During the Thanksgiving holiday, after getting caught up on reading the Guitar George posts from the past few weeks, my lovely wife astutely brought to my attention the fact that in several of my posts I have made reference to things I have planned for future editions of FNWGG, and she suggested that I start honoring those intentions lest I accumulate a burdensome backlog of unposted Guitar George videos.
For example, in my Halloween essay I mentioned Warren Zevon of “Werewolves of London” fame. Don’t worry—I won’t bore you with a video of “Werewolves”. It might have been Zevon’s biggest hit, but it was far from his best song.
By the time his breakthrough album Excitable Boy was released in 1978, Warren Zevon was already a seasoned veteran of the music business, having toured with the Everly Brothers, recorded two good (but commercially unsuccessful) albums, and established himself as a member of a swiftly burgeoning music scene in Los Angeles that included the likes of Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Lindsey Buckingham, and Stevie Nicks, all of whom contributed to Zevon’s recording and songwriting efforts.
While “Werewolves of London” was the big hit from Excitable Boy, other songs from the album, including the musically buoyant but lyrically macabre title track and the gentle “Tenderness on the Block” also received airplay on FM radio. But the album’s strongest song is the final track, “Lawyers Guns and Money”. The terse lyrics are somehow simultaneously troubling and humorous, and the music is anchored by one of my all-time favorite guitar riffs—a pretty strong endorsement coming from an ardent Rolling Stones fan. After Excitable Boy, Zevon continued his long, mostly successful but often rocky career. Warren was plagued for years with drug and alcohol troubles, but in the end it was lung cancer that took his life prematurely in 2003.
Zevon was a frequent guest on David Letterman’s show, where he also often sat in for Paul Schaffer on nights when Paul was out. On the day of Zevon’s death, Letterman gave a wonderfully poignant tribute to Zevon, and replayed footage of Zevon’s last appearance on the show, one year earlier, when Warren and David both knew Zevon’s death was imminent. You can watch this touching tribute HERE
Tonight’s video of “Lawyers Guns and Money” is from Zevon’s 1984 appearance on Letterman. The addition of a snippet of the bluesy “Trouble” makes for a nice intro, and Warren’s characteristically deadpan demeanor is offset by Paul Shaffer’s exuberance. In the interest of brevity, I have barely scratched the surface of Zevon’s troubled but fascinating life and his underrated work. I highly recommend checking out his bio on Spotify and Wikipedia, and other videos of him on YouTube.