I was a co-owner of a small record store in a small Alabama town in 1977 when Warren Zevon’s second Asylum LP Excitable Boy was released. I already memorized every note of his eponymous recording from a year and a half before. The biggest memory I have is the first day Excitable Boy came into the store and I was absorbing every song. When the record got to the track "Vera Cruz" and the line, “I heard Woodrow Wilson’s guns…I heard Maria crying,” a girl in the store started laughing uncontrollably. She thought it was totally silly for someone to write a song using Woodrow Wilson in the lyrics. I still can’t listen to the record without thinking about that and curse her for her stupidity.
When you look back at the Zevon canon, it is difficult to pick the best of the best. I am not even going to try but this is pretty damned great. After working with Warren for a couple of tours in the early '90s, I really never want to hear “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” or “Lawyers, Guns & Money” again but every other track on the LP is as much of a gem.
I am not sure a middle aged white guy today could release a song like the title track without causing a firestorm. Back in the '70s it was just fun. Having that sax and those great chick singers backing up a guy singing about raping and killing a girl then digging up her bones a decade later was just fun – then.
Skip another great LP, Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School, and a buying time live LP, (I will write about these later), and Warren releases a record that was timely in the early eighties and is timely now – not just the love songs, and there are many, but the title track, The Envoy, is scary when you realize it was written over two decades ago. Usually I love the rereleases with the bonus tracks but the remastered The Envoy just seems wrong. It should still end with “Never Too Late For Love” and close. The most painful line in any song, to me, is “you say you’re tired, how I hate to hear you say that word.”
It would be another decade before I would meet the man and, how should I put this? We had a mutual respect. We told each other really bad jokes and I know that Warren liked me. I knew never to talk to him about his songs and he appreciated that and I knew never to tell him how much those songs meant to me. I guess his songs were that personal. I know they are for me.