Full Text: COPYRIGHT Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service 1996
Enjoy Warren Zevon, rock 'n' roller, while you can. Zevon is on tour
now, performing a mostly solo rock show. But if he has his way, the
next time you see him will be with a symphony orchestra.
Last fall, Zevon wrote a piece of classical music. In a telephone
interview last week, he said he expected to pursue this aspect of his
work when his current three-month tour ends.
"I know at least one person in the United States with a sufficient
knowledge of modern classical music that I played it for," Zevon said
from Killington, Vt. "She seemed to like it.
"I think the prospects of getting such a thing played are probably fairly
good. I'm optimistic about it. I may be deluding myself, but we know
there's an orchestra in every town, much less city, in America."
His timing could be propitious, because orchestras across the country
are trying to attract new audiences. And Zevon playing classical music
likely would bring in crowds that rarely visit symphony halls.
"I think that would make a very persuasive letter accompanying the
score and the tape," he says. "Particularly if the program directors of
symphony orchestras watch David Letterman but don't have
SoundScan to tell them what "Mutineer" (his most recent album) sold.
Which I think, it's safe to say, they do and they don't. So I think the
prospects are fair."
If they watch Letterman, they'd know that he's among the host's
favorites. If they have SoundScan, they'd know that "Mutineer"
Giant Records dropped Zevon from its roster following the 1995
"At one point, I had the impression that it was selling disastrously,"
he says sardonically in his long-night-of-cigarettes-and-coffee voice.
"But then I was informed that everyone with whom I could feel the
slightest kinship was also selling fractionally what they were
accustomed to selling. In other words, very, very badly for Mariah
(Carey), quite well for a folk singer."
That's what Zevon figures he'd be - a successful folk singer - if he
hadn't been "an ex-'70s star."
He achieved stardom with the 1978 album "Excitable Boy" and hit
single "Werewolves of London." But nothing else he did over the next
nine albums and 17 years matched that success.
Zevon figures he wound up in this position for reasons that included
lack of record-company support, his being from Los Angeles and the
inevitable comparisons with other Southern California artists.
"It's senseless to compare "Transverse City" (his 1989 keyboard-
dominated disc) to a Don Henley album. And also, for some reasons
that are fair enough and some reasons that are a little appalling, the
time and the place that I came from, however much it did or didn't have
to do with my work, is held in contempt by contemporary cultural
standards. Los Angeles in the '70s is probably the worst place you can
possibly be from."
Zevon could be bitter that the early promise of his career never
materialized. But for a songwriter whose best works are bitingly
sarcastic and sometimes downright angry tales of life and love gone
wrong, he's composed and realistic.
"I'm in remarkably good health, the best shape I've ever been in," he
says. "My kids are doing great and they like me. And what I explain to
people about the misadventures of the recording industry is: Not
winning the lottery is not a personal problem."