Can You Go a Little Deeper: Warren ZevonLike many people “of a certain age,” my earliest exposure to Warren Zevon was 1978’s “Werewolves of London.” It would be years before I learned that the witty lyricism of that pseudo novelty hit carried itself into much of Zevon’s songwriting.
A more recent (within the last few years, anyway) discovery for me was “Carmelita,” a bittersweet song from Zevon’s 1976 debut. The song is ostensibly about a heroin-addicted writer in love with a Mexican girl. There is, however, another school of thought that, in keeping with the album’s leitmotif, “Carmelita” is actually about Los Angeles rather than a literal person. “I'm there with her in Ensenada / And I'm here in Echo Park ... Carmelita hold me tighter / I think I'm sinking down.” You could take it either way, I imagine.
Musicians as diverse as Linda Ronstadt and GG Allin have since covered the song, which initially attracted little attention. Interestingly, Ronstadt changed the lyrics from Zevon’s original “pawned my Smith Corona” to “pawned my Smith and Wesson,” essentially changing the song’s protagonist from a writer to a gunslinger. When GG covered the song, he left Ronstadt’s change while adding one of his own, altering the lyrics from “playing solitaire with my pearl handled deck” to “playing Russian roulette with my pearl-handled gun.”
Zevon’s original features – as does the rest of the album – a veritable who’s who of L.A. rockers of the era: Waddy Wachtel and David Lindley both make appearances on this song and if you listen carefully, that’s Glenn Frey singing harmony.
(Can You Go a Little Deeper is an irregularly recurring feature here wherein I resurrect old favorites, lost songs, and other things you maybe haven’t heard in a while)