Tag Archives: Warren Zevon

Politicians won’t steal this

A politician uses a popular song at a rally. The band, or the artist, objects.

It’s often a good story, but you wonder. How many campaign staffs even bother contacting bands to obtain the rights to use their music?

Seems like it might be more a case of begging forgiveness rather than seeking permission. Or, in many cases, simply seeing what you can get away with.

Those tactics apparently are so pervasive that there’s an online guide for performers: “What To Do When A Campaign Uses Your Recorded Music Without Permission.”

The first major overstep apparently was Ronald Reagan’s use of “Born in the U.S.A.” in 1984, to which Bruce Springsteen objected.

Donald Trump has offended the Rolling Stones and Queen and Neil Young and R.E.M. and Paul Rodgers and Earth, Wind & Fire.

Other repeat offenders: John McCain offended Van Halen, John Cougar Mellencamp, Heart, Jackson Browne, Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters, Tom Petty and ABBA. George W. Bush offended Mellencamp, Petty and the band Orleans.

The members of Survivor pounce when someone uses “Eye of the Tiger” without permission. They’ve sued, or threatened to sue, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich and Kim Davis and Mitt Romney, among others, for doing so.

Special mention to two Wisconsin politicians. Paul Ryan offended Rage Against the Machine, saying he was a fan. Now that is quite an odd couple. Scott Walker offended the Dropkick Murphys. Join the club, fellas.

Though Republicans most often draw musicians’ ire, Democrats do, too.

For all those politicians, a timely reminder.

john prine 1st lp

“Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore,” John Prine, from “John Prine,” 1971.

Man, seeing this, I still can’t believe Alice Cooper wasn’t elected in 1972.

Which reminds me. My friend Timebomb Tom said “this Warren Zevon album cover makes me want to re-visit the Zevon-faked-his-own-death-and-really-is-Bernie-Sanders theory.”

warren zevon stand in the fire

Wish Zevon was still here to help us sort through the lawyers, guns and money.


Finally, our strongest endorsement …

My friend Larry Grogan dropped “Testify,” a powerful take on the issues of the day, over at his mighty Funky 16 Corners blog last week. Read his post. Listen to the mix. Register to vote. Larry says:

Brothers and Sisters … the time has come …

There’s a little more than three months until Americans head to the polls and make the decision that will determine how (or whether) this country moves forward.

This mix gathers together black artists from the worlds of soul, funk, gospel and rock, with songs that were created in response to oppression and racism (here in the U.S., Jamaica, the UK and Apartheid-era South Africa), crying out for an end to both and many of them asking not for separation, but for recognition, unity and progress.

Dig. That.


Filed under July 2016, Sounds

Heaven knows

Rob Grill, the lead singer of the Grass Roots for more than 40 years, died quietly earlier this week in Florida. He was 67.

The Grass Roots long ago faded from prominence. Even so, they forged a nice career for themselves, playing across America before tens of thousands of people who remembered those great pop/rock songs of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

I was fortunate enough to see Grill and the Grass Roots. It was two years ago, at a free show at one end of the midway at a small county fair. Grill, who battled health problems for years, moved carefully and gingerly on the small stage but was in fine voice.

More than a decade ago, I came to the realization that some of the acts I’d long enjoyed — like the Grass Roots — were not going to tour forever, and that I ought to get out and see them. My friend Meat once called it “a cool midlife crisis.”

I wouldn’t necessarily call it that, but I did make up for lost time, for shows not seen when I was much younger. La, la, la, la, la, la, live for today, you might say.

So today, yeah, it’s nice to be able to say I saw Rob Grill with the Grass Roots, and he was good.

He’s not the only one who’s gone now. I saw Brad Delp with Boston. Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson and Hughie Thomasson with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Warren Zevon and Steve Goodman and Jeff Healey. I even saw Mel Torme.

“Heaven Knows,” a Top 25 hit for the Grass Roots in 1969, is of course a love song. But in the light of Grill’s passing — and considering those who went before him — it also might express the love between performers and their fans.

With a song in my heart/And a chance to be yours forever
I couldn’t feel more secure/I know I couldn’t feel any better
Oh Lord, heaven knows/How much I love you and how much it shows
Oh Lord, heaven … heaven knows

“Heaven Knows,” the Grass Roots, 1969, from “Their 16 Greatest Hits,” 1971. It’s out of print. It’s available on this 2003 import CD and digitally.

It was written by Mike “Harvey” Price and Dan Walsh, the Los Angeles songwriting team that also came up with “Temptation Eyes.”


Filed under July 2011, Sounds

Juuuuust a bit outside SI’s Top 40

There, the other day, in the July 4 issue of Sports Illustrated, was “The Ultimate Play List,” what its writers considered the best sports songs of all time.

SI’s Top 40 includes the Beach Boys’ “Surfin USA” at No. 2, John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” at No. 7, Warren Zevon’s “Boom Boom Mancini” at No. 12, Steve Goodman’s “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request” at No. 28 and Kurtis Blow’s “Basketball” at No. 31. That’s about it for songs I recognize.

(I only grudgingly include the Fogerty tune. Even though I enthusiastically bought the “Centerfield” LP in 1985, the title song quickly wore out its welcome and has been unlistenable for years.)

Whether SI’s Top 40 is good or bad, as always, you be the judge. I can’t say it blew me away. As I read the piece, I kept wondering whether certain tunes would show up in the Top 40. They didn’t. So here they are.

“Bill Lee,” Warren Zevon, from “Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School,” 1980. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

Lee — nicknamed “Spaceman” — was an irreverent left-hander, a California hippie who was good enough to pitch in the major leagues for 14 years, from 1969 to 1982. Lee liked Zevon, and Zevon liked Lee. Boston Red Sox manager Don Zimmer, who was from baseball’s old school, did not like Lee. Zevon wrote this song after the Red Sox got rid of Lee in 1978. That’ll happen when you spar with your manager all year long and call him “a gerbil.”

“You’re supposed to sit on your ass/And nod at stupid things
Man, that’s hard to do
And if you don’t, they’ll screw you/And if you do they’ll screw you, too.”

“Vida Blue,” Albert Jones, from the Tri-City 45 (TC327A), 1971. It’s out of print.

Almost everything I know about this “stomping funk tribute to the early ’70s Oakland A’s hurler of the same name” is from Larry Grogan’s most excellent Funky 16 Corners post from last year. As Larry also said then: “Where else are you going to hear a funk 45 that namechecks Harmon Killebrew and Carl Yastrzemski?” (The flip side is a country version of the song, according to Scott Soriano’s long-ago Crud Crud post.)

“Basketball Jones Featuring Tyrone Shoelaces,” Cheech and Chong, from “Los Cochinos,” 1973.

This is a song remembered mostly because I so often heard it sung in the shower by the players on my high school basketball team. Sorry, you had to be there.

To get a sense for that vibe all these years later, watch the animated short they made for the song. It was released to theaters in 1974. They showed it before “The Last Detail,” which of course starred basketball fan Jack Nicholson.

There’s an all-star group behind Cheech Marin’s falsetto vocals. That’s George Harrison on lead guitar, backed by many of his Beatles session friends, including Billy Preston on the organ. Carole King plays electric piano. Darlene Love and Michelle Phillips are among those voicing the cheerleaders.


Filed under July 2011, Sounds

Going in style

I dig fireworks, and this is what I think about as I watch:

That would be a great way to go out. Take my ashes, put them in a shell and fire them into the sky, where they explode in a riot of colors. My family thinks I’m kidding.

It came to mind last week, not only while watching fireworks, but as I learned about the serious illness of a woman married to a guy who used to work at our paper. Our time together at the paper was brief, and a long time ago. Our paths rarely crossed. I doubt he remembers me.

My old colleague has kept an online journal about his wife’s illness. A mutual friend pointed it out, and it’s remarkable.

My old colleague writes of his wife’s passion for Warren Zevon’s music, especially over the last year or so. Zevon, after all, kept writing and recording new songs even after learning he had a short time to live.

Her favorite song: “Keep Me In Your Heart,” the last cut on Zevon’s last album, “The Wind.” In it, the dying Zevon gently coaches his family and friends on how to remember him after he’s gone.

My old colleague, more of a Springsteen guy, has come around, saying “there’s something about Springsteen singing a Zevon song that comforts me these days.”

Especially Springsteen’s cover of “My Ride’s Here” on “Enjoy Every Sandwich,” a 2004 tribute album to Zevon. My old colleague described that song as done by someone “after a life on the road, stuck in yet another hotel and knowing his time had just about run out.”


“My Ride’s Here,” Warren Zevon, from “My Ride’s Here,” 2002. Also available digitally.

At the end of that journal entry, titled “My Ride’s (Almost) Here,” my old colleague writes:

“Everybody knows that moment at a party where it’s time to leave, but you linger a bit, savoring the moment and the experience. That’s what (she’s) doing right now — she’s lingering and savoring.”

She died the next day.


“Keep Me In Your Heart,” Warren Zevon, from “The Wind,” 2003. Also available digitally.

I haven’t named my old colleague and his wife because I don’t know them well enough to feel comfortable doing so. I never met her.

Their online journal was hosted by CaringBridge.org, which provides a place for families and friends to connect during times of serious illness. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, CaringBridge web sites are highly recommended.


Filed under May 2009, Sounds

Tales from Beaver Lodge

They tore it down and put up a parking lot, but Beaver Lodge was anything but a paradise.

It was a three-bedroom cement-block house dropped into a gritty, seen-better-days business district. It sat just a block off Highway 53 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. A seedy motel was next door. A liquor store was behind the house, as was an electrician’s scrap yard. The TV station was a block north, its 1,000-foot tower at the end of our street.

Thirty years ago, I lived at Beaver Lodge. On Saturday, we were at a gathering just a couple of blocks away. And though it was there when we drove past a couple of years ago, Beaver Lodge is gone now. Torn down. Paved over. It brought back a rush of memories.

I was 21, a senior in college, when I lived at Beaver Lodge from the summer of 1978 to the spring of 1979. I was moving beyond my hometown friends for the first time, working more than attending classes, not dating anyone, not sure what my future held.

That year in Beaver Lodge, I must have had a dozen housemates. Mikey, Bobby, Norm, John, Mark, Johnny and the other Jeff were the core group, roughly half students and half older guys out of college (but still living the life). Any number of lovely young women were occasional overnight visitors and/or housemates.

Beaver Lodge didn’t have a lot of rules, but you did have to be cool. Especially when one of those lovely young women would walk out wearing little more than a T-shirt and underwear. None of this: “And you are?” Rather: “How you doing? Want some breakfast?”

It often was a wild ride at Beaver Lodge, but we never got to needing …

“Lawyers, Guns and Money,” Warren Zevon, from “Excitable Boy,” 1978. We all were younger in 1978.

(Hard to believe Zevon has been gone five years now, too.)

Oh, yes, quite a rush of memories. I think we’ll be returning for more Tales from Beaver Lodge.

By the way, Beaver Lodge was on Harlem Street. I kid you not.


Filed under September 2008, Sounds

I hear your mom has an iPod


That’s how I started my e-mail to a girl I’ve never met. Rachel’s first thought was that it was junk mail. But thankfully, she kept reading.

Rachel’s mom is my cousin Jenny, who’s a year older than I am.

(Jenny and I are in the photo above, dated March 1963. Twelve of what eventually would be 17 cousins sit on the stairs at Grandpa and Grandma’s house in Wausau, Wisconsin.)

These days, Jenny is dealing with a fairly serious medical issue.

When I was with some of my cousins at a family gathering last week, I heard Jenny had gotten an iPod.

So I got Rachel’s e-mail address from the web site Jenny’s husband set up to keep us updated. I asked her what kinds of tunes her mom likes.

Rachel listed 25 singers and bands, then added 11 more, saying “Here are some that I think she’d like (but doesn’t listen to now).” Stopping at 36, she said, “Well, that’s all that I can think of off the top of my head!”

Rachel says her mom “really likes acoustic sounding music with male voices” and “women who can really belt it out,” not to mention “fun 60’s music.” Yeah, I think we can do that.

Here are some of the songs that’ll be going on Jenny’s CDs for her iPod. A couple of acoustic ones, a couple of belters and a couple from the ’60s.


“Back in the High Life Again,” Warren Zevon, from “Life’ll Kill Ya,” 2000.


“Beautiful World,” Colin Hay, from “Man at Work,” 2003.


“Picking Daisies,” Shelly Bhushan, from “Picking Daisies,” 2007.


“I Want to Take You Higher,” Ike and Tina Turner, from “Come Together,” 1970. Out of print. Also available on this greatest-hits CD.


“Lovin’ Things,” the Grass Roots, 1969, from “Their 16 Greatest Hits,” 1971. Out of print. Also available on this greatest-hits CD.


“Happy Together,” the Turtles, 1967, from “The Turtles’ 20 Greatest Hits,” 1983. Also available on this greatest-hits CD.


Filed under March 2008, Sounds

In the presence of greatness

One of the great things about our local music scene is our local casino and the acts it brings in. Of course, the intent is to get people in for the music and keep them for the gaming.

But you can’t argue with that strategy when they bring in a New Orleans music legend for a three-night stand of free shows at an intimate little lounge on the edge of the noisy gaming floor.

Allen Toussaint — the great R&B writer, producer, arranger and most recently performer — played a marvelous set on Tuesday night.

A gentle, delightful man with a sparkle in his eyes (and his tie and his shoes), Toussaint nodded hello as he walked past me and onto the stage. Sitting hard to his right at the edge of the stage, I watched over Toussaint’s shoulder as he gracefully and seemingly effortlessly worked the piano.

Toussaint’s 90-minute show was a delightful trip through his life and career. He sat down and started with a couple of instrumentals. He followed with Chuck Berry’s “School Days,” a song he said he wished he’d written. He then swung into a medley of some of his tunes that were covered by other artists.

Toussaint also played a long, rollicking instrumental piece that purported to explain how he learned to play the piano, going from simple child’s melodies to more polished classical, jazz and R&B passages. He ended the evening with a gently winding monologue that told the story of how he came to write “Southern Nights.” (Yes, that “Southern Nights,” the Glen Campbell hit from 1977.)

I’m late to the party when it comes to Allen Toussaint and all the tunes he’s written and performed.

Most of what I know and have heard has come from Dan over at Home of the Groove, a terrific place to learn about New Orleans music. In fact, Dan wrote about Toussaint just last month.

Much of the rest of what I know and have heard has come from Larry over at Funky 16 Corners. A year ago, Larry laid down several Toussaint-produced tunes in his NOLA Soul Pt. 1 mix.

Gents, thank you. If you’re new to Toussaint as I was, enjoy these tunes.


“Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky,” Allen Toussaint, from “Allen Toussaint,” 1971.

And these three tunes, all written by Toussaint and performed here by him on Tuesday night, yet among those more memorably covered by others.


“Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette),” the Amazing Rhythm Aces, from “The Amazing Rhythm Aces,” 1979. Done first by Benny Spellman in 1962 and also covered by the O’Jays. One of my favorite songs.


“Fortune Teller,” Benny Spellman, 1962, from “Mojo Presents Stoned,” a compilation CD distributed with Mojo magazine last September. It’s the original B side to “Lipstick Traces,” yet probably is far better known today, thanks to covers by the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Hollies, the Tony Jackson Group and most recently by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on their “Raising Sand” album, released last year.


“A Certain Girl,” Warren Zevon, from “Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School,” 1980. Done first by Ernie K-Doe, also in 1962.


Filed under February 2008, Sounds