Lyrical Legends: Warren Zevon – Lawyers, Guns, and Money


Lawyers, Guns, and Money

Warren Zevon
From the Excitable Boy album (1978).

By Joe Grimes

Warren Zevon has always been one of my favorite musical artists to include his superb song writing skills.  Most people associate him with his most popular hit, “Werewolves of London.”  His unique style of song writing captures the emotion, craziness, and underpinning of the characters displayed so charismatically in his songs.  Lawyers, Guns, and Money tells the tale of a careless drifter, with bad habits, who works his way into seclusion.

Well, I went home with the waitress
The way I always do
How was I to know
She was with the Russians, too.

The song opens the door with the lead character, in cavalier style, going home with a waitress only to find out she is with the Russians.  The emotion in the line, “How was I to know?” embraces his disdain for not being more cautious about loose women.  The fact that he mentions the Russians relays to the listener that he is obviously involved with some type of shady behavior.

I was gambling in Havana
I took a little risk
Send lawyers, guns and money
Dad, get me out of this”

The next episode for our lead has him getting in way over his head down in Havana.  His risky gambling has forced him to reach out to his father with the legal, ammunition, and currency request.  This reckless momentum is proper build-up to the impending snowball of disaster headed his way.

I’m the innocent bystander
Somehow I got stuck
Between the rock and the hard place
And I’m down on my luck.

The next part of the song has the lead attempting to capture our hearts by pleading how unlucky he is.  He claims to be an innocent bystander and somehow he got stuck.  His ignorant attitude is on full display by not reveling in his own negative actions.  He wonders how he came to this obstacle without acknowledging his careless methods.

Now I’m hiding in Honduras
I’m a desperate man
Send lawyers, guns and money
The s… has hit the fan.

The story ends with him hiding out in Honduras as a desperate man.  Nothing further is examined but he laments that the feces has hit the fan.

I have always been intrigued by this song in many ways.  The guitar pattern from beginning to end of the song is repetitious and very catchy.  It stops and starts when climbing to the next adventure in this short but gifted story.  There is just enough information to make the mind wander into a sea of contrivance.  The character is nameless and void of a background yet remains intriguing by design.  The listener is captivated with a story that encapsulates an improper yet effective foreign woman dabbling in espionage, mafia bribery, or both; a mysteriously armed Cuban casino; and an adventure of escaping on the lamb as our troubled, unlucky refugee embarks southward on his audacious Central American journey.

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