"We love to buy books because we believe we are
buying the time to read them."
-Warren Zevon quoting Schopenhauer.
I first saw Warren Zevon in concert twenty years
ago. I had heard a few of his songs, and a friend was excited about
the show, so I decided to tag along.
I was blown away.
The amount of energy and enthusiasm he put into
the show left me awestruck. The power of his songs was overwhelming.
I was hooked. The next day I started acquiring his albums as fast
as my meager funds would allow. I saw him two more times over the
years, and even jumped up on stage after he left to snag his discarded
guitar pick. I would eagerly await each new album and play it over
and over until I had memorized each line. He was one of my favorite
Somewhere along the line, as the years passed
and CDs replaced LPs, my music buying slowed down, and eventually stopped.
I just didn't have the time to sit down an listen to an album the way I
used to, or even have it on as background music. There was just too
much going on.
Then I heard that Warren Zevon was going to die.
He had an inoperable form of cancer, and there was not hope. His
doctors gave him three months to live.
Eschewing chemotherapy so he could concentrate
on finishing one more album before he died, Warren got to work. This
DVD is a documentary recording his struggle to finish his last album, The
The 45 minute program, which originally aired
on VH-1, follows Warren as he works in the studio with some of his friends
and chronicles his last days. It is amazing to see how positive Warren
is throughout the film. As time goes on, he gets weaker and weaker,
and grows more frail. It is a sad thing to see, but Warren stays
cheerful throughout, cracking jokes and always smiling.
Interspersed with entries from Warren's diary,
this show is mainly interviews with Zevon himself, and 'fly on the wall'
looks at the recording sessions. There are appearances by many of
Zevon's friends who helped him with his last album, including Bruce Springsteen,
Joe Walsh, Jackson Brown, Tom Petty, Don Henley, and Billy Bob Thorton,
among others. It was great to see these big names come to the aide
of a friend in need. The scenes of Bruce jamming in the sound booth
The film covers Warren's last appearance on "Late
Night with David Letterman." Letterman was a good friend of Zevon's
and he was the only guest for the entire hour. It shows you how difficult
it was for Warren to make the cross country trip, and how hard doing the
show was. While there are only excerpts from the program shown, it
allows you to see how little he let his discomforts effect his performance.
The surprising thing about this documentary is
that it is not depressing. Yes, it is sad in parts, and painful to
watch Warren get weaker as the cancer takes its toll, but he is so focused
on his work, and so happy to have each day, that his delight in being alive
A great documentary, and one that is a testament
to a great musician.
The stereo sound was not great. Given the documentary nature of
this DVD, there is a lot of dialog, and that most of it was easy to hear.
Occasionally someone would turn away from the microphone and it would be
hard to hear what they were saying. The music segments were really
lacking punch. They sounded flat and thin instead of hard and pounding
like the album. I was disappointed.
The DVD is in widescreen, but not enhanced for 16:9 televisions.
The picture was not that good. Being a documentary, I'm willing to
cut them a little slack, but I was hoping for a cleaner image. The
video was grainy and fairly blurry. The lines were not clean and
there were a lot of video artifacts. Aliasing was very evident, and
there was a little macroblocking in the background. It wasn't so
bad as to be unwatchable, but I was hoping for more.
There are a lot of good extras on this DVD. Most of them are extended
and cut interviews and scenes that were filmed. They wouldn't have
made the show better if they had been included, but it's nice to see them
Music Videos: There are videos
to "Keep Me in Your Heart" and "Disorder in the House."
Extended Interview 1: A 3
minute interview with Zevon where he talks about the success of Werewolves
and how it effected him.
Extended Interview 2: This
was a nice set of clips totaling 25 minutes. Warren talks about how
he writes songs, the themes in his music, and his friends. A good
Cherokee Interview: An extended
scene where Warren is talking outside of the recording studio one night.
It runs 5 ½ minutes, and includes him talking about fan's reaction
to the news on the internet.
Warren on Hunter S. Thompson:
A short segment in which Warren tries to get VH-1 to pay for a trip to
Aspen to see his friend Hunter S. Thompson. This wasn't the best
bit. It came across as a lame joke, and I can see why it didn't make
it into the finished product.
Warren, Billy, and Dwight "Dirty Life and Times"
session: The three musicians joking around about the drugs
Warren now takes legally,
Ry Cooder alternate take "Prison Grove":
An alternate guitar solo.
Warren Zevon with Director Nick Read:
Warren jokes around with the director and even takes the camera from the
cameraman to put Nick on film as he is being teased.
Warren and Bruce "Disorder in the House" sessions:
a good amount of footage of Springsteen and Zevon, joking around and making
Warren, Jackson, and T-Bone, "Prison Grove"
Sessions: a short (1 min) segment of the musical stars
Tom (Petty,) Jorge, and Noah in the studio:
Tom and his friends goofing around for the camera.
Home Movies: 2 minutes of
footage from very old home movies. These silent clips show Warren
goofing around and playing guitar.
The extras were very good, I just wish they were able to include his
last appearance on the Letterman show.
Warren Zevon died on September 8th, 2003. He was 56. His
life of excess finally caught up with him. This documentary is a
look at his final days, and his final work. Oddly uplifting,
Zevon, who had so often written about death and dying in his songs, seemed
very content with he fate, and very glad to be able to wake up each day.
A fitting tribute to a great artist. Recommended.