Tag Archives: Warren Zevon

Nine days in October

40 years ago this month, in October 1982, I witnessed four unforgettable events over a nine-day span. Now if I could only remember more of the details.

Ticket stubs, ALCS, World Series, Warren Zevon show, all from October 1982

Friday, Oct. 8 — American League Championship Series Game 3, California Angels vs. Milwaukee Brewers at Milwaukee County Stadium.

What I remember: Somehow I was offered one of the company tickets for this game. I went with some people from the Wisconsin State Journal, where I worked. My lingering memory is simply being wowed by sitting so close to the field, fourth row of the lower grandstand between home plate and first base.

What I don’t remember: Anything about the game. The Brewers won 5-3. The Brewers had lost the first two games of the best-of-five series in California, so every game in Milwaukee was do or die.

Saturday, Oct. 9 — ALCS Game 4, Angels vs. Brewers at County Stadium.

What I remember: These were our tickets in the left-center-field bleachers. I went with my girlfriend, who’d just had her wisdom teeth removed and understandably wasn’t feeling great. (She somehow still married me five years later.) The weather was terrible. It was 60 but drizzling. The game started an hour and 44 minutes late, then had rain delays of 12 and 19 minutes.

I’d ordered our tickets by mail after the Brewers qualified for the postseason in early September. I got two strips of bleacher tickets for all six possible home ALCS and World Series games. (This, I looked up: They cost $39 each plus $3 for postage and handling, for which I had to get an $81 money order and mail it from Madison to Milwaukee.) I’d never popped for something so expensive for any kind of event.

What I don’t remember: Anything about the game. The Brewers won 9-5.

I had to work the next day, so my friends from Green Bay took our Game 5 tickets. That was the day the Brewers won the AL pennant to advance to the World Series. From his vantage point in our seats in the left-center-field bleachers, my friend watched the postgame celebration on the field. He saw one gent dancing on the field. This gent was not wearing pants. “Now that,” my friend told me later, “is national exposure.”

Thursday, Oct. 14 — Warren Zevon show, Madison Civic Center.

What I remember: I was 25, and I hadn’t seen a lot of shows, so I thought the whole thing was tremendous. Zevon alternated between pounding the piano and playing it delicately, and between singing fiercely and elegantly. I vividly remember Zevon dedicating “The Envoy,” the title cut on the album of the same name, to Philip Habib, Reagan’s special envoy to the Middle East at the time. I bought two tickets for this show, hoping someone could go along. That didn’t happen, so I ate one. That’s why you see a full ticket above.

"The Envoy" LP cover, Warren Zevon, 1982

“The Envoy,” Warren Zevon, from “The Envoy,” 1982.

What I don’t remember: (All this, I looked up, too.) The show started 25 minutes late. For whatever reason, it took Zevon that long to get out to the stage. Once there, he played for an hour and 45 minutes. “Johnny Strikes Up The Band” was the opening number. “Werewolves of London” was one of the encore numbers, complete with a “werewolves of Madison” line. I can’t find a full setlist from the show, but here are some of the other songs he performed that night: “A Certain Girl,” “Join Me In L.A.,” “Roland, the Headless Thompson Gunner,” “Charlie’s Medicine,” “Jungle Work,” “Play It All Night Long,” “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” Accidentally Like A Martyr,” “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me,” “Cadillac Ranch,” “Excitable Boy,” “It Ain’t That Pretty At All” and “Carmelita.”

It might have gone something like this. Here’s Zevon from two weeks earlier, Oct. 1, 1982, at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, N.J.

Saturday, Oct. 16 — World Series Game 4, St. Louis Cardinals vs. the Brewers at County Stadium. The Cardinals had a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, so the Brewers needed to win.

What I remember: We were back in our seats in the left-center-field bleachers. This time, it was a beautiful day. It was all so dazzling, far more so than the ALCS the previous week. So much hype, so much hoopla, so much fun. Milwaukee hadn’t hosted a World Series since 1958, the year after I was born. It was the first time for a lot of us of a certain age. (As it’s turned out, it’s been the only time for a lot of us of a certain age.)

What I don’t remember: Anything about the game. The Brewers won 7-5.

Four unforgettable events over nine days.

All these years later, just a delightful blur.


Filed under October 2022, Sounds

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