"Desperados Under the Eaves" by Warren Zevon
Buy and listen on Bandcamp
[different version from a collection of rare and unreleased recordings]
No song has ever distilled loneliness to quite so potent a cocktail. He’s waking up in the morning with shaking hands, the trees outside look like crucified thieves and the sun itself seems angry with him. We can see the wallpaper sagging, the note from the front desk demanding the bill, and the empties, vermouth, gin, whiskey and wine, stacking up on the desk, next to a spotless, un-written-in notebook.
Here, finally, is [Warren] Zevon’s soundtrack to a dark night of the soul.
But rather than resolve the themes of the album with an 11th hour, 11th track, plot twist, rather than wriggle out of the ramifications of a life wasted with an ironic observation or one-liner, we leave our narrator in an unsolvable jam, a cliff-hanger of sorts, where the only way forward will take him through himself. And the only option for the listener will be to play the record again, from the start, listening for clues. . .
But then something unexpected happens.
We’re treated to one of the most audacious, creative, simple, effective, grandiose, subtle, maximal and endearing moments in music. “I was sitting in the Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel,” Zevon repeats for the final time. “I was listening to the air conditioner hum…”
He begins to hum some approximation of what he can hear and the strings in the background begin to change. They begin to swell and build. They begin to match Zevon’s hum and play out, in grand fashion, the sound of the air conditioner’s hum. It sounds remarkably similar to that opening piano riff from the first track. And somehow, though we know the circumstances, it sounds like an act of incredible defiance against a mundane, ugly, cheap and petty world. Transforming his surroundings into art, into a rallying cry and a reason to go on. Transforming a sad, lonely experience into something that will bring people together and make their hairs stand on end.
📄 Joseph Knox/Literary Hub
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