Warren Zevon always brought in hugely talented supporting casts for his albums – and this was never more true than for Sentimental Hygiene, his sixth studio album, which featured three members of R.E.M., plus Bob Dylan, Don Henley, David Lindley, Jennifer Warnes, George Clinton, Brian Setzer and singer-songwriter Neil Young, who took lead guitar on the opening title track.
Listen to ‘Sentimental Hygiene’ here.
“I walked in, and they said, ‘Bob Dylan’s here to see you,’”
Sentimental Hygiene was released on 29 August 1987, when Zevon, who’d turned 40 that year, was trying to bounce back with his first album in five years following The Envoy. The mainstays of the backing musicians for his new album were R.E.M.’s Peter Buck (guitar), Mike Mills (bass) and Bill Berry (drums), with singer Michael Stipe turning up for one small contribution, performing backing vocals on Bad Karma. Zevon had got to know R.E.M. in the past couple of years, and Buck, Mills and Berry readily agreed to his request to play on Sentimental Hygiene, an album that was mainly recorded at Record One in Los Angeles, with some additional work at Cheshire Sound Studios in Atlanta, Georgia.
Buck’s searing guitar work adds to the potency of Boom Boom Mancini, a song about a boxing bout between Ray Mancini and former world champion Bobby Chacon. The Factory, also written solely by Zevon, is the bleak tale of an industrial worker in Pennsylvania who has taken over his injured father’s job in an asbestos-ridden plant. Dylan played harmonica on the track, much to Zevon’s delight. “When I walked into the studio and they said, ‘Bob Dylan’s here,’ I said, ‘Why?’ Zevon recalled to the New York Times. “‘To see you.’ That’s worth a million records to me.”