When Warren Zevon appeared on Cleveland radio station WMMS in the autumn of 1976, a few months after the release of his self-titled album, he admitted that most of the record’s 11 songs were autobiographical. “My life is a little surrealistic and the images in the songs are drawn as accurately as possible,” Zevon said.
Listen to Warren Zevon’s self-titled album here.
Warren Zevon, released on 18 May 1976, came seven years after his debut studio album, 1969’s Wanted Dead Or Alive, and featured a glittering array of backing musicians, many of them friends of the Chicago-born musician who had spent most of his life in Los Angeles. It is no wonder Zevon described making the album as a “lot of fun”, especially as it was produced by Jackson Browne, the singer-songwriter who had been his pal for nearly a decade. Browne also played slide guitar and piano on the record. “Jackson and I talked about doing this album for several years,” Zevon told WMMS. “I wanted to do it with Jackson producing and for Asylum Records, a music company who don’t pressurise me.”
“Zevon was a musician’s musician”
Among the 25 top-class musicians who featured on Warren Zevon’s self-titled album were Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, Jorge Calderon, Phil Everly, Eagles’ Glenn Frey and Don Henley, David Lindley, Bonnie Raitt, Waddy Wachtel and Jai Winding, the son of jazz trombone legend Kai Winding. Zevon himself was the arranger and singer, and played rhythm guitar, piano and harmonica.
Zevon also penned all the songs on an album that opened with Frank And Jesse James, a song that cast the famous Wild West characters as misunderstood outlaws. Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded, which featured Lindley on fiddle and some stirring guitar from Wachtel, was about Zevon’s parents; the line “Don’t marry that gambling man” referred to Zevon’s father’s life as a professional gambler.