Sunday, July 08, 2007


And his hair was maybe not so perfect ...

I've been a long-time fan of Warren Zevon's music. For years, my buddy Reaves and I would sign letters, and then emails with snippets from Zevon's songs -- mostly "Werewolves of London," or "Lawyers, Guns, and Money."

Lately, I've been on a jag whereupon I've been reading rock biographies of folks from back in the day. Read several about the Beatles; Dylan, Baez, and the 4th Street folk-rock crowd from the Village; the SoCal Hotel California groups -- Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, the Eagles, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell. Donovan's autobiography. Randy Newman's. And the most recent one, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, about Zevon. He passed away a few years back, and his last album is hard listening -- he wrote the songs after he knew he was dying, and toward the end, he didn't have much left, he could barely sing. Lotta well-known folks in the biz turned out to play on that one.

I'm about halfway through the book. If the biography is anywhere close to accurate -- and it seems to come mostly from friends and family and people he worked with -- he was, for most of his early days, a mean drunk, heavy doper, prone to violent, jealous rages, and somebody who thumped his various wives and/or girlfriends around when he was soused or stoned.

If you had known the man up until he was in his early thirties, you might have thought he was a genius of a songwriter -- but a total asshole. Talent only excuses so much, and then it doesn't matter how brilliant you are ...

I'm hoping it is going to turn around soon, but it's really sad so far.


Dan Gambiera said...

He may not have had much left, but he put his soul into every note in that last album

steve-vh said...

Since you're in the mood, check out "Scar tissue" by Anthony Kiedis and "Kiss and Tell, by Gene Simmons.
Not really watermark, earthshattering work but entertaining and candid nonetheless.
I see Tommy Chong has the "I Chong" out but haven't read it yet.

Steve Perry said...

I'm a little on the ancient side to have gotten into the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiss to the same depth as I did the Beatles, though both groups had music I liked.

There's a whole aisle at Powell's Book devoted to rock biographies, but any of them past about 1980, I don't figure the players are old enough to have written a definitive autobiography, nor have they been around long enough so we know what is gonna happened to them yet ...

steve-vh said...

True, True. Neither one is very definitive. Not the only one's I've read. Kiedis is interesting in you realize how badly you can treat yourself and survive, how good you are by comparison and how different things are for them.
Simmons is interesting in where he came from and just how focused and shrewd he really is.
Some books are just like a bad MA movie. Putting the brain on hold for a while.

Steve Perry said...

VH-1 used to do a series, "Behind the Music," which were basically short rock histories.

Amazing to me how very similar the arcs were. Almost beat-for-beat, with only minor variations:

Group of kids get together and start jamming in somebody's garage. Hungry and talented, they get some gigs, rock out, get noticed.

Then follows a record contract, bigger venues. Everybody buys a new Corvette, starts drinking, doping, partying.

They shoot up the charts with gold and platinum bullets, groupies, limos, and the c-c-c-cover of the Rollin' Stone follow.

Monster party. Gonna rule forever!

Then the inevitable decay sets in. There are creative differences, half the band ODs or wraps their 'vettes around trees.They sleep with each other's best girl- or boyfriend. Get to hate each other's guts. Somebody either a) dies b) goes into rehab or c) both.

Pissed off to the point they can't stand even laying down tracks at the same time, the band breaks up.

Six years later, they do the reunion tour and new album. It's never as good as the old days, even though they all flack it to high heaven and swear that they've worked all those old grudge out ...