For a change I put on Warren Zevon's Desperados Under the Eaves album (apparently its proper name is Warren Zevon, which of course is what I think Excitable Boy is called) to accompany my biking. Discover that songs work much better than music to distract me from fretful 'Isn't it 30 minutes yet?' checking of timer, if they're the right songs. (Seem to recall that Greatest Hits of the 60s was a complete bust.) What struck me today is how very much a Los Angeles singer Zevon is. The LA ethos is all through his music, the way New York is all through Paul Simon and-- err well, maybe New York, maybe Montreal, but anyway some north-eastern city is everywhere in Cohen. And I loathe Los Angeles, the very essence of unreal city, emptiness, no there there. He really ought not to work for me.
But that album is the epitome of a whole zeitgeist in my life. It's so much Tokyo that merely listening to it brings back detailed pictures of 30 years ago, and smells and noises and textures and the whole gestalt of new-in-Tokyo. And of course Tokyo is empty too, but it's a different kind of empty ie it's perfectly real to the Japanese who live there. It's just the gaijin in their gaijin reality who can't see it properly. (Whereas I'm convinced that Los Angelenos know they live in a vacuum or an ersatz reality, they just prefer it that way.) Possibly that explains why Zevon's other albums don't grab me the same way, even though I also had Sentimental Hygiene with me in Tokyo. It seemed inferior to Desperadoes, like something had gone bland in Zevon in the intervening decade. Which it had, if you look at his biography. Like Lowell, 'Cured, I am frizzled, stale and small.'