They say . . .

“They say these are the good times
But they don’t live around here…”
For reasons that aren’t quite clear to me, I’m actually fairly torn up over the news that Warren Zevon has inoperable lung cancer. I knew when Joey Ramone was sick, and his death was a marker to anyone of my age who grew up with the Ramones. And I LOVE the Ramones, still, so it was a terrible shame. His last album had a cover of the old Louis Armstrong “Wonderful World” that was incredibly poignant and still rocked. But other than that, Joey hadn’t really done much to break ground in a long time. The Ramones were sui generis, and they did what they did, it was always great but it was nearly always the same. That was the point. Loved it.
But Zevon has been giving us more and more interesting songs, starting out cynical. The earliest Zevon song I know of is “Outside Chance,” covered by The Turtles: “You can try to please me / but it won’t come easy / Stone walls surround me / I’m surprised that you even found me / And you don’t stand an outside chance / No you don’t stand an outside chance / But you can try.” They really raved it up, too. And from there he got darker, but his darkness always had a little smirk. Of course, “Werewolves of London” and “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” established him, but then there are some songs of deep, desperate love as well (“you can’t start it like a car / you can’t stop it with a gun”). Ronstadt covers, and her best stuff, too. A little more obscurity and small club gigs all over, and I’ve never been able to catch him. “Splendid Isolation,” one of my all-time favorites, and the very funny “My Shit’s Fucked Up,” which now shows some extra meaning. Maybe he’s known for a long time. I haven’t really dug into the new album yet, the mood hasn’t been right. I can’t really listen to darkness when I’ve got my own darkness going on, that’s just wallowing. But the time will come and I’ll love the new songs, too, I’m sure.
I guess a guy whose logo is a grinning, smoking skull might have seen lung cancer coming. His ride’s here.

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