DEFENDING MY LIFE ONE ALBUM AT A TIME (#97 Warren Zevon)

#97 Warren Zevon Stand in the Fire (1980 Asylum)

Info: 10 tracks

When and where I acquired it: In one of my regular records stores (don’t recall which one) in the early 80’s.

Why I acquired it: It was recommended by the Rolling Stone Record Guide 1982 Edition (see below). And I already knew I liked “Werewolves of London.

Other Rankings: Rolling Stone Record Guide (1982 Edition): 5 stars (out of 5); Christgau’s Consumer Guide A-

Warren Zevon wasn’t an obvious descendant of the Rock and Roll Trio…except on this live album where he found the ferocity that so often escaped him on his numerous fine studio efforts. I loved his ballads but nothing ever lived up to this stomping set, which consisted of Warren, an obscure band from his record label and an amazing guitarist  named David Landau blazing through a couple of new songs, the cream of Zevon’s early albums and “Bo Diddley’s a Gunslinger.”

Drawn from a five-night stand at L.A.’s Roxy, it starts out with the surging title cut and rolls from riff to head-snapping riff. As for the singing, had Zevon been able to bring this kind of passion to more polished versions of these hook-laden tunes he would have had…more than one hit! I wouldn’t want to suggest “Jeannie Needs a Shooter” or “Excitable Boy” or “Lawyers, Guns and Money” were prime Top 40 material just because you can’t get them out of your head…but they ain’t that much stranger than “Werewolves of London”!

I never know if it’s my imagination, but it sounds like the crowd(s) and the music get louder cut-by-cut, with the main man throwing in an occasional new lyric, until he finally turns “I’ve got a .38 Special up on the shelf/And if I start feeling stupid I’ll shoot myself” into “I’ve got a .44 Magnum up on the shelf/And I don’t intend to use it on myself!” before he starts speaking in tongues and closes the show by out-stomping Bo Diddley himself.

But what brings this close to the spirit of early rock ‘n’ roll is not the choice of cover–it’s the combination of pure joy and raw anger. There was no shame in Zevon never duplicating it on record Nobody else did either.

Standing in the fire was a legitimately heroic pose in 1980 at the Dawn of the Frozen Silence, which has now descended on us so thoroughly that the next time we are allowed to draw a breath, we’ll be standing in a fire quire literally…And the likes of Warren Zevon won’t be anywhere to be found.

Next up: Neil Young

7 thoughts on “DEFENDING MY LIFE ONE ALBUM AT A TIME (#97 Warren Zevon)

  1. Where can I read more about this Dawn of the Frozen Silence?!

    Hi, Johnny! Can I just say… your prose (prose? blog? thoughts?) make me SO happy! You have become my Rock and Roll touchstone. (no pressure) You take me back to a time in my life when I loved music so much and I felt like every waking moment needed or had music or a song to punctuate it’s significance. Or to thankfully take me any place other than…
    Music, truly, made life tolerable during some sad times growing up,
    Oops, I did digress there a bit.

    But I am so grateful and I thank you for sharing your thoughts and giving your reader such great insight. Every new bit of information that I learn from you sparks greater curiosity. AND reminds me to go back and listen. Again.

    Thank You and Happy New Year!

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this which is odd because I Zevon (and would likely include a couple of his albums in my second 100). Will have to fix that…

  3. Hello everyone. My name is Kim Watson, and my husband Dan and I are John’s best friends.

    John Walker Ross has passed away. We are all in shock, and will share details as the family approves.

    Please know that sharing his love here for all things musical and philosophical in life brought him SO much joy, and especially knowing that there were so very many others out there that both “got” what he said, and very likely had seen the things he saw in parallel. He loved writing, he loved words, and he loved the language of music.

    I have been in contact with Neal Umphred and Rick at Sixties Music Secrets, but I didn’t know if there were others with whom he corresponded on a regular basis that would need to know. Feel free to reach out to me at kwatson@daktel.com.

    I am hoping to work with the family to allow one last post here, so if you have things to say, give it a week or so and check back.

    John’s spotlight was waiting for him, and it’s a helluva band.

  4. I am stunned. This is Heart breaking news. And a HUGE loss. I am so very sorry… to all that knew and loved John. I can’t think of anything more fitting than listening to Warren Zevon’s Keep Me in Your Heart… ‘not sure if I can get through the whole song just yet.

  5. This is absolutely horrible news. John was a great writer and critic. I never met him but after he reviewed my book Merle Haggard: The Running Kind for the online site Broadway World (one of those BWW reviews he linked to in the right margin), we struck up an intermittent virtual conversation–We had just discovered in December that we shared a birth day. I am so sorry to hear this… Ms. Watson, my sincerest condolences to you and your husband.

  6. Kim here again:

    There will be a graveside service in his parents’ hometown in the Florida panhandle on Wednesday, February 17th. I still don’t know any more details but wanted to pass this along.

    May his Memory be Eternal.

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