Warren Zevon :: 1976 S/T Debut (Reissue)

warren-zevon-1976.jpg“And if California slides into the ocean, like the mystics and statistics say it will, I predict this motel will be standing until I pay my bill.” – Warren Zevon, Desperados Under The Eaves

Some artists feel inextricably linked to specific locales. Can you imagine Lou Reed hailing from anywhere other that Manhattan, or the Allman Brothers oozing out of somewhere besides the deep South? Warren Zevon is one such artist – his work, both explicitly and subliminally, just feels like Los Angeles. Unlike his friend and peer (and the producer of his self-titled major label debut) Jackson Brown, Zevon mined the depths of L.A.’s underbelly with a wry an unmatched lyrical wit that often sounded like Charles Bukowski – if Bukowski had sang and played the piano. L.A. is crawling all over this album- from Topanga Canyon and Hollywood, to Griffith Park and Echo Park.

In the liner notes to the new two-disc reissue, Jackson Brown reminisces that after once introducing Zevon onstage as “the Ernest Hemingway of the 12 string guitar,” Zevon corrected him by stating “no, the Charles Bronson of the 12 string guitar.” As an artist Zevon was a chameleon, soaking up and regurgitating both high and low culture – painting vivid pictures with his words of scenes, encounters and people most of the world would never know. This is no more evident that on this, his 1976 major label, debut. This is his masterpiece. If you are only familiar with Warren Zevon through his AOR staples “Werewolves of London,” and “Lawyers, Guns, And Money,” I cannot think of a better, more appropriate, introduction to the the man’s work than right here where it all began. In fact, I envy those who have yet to listen to this album. This expanded edition is the the perfect companion soundtrack for driving the length of Sunset Blvd, from the Ocean to Echo Park.

Below: Hyperbole aside, For Zevon fans, this reissue is a godsend. The entire second disc is chock full of alternate and demo versions; some sparse, some with different arrangements. I’ve about decided this “Take 2” version of “Join Me In L.A.” may very well be the definitive version, as Zevon’s invitation sounds more like a dare than ever. The production feels raw and worn off like the varnish on an old wooden table. “Carmelita,” Zevon’s tell-tale ode to junkie-dom, in demo form, is surprisingly upbeat compared to the album version.

MP3: Warren Zevon :: Join Me In L.A. (Take 2)
MP3: Warren Zevon :: Carmelita (1974 demo)
Amazon: Warren Zevon – S/T Reissue

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10 thoughts on “Warren Zevon :: 1976 S/T Debut (Reissue)

  1. After reading the book on Zevon, I bought the first few albums (on vinyl)…so great. Each one could be a “greatest hits” almost.

  2. been listening to john phillips’ “wolfking” album…also drenched in la-ness: canyons, hills, beaches, drugs, top hats, peacocks, etc

  3. Thanks for the Carmelita, one of my favorite songs ever.

    I know you are aware but Dwight Yoakam did a fucking awesome cover. Since you’re an Athens, GA guy at the Warren Zevon tribute in early 04, Barbara Cue did a fantastic cover with Danny and Eric of Bloodkin


  4. thanks for these. will upgrade soon . . . fortunate to have seen zevon around ’80 or so–a tour he did coming fresh off rehab. tennesee theater, nashville. never saw anyone (outside of maybe jerry lee on a rare good night) so savagely rip into an acoustic piano. tight jeans, open shirt, stalked the stage like an uncaged animal.

    one of the great shows ever.


  5. What is the meaning of “oozing” to imply about the Allmans? True they haven’t done anything of not since the mid-Seventies (“Soulshine” would be an exception if not for the utter bastardization and overplay it has weathered), but don’t damn them for Gregg being a prick. We all know he is.

    As for Zevon, it’s my regret that his final album was the first I hear d of his, thanks to that VH-1 special he filmed. Viacom can occasionally score decent programming, I suppose.

  6. ‘Desperadoes’ is a catalog of memorable lines…(‘don’t the trees look like crucified thieves’, ‘except in dreams you’re never really free…’), and devices, (the bridge off of ‘air conditioner hum’)…never fails to move me, and i made a point of singing as much to myself as i could remember the first time i had the dubious pleasure of walking down Gower Avenue…
    I was listening to comp ‘Quiet Normal Life’ the first time i drove into LAX, so fitting…

    They’ve been doing right by him lately, finally putting out the live ‘Stand In The Fire’, which stands on pure energy with most live albums…worth it alone for the amazing encore performance of ‘Hasten Down The Wind’…

  7. Thanks for posting what you have here…I really wanted to hear the Carmelita demo. I AM GOING TO HAVE TO GO OUT AND GET THIS ONE ON HARD COPY. I’ve been playing this song since it came out. I rememer being addicted to anything on Asylum at the time. There certainly weren’t many missteps on that label. I can only think of a few and even then each has at least one track that will justify the release. But this one was magnificent. I got to play this a lot when I was a club dj. My favorite crew of musicians all learned Poor Pitiful Me (with the MAN’s verse), Carmelita, Frank & Jesse James and I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. We weren’t anything special and if these songs got performed 20 times a year total that would hav been a lot. But he did make an impact on all of us as a writer. Certainly Werewolf has become iconic with its riff and rhythm and fun.

    I was/am a musician and was a (college radio and) club DJ at a VERY eclectic club(The Red Creek Inn in Rochester, NY) that would present the best in regional and national touring acts. I worked there from 1975-1987 anywhere from 2-7 nights a week at times spinning records before the shows and during set breaks. With any luck I would get two hours a night to fill dead air with what I thought was the best in music that would enhance the overall experience and inspire the bands. That meant playing obscure R&B /jump/swing 56s for Roomful of Blues or Zevon, Browne, Townes, Prine, Gram & The Burritos, the Byrds & The Band for any number of local and regional country-rock (as we called them back then) bands. Eventually Warren made it there, too, doing an incendiary night of two shows by himself on the piano and 12 string. If I had to I’d place it around 1982 or so if memory serves.

    I actually first discovered Warren with the Dead or Alive Imperial LP which I snagged in a cutout bin (it looked interesting and had Tule’s Blues which I had heard on an LP by Victoria on San Francisco/Atco records I’d received as a college radio giveaway) for 44 cents way back when that’s all cutouts would cost and you had to figure out how many you could buy for the $5 you had to spare. Hearing Tule’s Blues was one of my first experiences with discovering the original after learning to like a cover version. then of course, there was ‘Traveling Like The Lightning’ with it’s phase shifting attempt to be psychedelically relevant. I liked it, being a fan of the EFX. I had already started finding out about his stint with the Everlys (just noticing the Zevon credit on a turtles B-Side Like The Season but yet to discover Lyme & Cybelle) and got that live last Everlys Warners LP with Warren doing his musical direction thing from the piano. Never really played it much and wouldn’t mind hearing it now, probably mostly to re-listen to the version of ‘Lord of the Manor’ more than anything. Funny, haven’t see anybody anywhere post that Live one. Have to ask Uncle Gil…or brokedownengine if they’ve got it.

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