By Tony Attwood
We have already had one Warren Zevon song in this list of Dylan favourites: ‘Desperado Under the Eaves’, And now it is time for a second: ‘Lawyers, Guns, and Money’. And we do have several recordings of this song to contemplate
Now I want to make something clear: most of these songs that Bob has chosen I don’t know – or at best don’t know very well. And so I am listening to them for the first time (or at least the first time in many years) as I come to write each review. And indeed having developed the habit of writing reviews while listening (as opposed to listening in silence and then contemplating for a while) when co-authoring the articles I write with Aaron, I carry on that format here.
So this is my first interaction with this song (my excuse being that in 1989 I had three daughters all under 10 years old and that rather takes up a lot of time – although it was certainly worth it; they are all three of them, now my best friends).
Anyway back to the song. The lyrics are quite something.
I went home with the waitress, the way I always do How was I to know, she was with the Russians, too? I was gambling in Havana, I took a little risk Send lawyers, guns and money, dad, get me out of this, ha I'm the innocent bystander Somehow I got stuck between the rock and a hard place And I'm down on my luck, yes I'm down on my luck Well, I'm down on my luck And I'm hiding in Honduras I'm a desperate man Send lawyers, guns, and money The shit has hit the fan Alright, send lawyers, guns, and money
So looking at the song’s lyrics it is simple: exactly the opposite of Dylan’s work, and yet it is equally stunningly brilliant. My guess (as a person who has written several hundred songs across a lifetime, but without any commercial success) is that the title came first, and then the song evolved around it. The title phrase indeed demands that two-chord accompaniment (musicians would write it as IV, I) and then the third chord is added at the end. From that emerges everything else. I suspect the notion of introducing the Russians, Havana and Honduras just arose as he played the chords in that rhythm on the piano.
Interestingly (to me if no one else) for this live recording, they’ve changed key. And I do love the way an extra bar is added in places.
In fact I love all of it. Especially the notion of going through all this and claiming to be an innocent by-stander. Fabulous.
I did however know Warren Zevon, because of “Werewolves of London”, but nothing more, so learning about him really is learning for me. He was, it seems, born in the same year as me but died of cancer 20 years ago. (And that is quite an unsettling thought: how come I, just a regular guy who enjoys all this music, managed to survive? Beats me.)
Here’s another live version recorded for TV.
So here we have another song that is a million miles from anything Bob would ever write or perform, which he names in his favourite song list, and I am immediately taken by.
You know, I am really enjoying this idea for a series.
- Bob Dylan’s favourite songs: Death of an Unpopular Poet
- Bob Dylan’s favourite songs 2: Shadows
- Dylan’s favourite songs 3: ‘Desperado Under the Eaves’
- Dylan’s favourite songs 4: Randy Newman: Sail Away
- Dylan’s favourite songs 5: Sam Stone
- He Went to Paris’