Tuesday, February 1, 2011

'Excitable Boy' by Warren Zevon

As I sat around trying to think of my next violence-related blog post listening to my iTunes, I was incredibly stupefied (and embarrassed) to find the answer staring me in the face. There, on my “Top 25 Most Played” Playlist…was my golden next post material.

My Number One played song (ousting number two by 30% more views) was Warren Zevon’s “Excitable Boy”. I realize many of you have never heard of this artist but you most likely have (Warren Zevon is best known for performing “Werewolves of London”). Even still I hope there may be one other Zevon fan out there that may appreciate this breakdown of one of my favorite songs of all time, listen and enjoy!

To preface what most of you are all thinking after hearing that song, I had been there before. I remember sitting in my hot tub with my dad when he put this CD on and I recall thinking ‘what the f*ck is this sh*t?’ I remember thinking Warren Zevon was a nut, a lunatic, a deranged hippie that only old people listened to. Obviously I have changed my mind on Zevon, as there lies within this song deep symbolic societal meaning.

First off, this song shows a certain part of violence that is very common today. As stated in earlier blog posts, we have almost become immune to violent material. Zevon (in my mind) writes this song with this cheery poppy overtone to show that sometimes we take violence like mercenaries and bounty hunters do-unfazed. We see articles in the news about horrific murders and accidents and we just shrug them off. Zevon shows this by slipping in violent material (biting the usherette’s leg/ raping and killing his junior prom date, Suzie/ digging Suzie up and building a cage with her bones). I mean there is some messed up stuff in the song and Zevon contrasts it perfectly with this cheery, choir-filled, and upbeat melody. This contradiction shows how immune we have gotten to violence.

The second point Zevon makes is human culture’s utter and total disregard for the psychologically-impaired in the world. We, as humans, want to believe we are all normal and that no one out there may have a problem, but this is not true. In America we do a better job diagnosing psychological illnesses but people (like the Arizona shooter or the ‘excitable boy’) do slip through the cracks. Zevon argues that the majority of people will dismiss abnormal behavior as something completely normal and create an everyday excuse for the behavior ( like ‘He’s just an excitable boy’). We do this to preserve humane, societal, or cultural consistency and normality. I believe Zevon is trying to show that in reality there are many people out there with major issues reaching out for help and exhibiting irregular behavior but they're being disregarded as regular everyday actions.

There are many people out there that argue over Zevon’s original intentions for a lot of his songs, including “Excitable Boy”, but I believe he aimed at two goals with my number one most played song on iTunes; first, that humans have become totally immune to violence and secondly, human normality tries to preserve itself by disregarding abnormal behavior in individuals and excuses their behavior as a regular everyday occurrence.


  1. This one of my favorite songs. It came out in 1978 and I was 14 yrs. I related so much to it and understood every nuance, (IMHO). I use it as a name for one of my blog, replacing boy for girl. All of us have been victim, and sometimes perpetrator also, of violence and as you said, people accept it as if we were having Sunday tea. Mental illness is swept under the rug resulting in awful damage to the ill and the people around them (their children etc). To close I can listen to this song every day and it will always hold the same deep effect on me as day one. Great break down of the meaning in your post. Thanks.

  2. Great post about a great song! FYI, it is difficult to read with the background and text colors.


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