Warren Zevon

Poor Poor Pitiful Me

Song Review by

Warren Zevon's best work often speaks with the voice of an arrogance so strong it spills over into something resembling charm, and one of the best examples is "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," which he first recorded on his self-titled 1976 album. For most people, the inability to commit suicide would be regarded as a stroke of good luck, but instead Zevon opens his song by informing the listener that "I'd lay my head on the railroad track/Waiting for the Double E/But the railroad don't run no more/Poor poor pitiful me." The source of Zevon's misery, of course, is women, but not their absence or the one that got away -- Zevon is troubled by the fact that the ladies simply won't leave him alone. The song's verses sound as if Zevon is bragging and complaining at the same time while he discusses a taxing assignation with a woman from West Hollywood, and the chorus, in which he announces "These young girls won't let me be/Lord have mercy on me," is an example of self-pity that's mutated into self-parody -- no one could be expected to feel bad for this guy, and Zevon sounds like he's having too much fun (and rocking too hard) to make the notion stick anyway. In Zevon's original recording, the song's final verse was a mildly disturbing fragment, in which he murmured "I met a girl at the Rainbow Bar/She asked me if I'd beat her/She took me back to the Hyatt House/...I don't want to talk about it." By the time Linda Ronstadt recorded it in 1977 (on her album Simple Dreams), with an appropriate gender switch, the masochist has been replaced by an avid young man from Yokohama; the sexually rapacious Asian was changed back to a woman but otherwise remained when Zevon himself revisited the song for his wild and woolly 1980 live album Stand in the Fire, and she was still there when he recorded it a third time on his solo acoustic live set, 1993's Learning to Flinch.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Warren Zevon 1976 Elektra / Asylum 3:04
No Image 1982 Sony Music Distribution
A Quiet Normal Life: The Best of Warren Zevon 1986 Elektra / Asylum 3:04
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (An Anthology) 1996 Rhino 3:05
Rolling Stone Presents: Male Singer-Songwriters 2001
Various Artists
Rhino 3:07
Genius: The Best of Warren Zevon 2002 Rhino 3:05
Freaks and Geeks 2004
Original TV Soundtrack
Shout! Factory / Sony Music Distribution 3:06
Greetings from the West Coast 2005
Various Artists
American Beat Records 3:06
Preludes 2007 New West 3:11
Original Album Series 2010 Rhino / Warner Bros. 4:18
Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter [CD & DVD] 2011 Hear Music 3:08
The Best of Warren Zevon Elektra / Rhino 3:09