Warren Zevon

Lawyers, Guns and Money

Song Review by

As a songwriter, Warren Zevon has long displayed a somewhat theatrical bent, and has created a handful of stock characters who seem to, with certain variations, continue to reappear in his songs over the years. One of Zevon's favorites is the not-so-lovable rogue whose fondness for adventure and aversion to consequence often leads him into perilous situations. One might argue that Zevon's best use of this character is the narrator of his song "Mr. Bad Example," but he rarely tackled such an individual as succinctly -- or as memorably -- as he did in "Lawyers, Guns and Money," the final song on his breakthrough album, 1978's Excitable Boy. In the course of a mere three verses and a bridge, our anti-hero manages to run afoul of the Soviet Union after an assignation with an undercover agent, earn the enmity of the Batista regime in Cuba, and find himself persona non grata in Honduras, with the same solution called for in all three cases -- legal help, deadly weapons, and ready cash. Apparently the son of an indulgent family (since "Dad" is the person his request is addressed to in the second verse), it's hard to say how our protagonist gets himself into so much trouble, though the fact he's around to get into another jam suggests he's able to get out easily enough. Musically, Zevon scores our anti-hero's dilemma with an admirably tough-sounding melody, with his banged-out piano chords matched by a some fierce six-string work from Waddy Wachtel; Zevon recorded the song twice again on a pair of live albums, first on 1980's blazing Stand in the Fire, and in somewhat more muted form on the 1993 solo acoustic album Learning to Flinch.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Excitable Boy 1978 Elektra / Asylum 3:29
A Quiet Normal Life: The Best of Warren Zevon 1986 Elektra / Asylum 2:56
Listen to the Music: '70s California Sound 1996
Various Artists
Rhino 3:31
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (An Anthology) 1996 Rhino 3:31
107.1 KGSR Broadcast, Vol. 8 2000
Various Artists
KGSR Records
Genius: The Best of Warren Zevon 2002 Rhino 3:30
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson [Music from the Film] 2008 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 3:10
Original Album Series 2010 Rhino / Warner Bros. 3:58
The Best of Warren Zevon Elektra / Rhino 3:30