Now, more than ever, I realise that we’ve lost one of the greats.
We all blogged Warren Zevon’s death, but now I want to write an appreciation of him. This may turn into a rant against death and the loss of the greats, but if so, so be it.
Seven o’clock, Eight o’clock, Nine o’clock, Ten
You wanna go home?
Why? Honey, when?
We may never get this chance again!
Let’s party for the rest of the night!
I got his last two albums a week or two back, and they haven’t been out of my personal CD player since. I’m listening to My Ride’s Here as I write this. At least as I start it. I’ll probably have alternated between it and The Wind a few times before I finish.
He died at the top of his game: the three albums that closed his career contain some of the best things he’s ever done: Life’ll Kill Ya, My Ride’s Here and The Wind. I don’t believe that there’s ever “a good day to die,” or even, really, that you can have a “good death”.
But that’s a thought for another day. The point here is that Warren died having completed his final album, said goodbye to his family, friends and fans, and even seen the latest James Bond film. If you’ve gotta go, it’s better than most of us can expect. Unlike Joe Strummer, for example, who died at the tail end of last year, and who was taken from us totally by surprise: he wasn’t sick, and no-one expected it; and he had no chance to finish things. Which is how most people die, of course.
Eleven o’clock, Twelve o’clock, One o’clock, Two
Me, tired? Well boo hoo!
I’m starting to fall in love with you
Let’s party for the rest of the night!
I like to think though, that, despite all that, Warren went raging against the dying of the light; and ‘The Rest Of The Night‘, from his last album, is the perfect roar of defiance to hurl at the darkness. Yet at the same time it shows some of the resignation, or acceptance, we see on some of the other tracks, such as ‘Keep Me in Your Heart‘. Many have described the latter track, which closes the album, as the most affecting song on it; and I can scarcely listen to it without a lump coming to my throat.
Yet ‘The Rest Of The Night’ is the song that, for me, captures the end-times nature of the album more than any other.
As a straightforward party anthem it’s right up there with Springsteen’s ‘Mary’s Place‘, from last year’s The Rising. (The comparison is particularly apt, because Springsteen provides guitar and backing vocal’s on The Wind‘s other rabble-rouser, ‘Disorder In The House’.) But it’s in the context of his impending death that ‘The Rest Of The Night’ really takes wing.
“We may never get this chance again” is the key line here. Of course, considered rationally, that is true of any of us, any time, about any experience; Zevon must have felt it very keenly, though, whether or not he was well enough to party.
Then the line, “I’m starting to fall in love with you” suggest that, even as “the old whore death” was hovering in the background of his life, Warren was still willing to take a chance on the great rollercoaster ride that makes life even more worthwhile.
The song has a similar effect on me to the film Dead Poets’ Society, with its advice to “seize the day”: it makes me want to grab hold of life with both hands and hang on for the ride. Because we’re only on this Earth for a short time, we don’t get a second chance, and (I believe) there’s nothing afterwards. We may not have this chance again — whatever it is — so let’s throw ourselves into it now.
Three o’clock, Four o’clock, Five o’clock, Six
Let’s throw it all into the mix
And open up our bag of tricks,
And party for the rest of the night!
All quotes are from Warren Zevon’s song, ‘The Rest Of The Night’, and are reproduced without permission, but with journalistic intent. Somehow, I don’t think he’d have minded.
Well, OK, some are better than others, but only because some are worse than others.