Friday, January 13, 2012

Warren Zevon: Roland the Headless Thompson Gunnerf

I was just talking to my brother about “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” the flip to Warren Zevon’s first single “Werewolves of London.” I purchased this single in 1978 as I couldn’t afford the album at the time. I wanted to learn the piano part of “Werewolves of London.”

The song deals with the dark story of a fictitious Norwegian mercenary who fought in the Biafra conflict in Nigeria as well as in the Congo. Wanting Roland dead, another mercenary Van Owen decapitated Roland in a machine gun blast.

Patty Hearst in 1974 with a submachine gun.

The headless copse of Roland hunts down Owen and avenges his own death. The legend has Roland haunting all subsequent conflicts in years together. The Thompson submachine gun was immortalized during prohibition as the weapon of choice of criminals and lawmen alike. This popular .45 caliber automatic weapon shot pistol rounds and was nicknamed the “Tommy Gun.”

Last Live Performance

The song was cowritten with David Lindell who once was a mercenary. The was the last song ever performed in front of an audience by Zevon. It was his final song on the David Letterman Show that only showcased Zevon as guest on October 30, 2002. Zevon succumbed to peritoneal mesothelioma on September 7, 2003. The world lost an excellent songwriter and performer.

1 comment:

  1. I've always love this song. It reminds me of my late first husband who use to get himself caught up in mercenary conflicts. Thanks for posting.