Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner

"Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" is a song composed by Warren Zevon and David Lindell[1] and performed by Zevon. It was first released on Zevon's 1978 album Excitable Boy. It was the last song that he ever performed in front of an audience, on The Late Show with David Letterman, before his death in 2003.[2]

"Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner"
Song by Warren Zevon
from the album Excitable Boy
Released1978
Recorded1977
GenreRock
Length3:47
LabelAsylum
Songwriter(s)Warren Zevon, David Lindell

About the song

Zevon met co-writer Lindell in Spain, where the latter was running a bar after a stint working as a mercenary in Africa.[3] Always interested in the darker side of life, Zevon decided to collaborate with Lindell on a song about a mercenary.

The fictional character Roland is a Norwegian who becomes embroiled in the aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War and Congo Crisis of the 1960s—the lyrics mention the years 1966 and 1967, which correspond to the mercenary-led Kisangani Mutinies after the Congo Crisis. He earns a reputation as the greatest Thompson gunner, a reputation that attracts the attention of the CIA. Roland is betrayed and murdered by a fellow mercenary, Van Owen, who blows off his head. Roland becomes the phantom "headless Thompson gunner" and eventually has his revenge, when he catches Van Owen in a Mombasa bar and guns him down. Afterward, he continues "wandering through the night". Other violent conflicts of the succeeding decade are said to be haunted by Roland, including Ireland, Lebanon, Palestine, and Berkeley, California. At the end of the song, Patty Hearst, and her stint as Tania of the Symbionese Liberation Army (as memorialized by several photos published nationally of Hearst holding an automatic weapon) is said to have "heard the burst of Roland's Thompson gun and bought it."

Film reference

The song is a favorite of screenwriter David Koepp. He named the big-game hunter in The Lost World: Jurassic Park "Roland Tembo" as a reference to the song, and then "thought it would be fun to make his nemesis' last name Van Owen, like in the song."[4]

References

  1. ^ Leigh, Spencer (September 9, 2003). "Warren Zevon Singer-songwriter author of 'Werewolves of London'". The Independent. Retrieved April 1, 2009.
  2. ^ "Zevon performs on Letterman". Late Show with David Letterman. October 30, 2002. CBS – via YouTube.
  3. ^ Marsh, Dave (November 2002). "Warren Zevon on the Loose in Los Angeles". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 1, 2009.
  4. ^ "Movie Answer Man, Roger Ebert / December 27, 1998". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 7, 2008.

External links

Chinese Democracy Tour

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The tour began in 2001. That year the band played three U.S. dates and a Brazilian one, while their 2002 tour included Asian, North American and a few European dates. The band did not tour again until May 2006, when it toured North America again and performed a major tour of Europe. The band's tour continued in 2007 with shows in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Mexico.

Their first show after the 2008 release of Chinese Democracy was in Taiwan on December 11, 2009. In the same month the group played South Korea for the first time, as well as two dates in Japan. Since 2010 the tour has continued with concerts in North America, South/Central America, Europe and Australia. As of late 2010, the entire tour had attracted a total audience of about 4,000,000 people. The ten-year tour came to a close on the final day of 2011, with a New Year's Eve show in Las Vegas.

Excitable Boy

Excitable Boy is the third studio album by American musician Warren Zevon. The album was released on January 18, 1978, by Asylum Records. It includes the single "Werewolves of London", which reached No. 21 and remained in the American Top 40 for six weeks. The album brought Zevon to commercial attention and remains the best-selling album of his career. A remastered and expanded edition was released in 2007."Excitable Boy" and "Werewolves of London" were considered macabrely humorous by some critics. The historical "Veracruz" dramatizes the United States occupation of Veracruz; likewise, "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" is a fictionalized account of former mercenary David Lindell's experiences in Africa. "Lawyers, Guns and Money" is a tongue-in-cheek tale of a young American man's adventures in Cold War-era Latin America. In addition, there are two ballads about life and relationships ("Accidentally Like a Martyr" and "Tenderness on the Block"), as well as the funk/disco-inspired "Nighttime in the Switching Yard".

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Jordan Zevon

Jordan Zevon (born August 7, 1969) is an American singer, musician and songwriter. He is the son of rock musician Warren Zevon.

Following his father's death in 2003, Jordan, his half-sister, Ariel, and longtime Zevon collaborator Jorge Calderón accepted Warren's two posthumous Grammy Awards for Best Rock Vocal Performance and Best Contemporary Folk Album for The Wind. His father's death from mesothelioma moved Jordan to work for the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization as an advocate for those harmed by exposure to asbestos. He appeared on the 2004 tribute album to his father titled Enjoy Every Sandwich: Songs of Warren Zevon singing the previously unreleased song "Studebaker". In 2005, he appeared on another tribute album called Hurry Home Early: the Songs of Warren Zevon, issued by Wampus Multimedia, where he sang another unreleased song called "Warm Rain" with Simone Stevens.

In 2005, Zevon released his self-titled debut EP through his production company Mixed Headache. His first full-length album, Insides Out, was released through Texas-based New West Records on April 15, 2008.

On June 7, 2007, Zevon appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman and again on April 18, 2008. In 2008, he won the Overall Grand Prize of the prestigious 14th Annual USA Songwriting Competition with his song "Home".

Zevon is currently working on a new album entitled Imperfect, which he has described to be "darker and more rock than power pop" compared to his previous work. He has stated that it will feature the tracks "May or May Not", "Not Like Me", "Merry Go Wrong", "Wrecking Ball", "The Epic Fail" and "Stick With Me". On August 4, 2011, he released a demo take of the song "Wrecking Ball" on his personal website.

Zevon has also produced several films, including the motion picture $pent (2000).

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This album is the only time Zevon played a version of "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" that lasted more than the average 4 minutes on an album, although he did it frequently in live performances. This version of the song includes a piano solo at the beginning of the song and another between the last two verses. Also, this version of "Lawyers, Guns and Money" is played in the key of G major rather than A Major, the key in the studio version. "Mr. Bad Example" is played in E Major rather than F#Major as heard on the studio version.

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Lyricist and author Sheila Davis writes that including a city in a song's title helps focus the song on the concrete and specific, which is both more appealing and more likely to lead to universal truth than abstract generalizations. Davis also says that songs with titles concerning cities and other specific places often have enduring popularity.The following is a list of songs about cities, from both traditional and pop music: the list should not be considered complete.

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Warren Zevon

Warren William Zevon (; January 24, 1947 – September 7, 2003) was an American rock singer-songwriter and musician.

Zevon's most famous compositions include "Werewolves of London", "Lawyers, Guns and Money", "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" and "Johnny Strikes Up the Band", all of which are featured on his third album, Excitable Boy (1978), whose title track is also well-known. He also wrote major hits that were recorded by other artists, including "Poor Poor Pitiful Me", "Accidentally Like a Martyr", "Mohammed's Radio", "Carmelita", and "Hasten Down the Wind". Along with his own work, he recorded or performed occasional covers, including Allen Toussaint's "A Certain Girl", Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", Leonard Cohen's "First We Take Manhattan" and Prince's "Raspberry Beret".

Initially successful as a band leader, Zevon struggled to have a solo career until his music was performed by Linda Rondstadt. This launched a cult following that lasted for 25 years with Zevon making occasional returns to album and single charts until his death from cancer in 2003. He briefly found a new audience in the 1980s by teaming up with members of R.E.M. in the blues rock outfit Hindu Love Gods.

Known for his dry wit and acerbic lyrics, he was a guest several times on Late Night with David Letterman and the Late Show with David Letterman.

Werewolves of London

"Werewolves of London" is a rock song performed by American singer-songwriter Warren Zevon. It was composed by Zevon, LeRoy Marinell and Waddy Wachtel and was included on Excitable Boy (1978), Zevon's third solo album. The track featured Fleetwood Mac's Mick Fleetwood and John McVie on drums and bass respectively. The single was released by Asylum Records and was a top 40 US hit, the only one of Zevon's career, reaching No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 that May.

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