Top Ten Warren Zevon Songs: The Also-Rans
By Four Walls
April 17, 2016 4:38pm CST
Picking a top ten Warren Zevon list is hard. For every song I included there were three I wish I had also put on the list. Here are a few of the other terrific Zevon songs that I just didn't have the room for: Tenderness on the Block: One of those deceptive personal songs from Zevon. This was inspired by his daughter, who was about 18 months old when Excitable Boy was released. Fistful of Rain: From Life'll Kill Ya, this falls along the lines of "I Was in the House When the House Burned Down" (from the same album) about how great things seem to be, in the immortal words of that country song, just out of reach. This begins with another fabulous Zevon opening line: "You can dream the American dream but you sleep with the lights on and wake up with a scream." Charlie's Medicine: This may be an "anti-drug" song (Zevon, it was revealed after he died, had developed a drug habit to replace his alcoholism about the time The Envoy was released) or Zevon preaching to himself. It's a powerhouse story about a man's drug dealer ("Charlie dealt in pharmaceuticals, Charlie used to sell me pills") who was killed -- for reasons left to the imagination of the listener, never explained in the song -- by a "respectable doctor from Beverly Hills." The best line in the song describes the murder: "Charlie never felt a thing. Neither of them did. Poor kid." And you're left to wonder which one the "poor kid" refers to. Brilliant song. Down in the Mall: The, ahem, joys of excess in America is, ahem, celebrated in this song, where Zevon used his humor to get in a jab at our way of life. Praising the "brand new shopping center seven stories high" Zevon offers to take his girl and "spend all the money that the government doesn't take," where "we're buying CDs and we're buying lingerie, we'll put it on a charge account we're never gonna pay." Carmelita: One of Zevon's best-known songs (thanks to covers by everybody from Linda Ronstadt to gg allin to Dwight Yoakam), it tells of a heroin addict so desperate that he pawns his typewriter to get money for a fix. (Ronstadt changed "Smith-Corona" to "Smith and Wesson," which was the line in the demo version Zevon did.) Hit Somebody! (The Hockey Song): Featuring David Letterman yelling "hit somebody!" on the chorus, Zevon sings of a player who is paid to fight so "the stars" can score, but deep inside "he just wanted one damn goal." Knockin' on Heaven's Door: Unquestionably the most spine-tingling cover of Dylan's classic song that you're ever going to hear. Zevon, knowing he was dying of cancer, included this song on his final album, The Wind. He couldn't resist singing "Open up, open up, open up for me" as the chorus of "knock, knock, knockin' on Heaven's door" faded. Next up: my all-time favorite Zevon song, the song that's been #1 since 1978. Meanwhile, here's his sweet song for his daughter, "Tenderness on the Block."
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