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Profoundly Horrifying Song Lyrics: "Excitable Boy" by Warren Zevon

Music Features Warren Zevon
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Hello and thank you, once again, for all your help in the ongoing war against disturbing song lyrics. By drawing attention to this serious issue, hopefully we can work together to ensure that all future songs are about raindrops and roses and whiskers on kittens. Because I love that song, and I’d be extremely happy if future music were just different bands covering the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic.

Today, we’re taking a quick break from reader submissions to look at a horrifying tune I’ve had in my sights on for some time: “Excitable Boy” by Warren Zevon. If YOU know a profoundly disturbing song that requires immediate analysis, send it in to mailbag@pastemagazine.com. And as always, check out previous installments at the bottom of this post.

Okay, Warren, let’s see what you’ve got for us. We know “Excitable Boy” is upbeat and fun, but what darkness seethes beneath the surface? As ever, I won’t look up any back story or explanation until we’ve reached the end. Lyrics in bold, my commentary after.

Well, he went down to dinner in his Sunday best

Good. That shows high moral fiber. He takes the time to dress like a gentleman, which is more than you can say for a lot of kids today, with their baggy pants and their hippety hop and their oversized sneakers. Why do they wear such huge shoes?

Excitable boy, they all said

I’d be excitable too, if all my peers went around wearing shoes that were EIGHT SIZES TOO BIG. Sorry, I’m fixating. Why were they calling him excitable, Warren?

And he rubbed the pot roast all over his chest

Well, that’s not good. It’s not good for his Sunday clothing, first off. Totally ruined. So is the pot roast, because this sounds like a classy family, and I don’t think they’ll be keen to eat it after it’s been rubbed on somebody’s chest. And even if they do, dinner won’t be the same. More importantly, though, it’s not good for the boy’s mental state. I’m starting to wonder if there’s more than meets the eye here. Does he rub other foodstuffs on his chest? Is this a regular occurrence?

Excitable boy, they all said
Well, he’s just an excitable boy

Fair enough. He’ll grow out of it. Why, my own younger brothers were wild in their youth, and now they wear sensible shoes that actually fit. Like that’s so hard?

He took in the four a.m. show at the Clark

Okay, now I’m concerned. That’s too late to be out at a movie theater unless you’re a pervert or an insomniac. I’m starting to put the different puzzle pieces together, and this young fellow might have some character issues. I just hope the Clark doesn’t serve pot roasts.

Excitable boy, they all said

Who are these people insisting that he’s just an excitable boy?! WHO ARE THEY??? Tell them to stop!

And he bit the usherette’s leg in the dark

Gah! Not cool, excitable boy! Sure, maybe you should expect that kind of thing when you have usherettes and pervert-friendly 4 a.m. shows, but still, a leg?! Doesn’t this guy know that you’re supposed to EAT the pot roast, and RUB the leg on your chest? He’s got it all backwards!

Excitable boy, they all said

Sorry, weird Greek chorus who can’t stop saying “excitable,” but leg-biting doesn’t fall into that category. Leg-biting, as characterized by the biting of a human leg, is a violent and depraved act, and I simply won’t hear of you calling him merely “excitable.” Not once more!

Well, he’s just an excitable boy

DAMN YOU!

He took little Suzie to the Junior Prom
Excitable boy, they all said

This can’t end well. Did he ask her by slowly devouring a carnation in front of her locker?

And he raped her and killed her, then he took her home
Excitable boy, they all said

First: Succinctly put, Warren. Never has such a heinous act been stated with such brevity.

Second: WHY DID THEY LET THIS GUY GO TO THE PROM? And why did little Suzie say yes? Was she really so far out of options that the school psychopath seemed like the best bet? Was losing your life better than the shame of not attending? In all reality, probably yes. Only losers miss their high school prom.

Well, he’s just an excitable boy

I stopped believing you so long ago. On behalf of the word “excitable,” which is currently losing any and all meaning, I demand that you stop AT ONCE.

After 10 long years they let him out of the home
Excitable boy, they all said

Not enough time, state mental health system. Not. Enough. Time. But I imagine they were under a ton of pressure from the unanimous public verdict that this was just a case of excitability. They were “all” saying, apparently. Nobody can hold up under that kind of persistent lobbying. But what’s their agenda?

And he dug up her grave and built a cage with her bones

Whoa. That’s so disturbing that I’m pretty much in awe right now. I have to just tip my cap. And then ask some questions:

1. What’s the cage for?
2. Why does he need a cage?
3. Is something happening with this cage?
4. What does he intend to put in the cage?
5. What did little Suzie’s family think?
6. Honestly, that cage…what’s up there?

Excitable boy, they all said
Well, he’s just an excitable boy

Whoever still says that has lost ALL credibility at this point. But then again, that’s what happens when society devolves to the point that the youth are just wearing any old shoe they want, without regard to size. That’s America, now. Giant shoes and cages of bones and whippersnappers just RUINING the pot roast I slaved over all day.

***

And there it is! The late Mr. Zevon has always been one of my favorites, and “Excitable Boy” is a brilliant song for the way it contrasts some pretty sick subject matter with a bright, poppy sound to comment on the way we’ve become immune to violence. Also, it’s very, very funny in the darkest way imaginable. Horrifying, but poignant. A true classic of the genre.

Official Horror Rating: 8.6

Check out our previous installments:

Don’t You Want Me – The Human League
Fake PalindromesAndrew Bird 
Young Girl – Gary Puckett and The Union Gap
Dance Hall Days — Wang Chung
Art Lover – The Kinks
Possum Kingdom — Toadies

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