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