The Wit of Warren Zevon

Warren Zevon was a virtuoso musician, a gifted melody-maker and a brilliant wit.  Just for a moment, I want to focus exclusively on his wit:  below is a selection of my favourite Zevon lyrics.  It goes without saying that there are many more great Zevon lines, but these are the ones that appeal most to me.  Of course, it’s best to listen to Zevon’s songs in their entirety to fully appreciate the context in which these pithy lines are delivered.  Enjoy every stanza.



And when the lights came up at two
I caught a glimpse of you
And your face looked like something
Death brought with him in his suitcase

The French Inhaler



I’ll sleep when I’m dead

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead



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

Desperados Under The Eaves



Don’t the sun look angry through the trees?
Don’t the trees look like crucified thieves?

Desperados Under The Eaves



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, with  LeRoy P. Marinell



I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain
He was looking for the place called Lee Ho Fook’s
Going to get a big dish of beef chow mein

Werewolves of London, with LeRoy P. Marinell and Waddy Wachtel



He’s the hairy handed gent
Who ran amok in Kent
Lately he’s been overheard in Mayfair
Better stay away from him
He’ll rip your lungs out, Jim
Hah. I’d like to meet his tailor

Werewolves of London, with LeRoy P. Marinell and Waddy Wachtel



I saw a werewolf drinking a piña colada at Trader Vic’s
His hair was perfect

Werewolves of London, with LeRoy P. Marinell and Waddy Wachtel



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

Lawyers, Guns And Money



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

Lawyers, Guns And Money



Cigarettes make the sun come up
Whiskey makes the sun go down
And in between
We do a lot of standing around

Empty Hearted Town



Grandpa pissed his pants again
He don’t give a damn

Play It All Night Long



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

Bill Lee



Big gorilla at the L.A. Zoo
Snatched the glasses right off my face
Took the keys to my BMW
Left me here to take his place

Gorilla, You’re a Desperado



I could hear their ukuleles playing
Down by the sea
She’s gone with the hula hula boys
She don’t care about me

The Hula Hula Boys 



Can’t you just imagine
Digging up the King
Begging him to sing
About those heavenly mansions
Jesus mentioned

Jesus Mentioned, re Elvis, a subject Zevon would return to on Porcelain Monkey



I was born in ’63
Got a little job in the factory
I don’t know much about Kennedy
I was too busy working in the factory

The Factory



The mailman brought me the Rolling Stone
Trouble waiting to happen
It said I was living at home alone
Trouble waiting to happen
I read things I didn’t know I’d done
It sounded like a lot of fun

Trouble Waiting to Happen, with J. D. Souther



Well, I’m gone to Detox Mansion
Way down on Last Breath Farm
I’ve been rakin’ leaves with Liza
Me and Liz clean up the yard

Detox Mansion, with Jorge Calderón



Everybody’s trying to be a friend of mine
Even a dog can shake hands

Even A Dog Can Shake Hands, with Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Bill Berry



Michael Jackson in Disneyland
Don’t have to share it with nobody else
Lock the gates, Goofy, take my hand
And lead me through the World of Self

Splendid Isolation



Some people like to be punished
They keep coming back for more
But I’m sick and tired
And my cock is sore

Finishing Touches



I’m very well acquainted with the seven deadly sins
I keep a busy schedule trying to fit them in

Mr. Bad Example, with Jorge Calderón



When I was young
The sky was filled with stars
I watched them burn out one by one

Heartache Spoken Here



They say love conquers all
You can’t start it like a car
You can’t stop it with a gun

Searching For A Heart



Time marches on
Time stands still
Time on my hands
Time to kill
Blood on my hands
And my hands in the till
Down at the 7-11

The Indifference Of Heaven



I was born to rock the boat
Some may sink but we will float




I’m a refugee from the mansion on the hill
And if you won’t leave me I’ll find somebody who will

If You Won’t Leave Me I’ll Find Somebody Who Will



I met the man with the thorny crown
I helped Him carry his cross through town

I Was In The House When The House Burned Down



From the President of the United States
To the lowliest rock and roll star
The doctor is in and he’ll see you now
He don’t care who you are
Some get the awful, awful diseases
Some get the knife, some get the gun
Some get to die in their sleep
At the age of a hundred and one

Life’ll Kill Ya



Well, I can saw a woman in two
But you won’t want to look in the box when I’m through

For My Next Trick I’ll Need A Volunteer 



Well, I went to the doctor
I said, “I’m feeling kind of rough.”
He said, “Let me break it to you, son:
Your shit’s fucked up.”
I said, “My shit’s fucked up?
Well, I don’t see how–”
He said, “The shit that used to work–
Won’t work now.”

My Shit’s Fucked Up



Krishnamurti said, “I’ll set you free.
Write a check and make it out to me.”

Sacrificial Lambs, with Larry Klein



She’s manic-depressive and schizoid, too
The friskiest psycho that I ever knew
We’re paranoid lovers lost in space
My baby is a basket case

Basket Case, with Carl Hiaasen



Albert Einstein was a ladies’ man
While he was working on his universal plan
He was making out like Charlie Sheen
He was a genius

Genius, with Larry Klein



You and the barber make a handsome pair
Guess what–I never liked the way he cut your hair
I didn’t like the way he turned your head
But there’s nothing I can do or say I haven’t done or said

Genius, with Larry Klein



I was staying at the Marriott
With Jesus and John Wayne
I was waiting for a chariot
They were waiting for a train
The sky was full of carrion
“I’ll take the mazuma.”
Said Jesus to Marion
“That’s the 3:10 to Yuma
My ride’s here…”

My Ride’s Here, with Paul Muldoon



I’m looking for a woman with low self-esteem

Dirty Life and Times



Sometimes when you’re doing simple things around the house
Maybe you’ll think of me and smile
You know I’m tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for a while

Keep Me In Your Heart, with Jorge Calderón




4 thoughts on “The Wit of Warren Zevon

  1. Two from Disorder in the House-
    “It’s a fate worse than fame.”

    “I just got my paycheck
    I’m gonna paint the whole town grey”

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