If I tell you that Warren Zevon is awesome, it shouldn’t be news. Maybe the fact that I used the present tense, seeing as he’s been dead for about a decade, but I would say that death does not diminish awesomeness. It just gets in the way of him putting out more awesome records. (This is why I am declaring war on death. Fight the dead power!) But you might not know that Mr. Bad Example is a particularly good example of Zevon’s awesomeness. It looks like it’s available again, but it was out of print for a very long time — and it also looks like it’s one of the few Zevon reissues without any bonus tracks. So, for whatever reason Mr. Bad Example isn’t the most respected of his albums.
This is totally wrong. It should be up there with his best, with Warren Zevon and Excitable Boy or Life’ll Kill Ya. I don’t know — maybe I’m the wrong person to declare what albums should be in the top of the canon. I mean, I really like Transverse City, too, which apparently is somewhere around Mutineer in the list of Zevon-Albums-Zevon-Fans-Don’t-Really-Care-For. Maybe everyone else is right, and I’m wrong. BUT I DON’T THINK SO.
To those who doubt me — have you ever sat down and listened to Mr. Bad Example? It’s got a lot of pure classics. “Suzie Lightning” and “Searching for a Heart” are stone-cold perfect Romantic-Mode Zevon, and “Model Citizen” and the title track are dead-on examples of the best of Satirical-Mode Zevon. “Angel Dressed In Black” could be seen as an updated, rockin’ version of “Carmelita”, another song about deeply flawed people in equal parts pain and love. And as for “Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead”, is it even possible to not like that song? Seriously — I think there are people in prison for claiming to not like it. And Dwight Yoakam does harmony vocals on “Heartache Spoken Here”! Come on!
Honestly, too — I think Mr. Bad Example hangs together as an album better than some of his others. Some of them — even classics — can feel more like collections of songs than a coherent collection. Which isn’t to say that Mr. Bad Example doesn’t change styles (the title track is, in his own words, “an apocalyptic polka”) — but, in whatever weird sense, it just seems to all fit together.
One might say that Mr. Bad Example is a Good Example of how to do a phenomenal record.
But they shouldn’t.
Because that is wicked corny. And Warren Zevon was never corny.