a friendship with Warren that would last the rest of his life.

A sidebar from the day – load-in started at 8:00 AM and the California earthquake of ’89 happened at 10:00 AM and every crew-member, all from California, tried to call home but to no avail, so it was a tense set up for the show.

Wait… it gets better.

By 3:00 PM I had to go to my apartment and catch a short nap. I had the TV on CNN, the only news channel at the time. I woke up to a camera shot of The Palace Theater marquee, with my name on top, presenting Warren Zevon. I knew I did not pay for TV advertizing and thought I was dreaming. A deranged guy had cushioned himself on the roof above the theater and started shooting people – three random people dead.  A brave Albany sharp-shooting cop took him down before it got worse. I arrived at the theater as fast as I could and was thankful that the sold out show was still going on despite the tragic occurrences and kept the news away from Warren and the band, which included Richie Hayward and Kenny Gradney from Little Feat.

I was doing triple duty as promoter, roadie, and runner for the show. The hurdle to climb was making sure everything went smoothly for the audience and the band. I picked Warren up at the hotel and we talked about the earthquake and then he asked me about the sniper. I had to tell him about it and was amused at his Zevon-esque reply, “Well, you know Dan, it just fits.”

A short time later, while Warren was in his dressing room, I brought in a cooler full of various sodas and juices, (no alchohol allowed). Warren said, “Aren’t you the promoter?” I replied that I was a promoter trying to save money. Warren came back with a great line – “Those are the ones you have to watch out for…”

The show was full of all the songs any Zevon fan wanted to hear. Any new converts were treated to the full Sentimental Hygeine LP plus the best songs from his 5 LP catalog. Out of all the shows I promoted during those years, this ran the best. No problems, no dilemmas, and I came away with a connection to Warren that lasted for years.

To be continued…