I’ve known about (the singer / songwriter / multi-instrumentalist / composer) Warren Zevon for a very long time, but I knew I didn’t know much. Or enough, eg: I thought he was the son of a CIA operative, turns out he was the son of a lesser mobster (same thing?).
I’ve had “Nothing’s…” on reserve through the one card system for a very long time, which usually means it’s in high demand. It’s no small book (360 pages) and I read it quickly (and I’m not a quick reader).
Zevon was a very “excitable boy” with more than his fair share of demons* and later in life serious OCD.
Child prodigy, taught by Igor Stravinsky with the literary heroes Mailer, Fitzgerald, Chandler, MacDonald and Beckett and a gift for rock and roll. What could possibly go wrong?
He’s of the California singer / songwriter “mob” most of whom were originally assembled at Asylum Records (born in New York, Zevon moved to Los Angeles when he was around 16. Again: what could go wrong?). Much respected and admired by his peers (and luminaries) Linda Ronstadt, Glenn Frey and Don Henley of “Eagles”, Jackson Browne, “Waddy” Wachtel, David Lindley, J.D. Souther, Neil Young, Mr Zimmerman, Bruce Springsteen ( and on and on).
Zevon was a favourite of the literary rock critics (Robert Christgau, of “The Village Voice”, was a particular, but not uncritical, “champion”) not necessarily a nice person and a person with many a dangerous habit: the guns / alcohol / narcotics combination was an unhealthy penchant for a very long time.
Late in life he undertook the “12 step programme” of Alcoholics Anonymous and became sober for a along period, only to discover he had mesothelioma. His prognosis was 3 months, he lived for a year. Not surprisingly, given his imminent demise, he chose to fall (a long way) off “the wagon”.
A good life? Hmmmm. His summation: he had lived several lives well. In a Letterman show very near the end of his life the host, a friend and admirer (Zevon said “my music never had a better friend” than Letterman), asked if his new situation, i.e. terminal illness, had afforded him any insight on life. Zevon’s pithy reply; “Enjoy every sandwich”, which became the title of a posthumous album of his songs sung by his admirers.
Kushins writes well and with a great deal of admiration for Zevon’s work if not always, understandably, for Zevon himself. The writing is scholarly without being dry and he includes a very thorough “list of…” (discograhphy, references, articles etc) and an exemplary index. (I love a good index!)
Zevon is one of those people who “interconnect” (“Busy, busy busy” as the Bokononists explain) for me. When I think about it, it makes perfect sense that someone who interests me is interested in things that also interest me. But I always find it surprising. (I need to get out more.) He collaborated with Carl Hiaasen (amongst many others) and was a sometime member of “The Rockbottom Remainders”, a band mainly comprised of writers, novelists principally. Stephen King, a favourite author of mine (mostly forgiven for all his sins and transgressions because he did write “Firestarter”, “The Stand”, “The Shining”,  “Cujo”, “Needful Things”, “Christine” and “The Dead Zone”, after-all) was also a “Remainder” and Zevon insisted that their version of “Werewolves of London”** (Zevon’s biggest hit and a not altogether singular type of song in Zevon’s oeuvre. It contains the outstanding lyric “Little old lady got mutilated, late last night..”) be sung by King because, given KIng’s reputation for horror, him singing a song about a dapper werewolf made the song funnier.
*Zevon is “quotable quotes” heaven: “I’m too old to die young and too young to die now”. His description of his music when undertaking an enforced solo acoustic tour (his latest release had “bombed”): “Heavy metal folk”. He described his illness as “not something where they prescribe lots of water and bed rest”.
**Werewolves Of London lyrics © Zevon Music, Leadsheet Land Music, Tiny Tunes, Songs Of Universal Inc.
Songwriter: Warren Zevon
Source: Musixmatch

I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain
He was looking for the place called Lee Ho Fooks
Gonna get a big dish of beef chow mien

Ah-ho werewolves of London
Ah-ho werewolves of London

You hear him howlin’ around your kitchen door
You better not let him in
Little old lady got mutilated late last night
Werewolves of London again


He’s the hairy-handed gent
Who ran amok in Kent
Lately he’s been overheard in Mayfair
You better stay away from him
He’ll rip your lungs out Jim
Huh I’d like to meet his tailor


Well I saw Lon Chaney walking with the Queen
Doin’ the werewolves of London
I saw Lon Chaney Junior walking with the Queen ugh
Doin’ the werewolves of London
I saw a werewolf drinkin’ a piña colada at Trader Dick’s
And his hair was perfect

Werewolves of London
Draw blood
Werewolves of London