Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on


The Excitable Boy

After laying out the reasons why I'm not a big Springsteen fan, I feel compelled to tell you why Warren Zevon is one of my favorites.

I first heard his music in 1978 on WMMS, Cleveland's only true rock station at the time (aside from M-105 which briefly put up a good fight but flamed quickly).  The opening notes of "Werewolves of London" hooked me right away and once I heard it a few times, it was a fun song to sing along with.  The lyrics were filled with references that were all over the place (Lee Ho Fook's, Lon Chaney, Trader Vic's, pina coladas) yet fit together well as a story.

Not being a big buyer of singles/45s/little records with big holes in the middle, I purchased the "Excitable Boy" album.  What I found were more songs with references to things that I didn't really understand at first ("Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner," "Veracruz") yet they also fit very well together.  Alongside of those tunes, there were some great songs that hit me immediately ("Lawyers, Guns and Money," "Johnny Strikes Up the Band").

So here I was with about 35 minutes worth of music that intrigued me and broadened my horizons done by a guy who wasn't a pretty boy with a great voice but sounded like he was badass and knew how to rock.  I was sold.

Looking back on that record today, the qualities that made it appealing 31 years ago still hold up today.  "Excitable Boy" is a great collection of music, stories, eccentricities and viewpoints that were different than many others at that time. Picking up where his previous album left off, we again see Zevon's penchant for incorporating current events and juxtaposing them with well-known people and events from the past, his ability to tell a story and give it an unexpected twist, and his love for the obscure. 

This landmark album was a look at what made the Excitable Boy tick as he developed what would eventually be a long career filled with much more of the same.  And I could hardly wait.

  • Mike Hayward

    He definitely deserves to be in the R & R Hall of Fame.

  • Ed P.

    Warren was a great talent, with some serious demons, who I had the pleasure to see live three times.

  • Kevin

    Hey Ed,
    You’ll want to stay tuned because a review of great bootlegs featuring Zevon is on the horizon.

  • Matt Wardlaw

    Kev, I’ll be looking forward to that one. We’ll have to converse about the Zevon book. I’m interested to hear your thoughts since we haven’t talked about it yet.

  • Ann V.

    Excitable Boy was one of the most influential albums in my musical life. It was one of the first LPs I owned that I picked out myself. I saw Zevon perform at the Fox in Atlanta in ’88 (X opened) and I cried when he sang Accidentally like a Martyr. Thanks for reminding me of one of my favorite song collections!

  • Kevin

    Hey Ann,
    Great story. Another one to get the tears flowing is the tape of Warren’s final appearance on the Letterman show.

    X gets my vote as one of the greatest American bands ever and I’m sure they will be appearing in one of my future posts.

  • Todd

    i was lucky to see him in a smallish setting late in his career. Just him and an electric piano. I was sorta “ehh” on him leading up to it..but was wow’d and became a fan that very night.

  • Ed P.

    I await the reviews.

    The book was, revealing, a bit unflinching and raw at times. Well put together.

  • ferris

    Warren’s one of the greats. When he was dying, his last appearance on Letterman, he explained how his illness got so bad: He was afraid of going to doctors.

    “In retrospect,” Zevon said, “it’s it’s one of those phobias that really didn’t pay off.”

    And if I remember right, he said it with a minor smile. Gods-damn. He’s even brilliant and lively about dying.

    “Roland” is prominently placed on my mix that I want played at my memorial service when I die. I had to listen to everybody else’s shit forever. I get the last word.

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