Saturday, 19 January 2013

How(l) To Be Happy (When Your Brain Is A Werewolf) (And An Asshole)

"Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon
Warren Zevon was born before I was, but I'm older than he was when he died, and when he wrote and sang and played this hilariously disturbing song, which is why I keep listening to it. It helps me remember the jumble of lighter times, when more things were possible. 

So when I listen to this song, before I love anything else about it, I love the chunky piano. The beat-stretched joyful mania of all the mock-howled "Ah-hoooos" comes next -- it's just so much fun to sing and howl (you gotta do the howling) those two open-voiced syllables. Stop reading this, listen to the song a few times until you remember when to grunt Huh! the first time (the Huh's are my third favourite thing about this song), and then tell me that isn't the most fun you've had in weeks. I'll let you off the hook if you miss the next two repetitions: by then you're probably off your game, because, just one quick verse ago, you heard Warren Zevon sing in beautifully alliterated syncopation the unthinkable image of a little old lady getting mutilated late the night before. You hear that line and once you get over its jumpy sonic beauty, you start thinking that maybe the ways you enjoy things might not be all that healthy. Which is when you have to force yourself to remember that your ears and your brain are just tissue machines that can't really stop themselves from searching for pleasure and beauty, mutilated little old ladies notwithstanding. Notwithstanding that, don't get into the habit of self-forgiveness every time you listen. The song doesn't really mean anything (late at night), but it's one I can't stop loving. In my defense, little old ladies get mutilated all the time. Forget werewolves -- the bloodthirsty cruelties of old age are the usual culprits (my dead mother sure as hell knew that). For that matter, children get mutilated all the time, too, with old age nowhere near any of those crime scenes. Teenagers and young adults and middle-aged saps like me get mutilated late at night, too -- not to mention all the bloodshed before dawn, through the morning and afternoon, before dusk, at dusk, after dusk, or later in the evening when some of us are searching for the guts to go to bed. Those guts, of course, when we eventually do fall asleep, get absolutely shredded and pierced and sliced up by our mutilating dreams, which aren't really nightmares -- they're night mirrors, and just one more proof that your brain doesn't give a shit about you. Ergo, your brain is a werewolf, a creature that can slash right through your shit for just pretending to be as damaged and as bleeding as a true victim of a true crime. So maybe your brain is just an asshole. Either way, you're shit that he can ignore or boss around as he pleases.
So forget the above. Just listen to this happy, evil song, and feel guilty or don't feel guilty. My list of desert-island songs is in constant revision, but this one never gets demoted.    
Huh! Draw blood while you're meeting the tailor of a werewolf who's been eating Chinese food, and mutilating little old ladies, and planning to rip your lungs out (whether your name is Jim or not), and howling around your kitchen door, and drinking pina coladas at Trader Vic's. Honour the dance, dedicated to the hairy-handed gent, performed by Lon Chaney Junior and the Queen. Stop sitting down, if you can, but don't stop listening, no matter how old you are. If you can, dance. Your hair will be perfect, but you won't feel good about it. Ah-hooooooooooooooooooo. Warren Zevon, that unlucky singing, howling fool, when he was just fifty-six, got mutilated by "peritoneal mesothelioma, a virulent and inoperable form of lung cancer." He had fun beforehand, though, at least for a few minutes.

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