The show I posted yesterday generates opinions: some enjoy the energy, and others think that 6/4/78 was too over-the-top, that there is a difference between being enthusiastic and being the naked guy who still keeps trying to eat cops after he’s been shot seven times. Mrs. Donna Jean joining in the NFA jam was certainly her prerogative, and I enjoyed it: she saw everyone else going out-of-tune and decided to join in. Cool beans for Mrs. Donna Jean.
The show was from one of Bill Graham’s Day on the Green shows and Warren Zevon was opening and Warren Zevon was drinking because that’s what he did that year.
It did not go well.
Zevon wasn’t a good drunk, but he was a consistent one. He blacked out, a lot. He liked guns, and kept them handy. Also: pills and hitting people, mostly the woman closest to him. His shit was fucked up.
There is a recording of the abuse that Warren threw at the mostly-Deadhead audience, but it’s not readily available; I did find this picture:
I found this on the wonderful Grateful-Dead-Photos.com that contains some nifty pictures taken by a lovely man with a good eye named Bill Fridl.
You must appreciate Phil’s bemused chuckle at watching Warren eat it, deliberately and seemingly on purpose. “Yeah, I’ll get to the coke, but first I’m gonna watch Johnny Hairline piss off 25,000 people. That reminds me, I should call Ned Lagin.”
Warren: this was a big show, probably the biggest in sheer size you had ever, and might ever, play. The Deadheads liked you coming into it: their heroes had given you the most explicit of thumbs-ups. Covering a song that was in the charts? Unheard of! (Butchering that song? Heard of!) The Dead played one of your goddamn songs: MAKE FRIENDS WITH THEM, you idiot: the audience AND the band.
And it’s odd of him to piss off famous people of any stripe: Warren was an inveterate name dropper; every song in his live show has an intro about “It’s one of Marty Scorsese’s favorites.”Warren was never quite as famous as he knew he should be. It’s not narcissism: I share the opinion. So do most people with a little bit of taste in music.
His live show was usually good, especially during the ’80’s when tough times turned him into a one-man-band, playing twelve string and, of course, piano in little theaters and big bars. When times were good, he had LA sharpies; he could never afford to take the real motherfuckers out with him, though–the guys he hung out with back home and made most of his records with.
Zevon’s first bunch of records were immediately brilliant. They were cool and funny and smart and his hair…well, you know about his hair. His next bunch (and this was a rather larger bunch; some might say ‘most’) were in retrospect full of heartless love songs that over years worm their way into you as their production makes the expected transition from ‘cheesy’ to ‘dated’ to ‘classic’. Then his last three, which were contextually beautiful back then; they stand on their own now.
Writers make sense of place, and explain ourselves to us: without grounding, there is nothing. To this day, there are parts of Lower Manhattan that still feel like Visions of Johanna. Hunter got San Francisco, and the open road, and the trail: Hunter was good with the trail.
But, Warren got Los Angeles right.
Warren Zevon could write the fuck out of a song.
PLUS the Heineken.