Warren Zevon
Excitable Boy


4.5
superb

Review

by Channing Freeman STAFF
June 22nd, 2006 | 28 replies | 8,524 views


Release Date: 1978 | Tracklist


With his third album, Excitable Boy, Warren Zevon got his first real taste of commercial success. The album climbed up to #8 on the Billboard Pop Chart, and the single "Werewolves of London" reached #21 on the Pop Singles Chart. The cd was certified gold three months after it was released. Rolling Stone hailed Zevon as one of the most important artists to debut in the seventies. So why haven't many people heard of him? After the success of Excitable Boy, Zevon released Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School, which sold well, but indicated a step downward from his former album. He never recovered his former success. After the release of The Envoy, Zevon took a break from making music for five years. He returned in 1987 with Sentimental Hygiene, which was hailed as his best since 1978's Excitable Boy. It did well, but still did not measure up to the standard he set with Excitable Boy. But enough history, on to the review.

Warren Zevon - Excitable Boy
Released: 1978

The first thing I noticed when listening to this album was Warren's voice. When you look at the album cover, it looks like his voice would sound...different. I don't know what it would sound like, but not like this. It's very deep and throaty, and it has a very soothing effect on me when I listen to it. The first song, "Johnny Strikes up the Band," starts out with a short little guitar and drum part, then Warren comes in with the lyrics

Dry your eyes, my little friend
Let me take you by the hand
Freddie get ready, rock steady
When Johnny strikes up the band

He repeats the last line a couple times, then a small guitar solo is introduced in the song. It's nothing spectacular and it's only about 20 seconds long, but it fits perfectly. After another verse and chorus, another guitar solo comes in, which plays until the song fades out. A great opener.

The second track "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" starts off very slow, with just Warren singing over his piano while a bass guitar lays down a soft groove in the background. The song tells a story, which is very amusing, even funny at times, but it's apparent that Zevon uses the humor as a sort of irony. Under the surface, the song is about Western intervention in wars that they don't need to get involved in. Warren offsets the dark subject of war with a humorous story about Roland, who gets his head blown off during a war, and his ghost now searches for the man who killed him, whose name was Van Owen. When he finds him, Roland blows "Van Owen's body from there to Johannesburg." This song shows off Zevon's metaphoric lyrical ability perfectly. My favorite song on the album.

The title track, "Excitable Boy," is my favorite after the second track. I really enjoy Warren's piano playing; after I listen to this album, I find myself humming the piano lines. The one that's in my head the most is Excitable Boy. It fits the song so perfectly, and it just melts together with the singing and drums. This song has some very strange lyrics, which is not uncommon in Warren Zevon songs. The first verse goes like this:

Well, he went down to dinner in his Sunday best
Excitable boy, they all said
And he rubbed the pot roast all over his chest
Excitable boy, they all said
Well, he's just an excitable boy

Warren keeps the same format for the rest of the song. After every line he says "Excitable boy, they all said," while female background singers sing "Excitable boy" under him. The lyrics go from comically strange to morbidly strange in the third verse:

He took little Suzie to the Junior Prom
Excitable boy, they all said
Then he raped her and killed her, then he took her home
Excitable boy, they all said
Well, he's just an excitable boy

The lyrics are my favorite part of this album. Their appeal is in their weirdness, and Warren had a unique ability to put dark lyrics into a happy sounding song. This song is displays that ability perfectly, with morbid lyrics sung cheerily. Also, check out the saxophone in this one!

"Werewolves of London" was the big single from this album, and was very popular back in '78. If you've heard a song by Zevon, this is probably it. The trend of weird lyrics continues with this song, as Warren tells a story about a time he saw a werewolf in a Chinese restaurant, ordering "a big dish of beef chow mein." The chorus is the most widely known part of any of Warren Zevon's songs. It consists of Warren howling and then saying "Werewolves of London." I can remember howling along with it as a young boy when I heard first heard the song. The song had a pretty big musical impact. The Grateful Dead were known to cover the song multiple times soon after its release. The song was also featured in the movie "The Color of Money." A Canadian baseball team was also named after the song.

"Accidentally like a Martyr" shows the softer side of Warren Zevon. The lyrics in this song are some of the best on the album, and are really quite touching, enhanced by Warren's great voice:

The phone don't ring and the sun refused to shine
Never thought I'd have to pay so dearly for what was already mine
For such a long, long time we made mad love,
Shadow love, random love, and abandoned love
Accidentally like a martyr, the hurt gets worse when the heart gets harder

This is his standout lyrical performance, and he sings it with such emotion. He actually sounds as if he's lost something, and you can't help but feel for him. Warren's piano ability really shines here, as he crafts a haunting line that fits his voice incredibly. The backing vocals in the chorus are excellently done as well. A very good, emotionally touching song.

The sixth track, "Nighttime in the Switching Yard," is my least favorite song on the cd. The opening bass line reminds me a great deal of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," which is a good thing. I don't really like Warren's singing on this track. You can't really understand what he's saying some of the time, and the chorus is kind of annoying. I usually skip this one.

"Veracruz" is a slower song. It starts out with a recorder playing a short little tune, and then the bass soon joins in. Warren starts singing some odd lyrics about Veracruz dying:

I heard Woodrow Wilson's guns, I heard Maria crying
Late last night I heard the news that Veracruz was dying
Veracruz was dying.

I think the song is about a Spanish city under attack by Americans, but I'm not sure. When the song gets past the two minute mark, a Spanish guest vocalist starts singing some lines in Spanish, which translated are:

On that day I swore, to the port I will return
Even though destiny changed my life
In Veracruz I shall die, on that day I swore

At first, I thought the Spanish vocals were annoying, but when I looked at their translation in the album booklet, I couldn't help but admire the honorable story that they tell. Overall, Veracruz is one of the weaker songs, but it's still good for a listen every now and then.

"Tenderness on the Block" starts off with a nice piano melody and some good bass. The bass really shines throughout this whole album, as it is heard on every track, and it lays down some great grooves that blend with the songs nicely. Another good lyrical performance by Warren, this song is about how fast kids grow up, and how hard it is on their parents to see them go.

Mama, where's your pretty little girl tonight
Trying to run before she can walk - that's right
She's growing up, she has a young man waiting

Zevon then reassures parents with the line "She'll find true love and tenderness on the block." He describes how parents shouldn't worry so much, and that their kids are going to be ok. My dad has said that he uses this same philosophy with me and my brother. (Now if only my mom would come around.) But anyway, this song is quite enjoyable, and if you have kids, you should give it a listen.

The final song on the album, "Lawyers, Guns, and Money," is a great way to end this album. It starts off with an infectious piano line, and another good bass line. The lyrics talk about someone who gets into a tight spot, and he wants someone to send lawyers, guns, and money.

Well, I went home with the waitress the way I always do
The way I always do. How was I to know
She was with the Russians, too

The song continues on in similar fashion, with Warren eventually repeating "And I'm down on my luck" a few times. At around 1:45, Warren sings some of my favorite lyrics of all time:

Now I'm hiding in Honduras, I'm a desperate man
Send lawyers, guns, and money - the shit has hit the fan

The track fades out with Zevon repeating "Send lawyers, guns, and money," a few times, ending this great album.

Warren Zevon's debut album Excitable Boy is a wonderful record. Zevon's metaphorical, satyrical writing style is a joy to listen to. His ability to write incredibly dark lyrics and accompany them with bright, cheery music never ceases to amaze me. Overall, a great album and a definite recommendation.

4.5/5



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Comments:Add a Comment 
mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
June 22nd 2006



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ughThis Message Edited On 09.18.07

Bron-Yr-Aur
June 22nd 2006



4405 Comments


This is an excellent first review.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
June 22nd 2006



16081 Comments


^^ Don't be like him. He scares us all.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
June 22nd 2006



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ughThis Message Edited On 09.18.07

Hatshepsut
June 22nd 2006



1997 Comments


We need a witty Eliminator Jr. comment here.
Anyway, great review, as everyone said, etc etc. Said what you needed to say.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
June 22nd 2006



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks for the feedback

moffcronos
June 23rd 2006



27 Comments


I've only heard 'Werewolves' but I like your review. It could persuade me to buy the album. I love dark lyrics and happy music. What's the story behind this weirdo, anyway?

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
June 23rd 2006



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^^thanks.

before he tried to release anything of his own, he was a session musician. he released Wanted Dead or Alive as his first album, but it didnt sell well. he then released a self titled album, but it didnt fare much better.

he released excitable boy which is when he had his first success, and its his most well known album. he released a few more albums before he died in 2003 of cancer. a lot of his lyrics are metaphors for historical events, such as wars.This Message Edited On 06.22.06

The Jungler
June 23rd 2006



4827 Comments


The only Zevon I've ever heard is the single off this, oh well. Great first review, keep it up.


Skyler
June 24th 2006



1084 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice review. Werewolves of London is a classic.

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
July 14th 2006



2806 Comments


For a first, this is excellent. I just single handedly boosted your approval rating by a percent.

Bow to me.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
July 14th 2006



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

jesusThis Message Edited On 09.18.07

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
July 14th 2006



2806 Comments


Don't read my Catch Without Arms review yet. I'm editing it and it sucks right now.

Waior
April 21st 2009



11425 Comments


There was a band in Winnipeg that did Werewolves of London in a rollicking celtic groove. Kind of neat.

Adabelle
September 16th 2011



4213 Comments


Checking this ting out yo.

Activista anti-MTV
November 14th 2011



3138 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice review Custis. I was checking to see if there was any more work to be doen around hurr

iFghtffyrdmns
November 14th 2011



7047 Comments


my boss always used to listen to this in the truck over the summer while we landscaped. it's a pretty rad fucking album, Excitable Boy is a seriously awesome song.

Adabelle
November 14th 2011



4213 Comments


I don't even remember writing that, listening to this or even thinking about listening to this?

evilford
February 14th 2012



20933 Comments


more people on this website need to love Warren. Guy was really smart and funny imo

Digging: Morta Skuld - As Humanity Fades

Peluca
October 14th 2012



31 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm here because of Hank Moody =)



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