5 Things You Might Not Know About Warren Zevon
Why are we writing a post about Warren Zevon? Well, why the hell not? The man was one of the greatest singer/songwriters to break through during the ‘70s, and despite having a few rough patches during the course of his career, his albums never failed to offer listeners something interesting, entertaining, and often downright amusing. If you need a sampler of Zevon’s most successful work, you can find it below on the ironically-titled best-of, A QUIET NORMAL LIFE, but we’ve also compiled a list of 5 things you might not know about Warren Zevon, and unless you’re a super-fan – in which case you have our kudos – there are probably a few things in here that you really didn’t know.
1.In 1966, he was half of a duo called Lyme & Cybelle.
Using the stage name “Stephen Lyme,” Zevon briefly joined forces with Violet Santangelo, who was calling herself Cybelle, and recorded a trio of singles (“Follow Me,” “If You Gotta Go, Go Now,” and “Song #7”) for White Whale Records, home of The Turtles. That they were released on this label shouldn’t surprise Turtles fans, since Zevon wrote a couple of songs for The Turtles, the most notable of which was the single “Outside Chance,” a co-write with Glenn Crocker.
2.During the early ‘70s, he worked as the piano player for the Everly Brothers, during which time he hired Waddy Wachtel as their guitarist.
In Crystal Zevon’s book I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon, Wachtel giddily recalled how incredibly shitty the conversation was between he and Zevon during his audition, including this gem:
Warren: Well, you probably got the gig, but you’ll have to cut your beard off.
Waddy: What the fuck are you talkig about? I’m not even working for you yet.
Warren: Well, the Everly Brothers image…
Waddy: Let the Everly Brothers tell me I got to cut my beard off. Besides, where are the fucking Everly Brothers? Warren: They’re making an album. Waddy: How come, if you’re their band, you’re not making an album with them? Great band you must be.
In Wachtel’s words, “We had this fuck-you relationship right away.” Needless to say, they were soon as close as brothers.
As for the Everlys, their infamously volatile relationship soon led to a dust-up and another split, but Zevon managed to come out of the situation doing pretty well: Phil kept him on, leading to further live shows as well as participation on two of Phil’s solo albums, 1973’s STAR SPANGLED SPRINGER and 1975’s MYSTIC LINE. Among the highlights of Zevon’s studio work was his arrangement on Phil’s cover of the future Hollies single “The Air That I Breathe.”
3.When doing some shows to promote the release of his 1978 album EXCITABLE BOY, Zevon used a comedian as his opening act…and that comedian’s name was Richard Belzer.
There’s surprisingly little discussion about this stint online, but in Crystal Zevon’s invaluable book about her ex-husband, Wachtel offers an anecdote which may give you some idea of what things were like on the road with the Zevon-Belzer pairing:
“One show in Nashville, Richard went out there and really antagonized the audience – over the top, laying into them. We’re backstage feeling nervous, but it worked. It went over. But for a minute we thought we were all going to get tarred and feathered.”
To get a feel for what Belzer’s act was like at the time, here’s a two-part clip from that very year. Who knew that the guy had been storing such a great Jack Benny impression up his sleeve?
4.He contributed vocals to “Them and Us,” an album track on Don Henley’s 1982 album I CAN’T STAND STILL.
Henley had been in Zevon’s camp for some time – if you check the credits of Zevon’s various albums, you’ll see that Henley’s all over the place: he contributed vocals to “The French Inhaler” (from his self-titled 1976 album), “Gorilla, You’re a Desperado” and “Wild Age” (from 1980’s BAD LUCK STREAK IN DANCING SCHOOL), the title track of 1982’s THE ENVOY, “Trouble Waiting to Happen” and “Reconsider Me” (from 1987’s SENTIMENTAL HYGIENE), and “She’s Too Good for Me,” from Zevon’s final album, 2003’s THE WIND. Zevon, however, only popped up once on a Henley album, and it was on this track.
5.He plays a character named Babcock in the 2000 film South of Heaven, West of Hell.
There are a couple of perfectly legitimate reasons for Zevon to have turned up in this western, starting with the fact that it was directed by his friend Dwight Yoakam. You could also chalk it up to the fact that he’s seen sharing a table in the film with another of his friends, Billy Bob Thornton, who at one point lived in the same apartment complex as Zevon.
In an interview with radio station KGSR, Zevon was asked about the film and if acting had ever been an ambition of his. “It crossed my mind,” admitted Zevon. “But I’m certainly not an actor. Tom Waits is an actor. I’m not an actor. But I can do it. It’s fun. Oh, anything that gives you an excuse not to write is good.”