Warren Zevon is one of my two very favorite songwriters. You might have already realized that, what with this being the third Zevon song featured here so far, but I think this will the the last time we hear from Warren this year, so I thought I might as well and lay it out like that for you. One thing that always tends to catch my interest is songs with interesting and unusual titles; songs that make me wonder how the songwriter came up with the title for the song or – working backwards – wrote a song that could lead to that kind of title.
“Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead” clearly fits that bill. I think it’s the longest song title that will show up in the countdown that isn’t a complete sentence without using a parenthetical phrase. That may seem like a pretty qualified distinction, but there aren’t many songs with longer titles, period. Like “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” (to pick another bizarre title), it’s just another example of Warren Zevon’s great songwriting skills. More than anything, Zevon’s is an outstanding storyteller with clever lyrics that can just as easily convey raw, honest emotion as a little bit of dark, twisted humor. Prime examples of the two being “Accidentally Like A Martyr” and “Mr. Bad Example,” respectively.
A further illustration of Warren Zevon’s great, great lyrics would be a couple excerpts, first from “Gorilla, You’re a Desperado:”
Big gorilla at the L.A. Zoo snatched the glasses right off my face. Took the keys to my BMW. Left me here to take his place. I wish the ape a lot of success. I’m sorry my apartment’s a mess. Most of all I’m sorry if I made you blue. I’m betting the gorilla will too.
Second, probably my favorite line in his whole catalog, from “For My Next Trick, I’ll Need a Volunteer”:
I can saw a woman in two, but you won’t want to look in the box when I’m through. I can make love and disappear. For my next trick, I’ll need a volunteer.
So if you’re only familiar with some of Zevon’s hits – “Werewolves of London”, maybe “Lawyers, Guns and Money” – I definitely suggest you dig deeper into his catalog. There’s some great, great stuff in there.