Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Songs about Lawyers #3: "Lawyers, Guns and Money."


     I grew up in Cleveland, and so of course went back at some point—25 years ago probably—to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
     More like the Rock and Roll Mausoleum, if you ask me, a collection of cases of fringed jackets and sequined platform shoes leading to, if I recall, some kind of cheesy glass and starlight holy of holies at the summit. It was the least rock and roll place I've ever been to. A judgment confirmed anew each year when they usher in another off-key group of entrants, like this year. Dolly Parton is a lovely lady, with wonderful charitable impulses. But to admit her to an establishment supposedly dedicated to rock music before Ian Anderson, of Jethro Tull, should result in the building being torn down and the ground sown with salt.
     Or worse, before Warren Zevon. One of the great wordsmiths of rock and roll. I couldn't focus on lawyer songs without his essential, "Lawyers, Guns and Money." It should have been the first, but that was too obvious.
     "I went home with the waitress/the way I always do," has to be one of the better opening lyrics in popular song. "How was I to know/she was with the Russians too?"
     Plus I don't like it, and include "Lawyers, Guns and Money" even though it isn't nearly my favorite Warren Zevon song (that would have to be "Studebaker") nor even in the Top Ten. Or 20. 
     I think it has something to do with the entitled, reprobate narrator. "Send lawyers, guns and money. Dad, get me out of this." You could see Donald Jr. singing it. I don't like "Excitable Boy" for the same reason. How can you like any song with the lyric, "Then he raped her and killed her and took her home"? It's just grotesque.
     I'd much, much rather listen to his last album, "The Wind," an act of bravura creativity written and recorded while he was dying of cancer. Or the marvelous tribute album, "Enjoy Every Sandwich," the title taken from Zevon's deathless answer when David Letterman asked him what he learned from dying. You know a musician is special when his songs are covered by both Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, as they are on this album. The Wallflowers' version of "Lawyers, Guns and Money" is quite good too.
     Returning to the Hall of Fame, Jackson Browne was admitted in 2004, and his "Lawyers in Love" is even worse. It was a big hit almost 40 years ago and I cringed at the thought of hearing it again, with its sha-la-las and chiming piano and warbling, near-yodeling "Ah-aaaas." Browne deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as much as I do. Then again, the whole thing is a joke, so why not? There is no justice in this world. 


  1. All Halls of Fame are strange. The criteria is always elusive. Ask Pete Rose, but that’s another story.
    Warren Zevon is a favorite of another of my favorite writers, Carl Hiaasen. Hiaasen collaborated with Zevon in his novel Basket Case, interestingly enough about journalism and the future of American newspapers.

  2. Sorry, but this all makes me glad to be really old and having stopped paying attention to popular song lyrics post Beatles.


    1. The group that broke up 52 years ago? No apologies necessary, Tom, but that is kind of a self-own. Myself, I would not be really glad about that. It strikes me as tragic.

    2. Tragic? It's not even unfortunate, IMHO. Tom has expressed his lack of interest in post-60s rock music a number of times. But from other comments, it's clear that he has plenty of music in his life, just not of that variety.

      As somebody else who has spent practically no time "keeping up", that's not even on the most extensive possible list of my regrets. While I'm certain that there is plenty of music which I'd have enjoyed a lot that I'm totally unfamiliar with, there's only so much time in a day, and I don't come close to listening to the music that I already love nearly as much as I could.

      Seems to me that even that's not tragic, but I've never been as fascinated by popular music as many in my generation.

    3. Thanks Jakash. Many things I would have liked to have done during the dwindling time and capabilities left. Keeping up with popular song lyrics has just not been a priority. I do, however, retain a fondness for the expert wordsmiths of my long ago youth, and suspect that their work will endure.


  3. Excitable Boy is supposed to be unsettling. You make it sound as if it makes light of rape and murder (and to be sure, the song’s whimsical, sing-songs melody might lend that impression), but it’s a deliberately dark examination of a deeply disturbed psychopath.

  4. I grew up in Chicago, but this summer marks thirty years since I moved to Cleveland, so maybe that makes me a Clevelander, even though a lot of natives probably think otherwise, no matter how long I've been here. If you grew up elsewhere and didn't graduate from St. Whatever, you don't qualify.

    The Rock Hall (as locals call it), got off to a great start when it opened in 1995, with a.gigantic concert at the old Cleveland Stadium. Performers included Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Chuck Berry, Eric Burdon, Eric Clapton, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Little Richard, Martha and the Vandellas, The Allman Brothers, The Kinks, and dozens more.

    But after that auspicious beginning, it was all downhill from there. The Rock Hall did a brisk business for a few years, but high ticket prices and a lackluster venue probably played a role in the steep decline in attendance.The place has always drawn far more out-of-town vsitors than locals. Now it's actually free if you live in Cleveland or the surrounding county, which smacks of desperation to me. It's become the place where you take your out-of-town siblings and visiting cousins.

    There are an amazing number of inductees who have no business being there. They've been scraping the bottom of the barrel for a long time, mainly because the selection committee has this farkokte belief that there MUST be a class of inductees every single year. Hell, the induction ceremony isn't even held in Cleveland every year. Other Halls of Fame are far more discriminating, when it comes down to deciding who gets in and who doesn't. There have been plenty of years in which nobody at all was voted into Cooperstown. The Rock Hall needs to act accordingly, but of course, they think they know better. The result is a bloated and ludicrous list of entrants that has made a farce of the whole megillah..

    I have never been into Warren Zevon at all, so it wouldn't be appropriate to comment on his music or his lyrics. I don't even know the words to "Lawyers, Guns, and Money"...just the title itself, which I've always thought of as one of the coolest ever,

  5. My vote for best Warren Zevon song of all time: The Hockey Song (Hit Somebody), featuring David Letterman blurting the chorus. If you’ve never heard this song, please treat yourself and give it a listen.

  6. I was at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the year Jackson Browne was inducted. I was never a fan, and Browne droned on and on....the least qualified artist there taking the longest, which I always expect.


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