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Warren Zevon — Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner
Album: Excitable Boy
Avg rating:
7.4

Your rating:
Total ratings: 722









Released: 1976
Length: 3:40
Plays (last 30 days): 0
Roland was a warrior from the land of the midnight sun
With a Thompson gun for hire, fighting to be done
The deal was made in Denmark on a dark and stormy day
So he set out for Biafra to join the bloody fray

Through '66 and 7 they fought the Congo war
With their fingers on their triggers, knee deep in gore
For days and nights they battled the Bantu to their knees
They killed to earn their living and to help out the Congolese

Roland the Thompson gunner
Roland the Thompson gunner

His comrades fought beside him, Van Owen and the rest
But of all the Thompson gunners, Roland was the best
So the CIA decided they wanted Roland dead
That son of a bitch Van Owen blew off Roland's head

Roland the headless Thompson gunner ''(Time, time, time, for another peaceful war)''
Norway's greatest son ''(Time stands still for Roland, till he evens up the score)''

They can still see his headless body stalking through the night
In the muzzle flash of Roland's Thompson gun
In the muzzle flash of Roland's Thompson gun

Roland searched the continent for the man who done him in
He found him in Mombasa in a barroom drinking gin
Roland aimed his Thompson gun, he didn't say a word
But he blew Van Owen's body from there to Johannesburg

Roland the headless Thompson gunner
Roland the headless Thompson gunner
Roland the headless Thompson gunner
Roland the headless Thompson gunner

Talking about the man
Roland the headless Thompson gunner

The eternal Thompson gunner, still wandering through the night
Now it's ten years later, but he still keeps up the fight
In Ireland, in Lebanon, in Palestine and Berkeley
Patty Hearst heard the burst of Roland's Thompson gun and bought it
Comments (95)add comment
My wife just doesn't get it when I tell her it's all about the words.....
 juanacoffee wrote:
please donr play it again....painfull
 
I think you mean "please don'r play it again....painfull"
 juanacoffee wrote:
please donr play it again....painfull

 
Donr do it!
Miss you, Warren. Glad you left so much good stuff behind. This included.
Well, that was a happy little song...
please donr play it again....painfull
This was the B-side!
I had  girlfriend named Roland.

Talkin' about the man.
Beyond Godlike
Other excellent versions of this song are the David Letterman final WZ appearance and the Lauren O'Connell cover. Wow!
Hard to believe this song is over 35 years old!  
I saw him twice when I lived in New Orleans at Tipitinas Uptown.  Both shows were outstanding.
8 > 9 - Among the top of any class rating America's best singer/songwriters.
 jbunniii wrote:

He was one of my favorite artists and performers. I saw him live 4 or 5 times, starting at around the Sentimental Hygiene era and into the mid '90s. To my shame, I sort of lost track of his career sometime after that, except for his final album. Gotta dig up the ones I missed one of these days...

 
I saw him live three times.  They were three of the five best concerts I've ever attended.
True greatness.
 Sloggydog wrote:
It's almost staggering that this hasn't been turned into a tv series. 
 
Or a Robert Rodriguez movie.
It's almost staggering that this hasn't been turned into a tv series.  
Someone should take this song and update if for today's Iraq/Afghanistan venture. Keep the same melody, just new lyrics.

Who would hear the burst and buy it?
 Misterfixit wrote:
Bush and Cheney's exit-stage-right theme song.

Of course, Zevon writes/sings about "a Thompson Gun"  and I suppose he meant the Thompson sub-machine guy of 1920's Chicago fame.   I can't think of a worse weapon to carry into a war.  Damned heavy; muzzle jumps like a baboon climbing a tree with his ass on fire.  .45 rounds and the 50-round drum weigh a ton.  Nope, give me a good ole AK47 anyday.  Utilitarian death-machine.

BTDT, BTW.

Dave
 
Yeah, I think it was designed for the trenches of WW I, where big slow bullets were not a disadvantage. The AK is good at what it was designed for, but the FN F2000 is superior to the AK and the AR in virtually every category, except price.

But more to the point, the specific weapon isn't really the crux of the song now, is it?
10 plus!
talkin' about the man!  Warren's music and humor is greatly missed.
 stargazer1 wrote:
Well, this is macabre.

 
Yup. 
Jackson Browne doing back up vocals
Well, this is macabre.
Oh, yeah.
 
I'd forgotten how cool the lyrics were to this track.  Thanks for the technology Bill.  
Wow.  They just don't write em like this anymore,eh?


Whatever happened to crazy creativity (with wit) in 21century song writing?


RIP Warren...and look our for Roland.       
 ColdMiser wrote:
One of the regrets of my life is not seeing Warren live...thankfully there is YouTube to "experience" it virtually. He is in my Pantheon of musical gods for sure

 
He was one of my favorite artists and performers. I saw him live 4 or 5 times, starting at around the Sentimental Hygiene era and into the mid '90s. To my shame, I sort of lost track of his career sometime after that, except for his final album. Gotta dig up the ones I missed one of these days...
A proper song.
 unclehud wrote:

My turn to beat this dead horse ... the Thompson was the standard weapon for US forces in WWII, I believe.  My opinion?  If confronted with boys and girls who were shooting at me, I'd PREFER something that spat out 600 .45 caliber bullets each minute. 

As any submariner will tell you, we ride inside our weapons.
 

Well, more accurately, the Thompson was standard issue to platoon leaders in WWII.  My dad was a platoon leader in 2nd Rangers, and he described it pretty much the same as Misterfixit.
One of the regrets of my life is not seeing Warren live...thankfully there is YouTube to "experience" it virtually. He is in my Pantheon of musical gods for sure
 Cynaera wrote:
I still love this song. I wish I could hear more Zevon here, apart from "Werewolves of London."  He did such wonderful stuff in his life - my personal favorite lately is one of his latest - "Disorder In The House" with Bruce Springsteen - I can't upload it, but if someone would, it'd be such a great addition to the Zevon library at RP! Damn - he knew he was dying, so he went out twisting and shouting. So typical of him - he never did anything halfway. He always took on life full-tilt with all ailerons open and maybe the parachute would open.

I miss my friend Warren.{#Cheers}
  We miss you too, Ann.


Warren was a class act. RIP, my friend.
Such a beautifully crafted.song.  Best line: "Roland aimed his Thompson gun; he didn't say a word." Brilliant.  
talkin' about the man!
 Cynaera wrote:
I still love this song. I wish I could hear more Zevon here, apart from "Werewolves of London."  He did such wonderful stuff in his life - my personal favorite lately is one of his latest - "Disorder In The House" with Bruce Springsteen - I can't upload it, but if someone would, it'd be such a great addition to the Zevon library at RP! Damn - he knew he was dying, so he went out twisting and shouting. So typical of him - he never did anything halfway. He always took on life full-tilt with all ailerons open and maybe the parachute would open.

I miss my friend Warren.{#Cheers}
 
I'll drink to that Cynaera{#Cheers}

Love everything Warren. 
This was the last song he ever performed live, on Letterman.  It is preserved on youtube, of course.  Very well done, emotionally and musically, and a great backup from Paul's band.
I still love this song. I wish I could hear more Zevon here, apart from "Werewolves of London."  He did such wonderful stuff in his life - my personal favorite lately is one of his latest - "Disorder In The House" with Bruce Springsteen - I can't upload it, but if someone would, it'd be such a great addition to the Zevon library at RP! Damn - he knew he was dying, so he went out twisting and shouting. So typical of him - he never did anything halfway. He always took on life full-tilt with all ailerons open and maybe the parachute would open.

I miss my friend Warren.{#Cheers}
Love some of his work...but this one is weak. 
 Misterfixit wrote:
Bush and Cheney's exit-stage-right theme song.

Of course, Zevon writes/sings about "a Thompson Gun"  and I suppose he meant the Thompson sub-machine guy of 1920's Chicago fame.   I can't think of a worse weapon to carry into a war.  Damned heavy; muzzle jumps like a baboon climbing a tree with his ass on fire.  .45 rounds and the 50-round drum weigh a ton.  Nope, give me a good ole AK47 anyday.  Utilitarian death-machine.

BTDT, BTW.

Dave

 
Nerds come in all shapes and sizes.

I rate Warren Zevon very highly but could never see the appeal of this song.  What am I missing? Someone help me!!
join the Facebook campaign to get Warren Zevon nominated to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

search on Warren Zevon  (the URL won't post here)

please forgive this "commercial" on RP...

 AlienRelic wrote:
I always liked this song, but always wondered about the line
"He didn't say a word..."
Uhh, he was headless. How COULD he say a word?
 
Well, how could he see Van Owen to aim at him and shoot him?  Come on - don't be so literal-minded. Just go with it.  It's a great song, and picking apart the virtues and disadvantages of a Thompson sub-machine gun over an AK47 or whether or not Roland could talk if he was headless is just silly.

Besides, Roland was a ghost, so he couldn't have held a gun at all, much less fired it effectively. And Van Owen wouldn't have been able to see him... See what I mean?  Over-analyzing a song just ruins the fun and magic of it!  This song will always be a 10 for me. {#Music}
I always thought you and Bruce Cockburn should have done a song or two together....
Man, I miss you Warren.......
The Bravery of Being out of Range / Waters would follow this perfectly ~ just sayin
Talkin' about the man...
Easy to write "we miss you Warren"  And it's easy to be sincere when doing so.
Yeah, enjoy every sandwich!
I'ma set out for Biafra myself.
reminds me to enjoy every sandwich


that sunavabitch vanOwen.................................nuf ced
Did I hear Jackson Browne singing backup vocals in the chorus?


 Misterfixit wrote:
(edit)   I can't think of a worse weapon to carry into a war.  (edit)

BTDT, BTW.
 
My turn to beat this dead horse ... the Thompson was the standard weapon for US forces in WWII, I believe.  My opinion?  If confronted with boys and girls who were shooting at me, I'd PREFER something that spat out 600 .45 caliber bullets each minute. 

As any submariner will tell you, we ride inside our weapons.


 fergie348 wrote:
Just awful - had to turn RP off for the first time today.

This is like listening to my mostly-deaf uncle talk about the war, but without the humor.  Depressing..
 
Funny, but I think the entire song is humour.  That is, when it isn't cynically sarcastic.  And thank your mostly deaf uncle for his service!

Uncle Hud,
US Navy submarines, 1976-1982
(because of the close quarters on subs, we used sawed-off shotguns instead of Thompsons)

Just awful - had to turn RP off for the first time today.

This is like listening to my mostly-deaf uncle talk about the war, but without the humor.  Depressing..
"His hair was... perfect."

Send lawyers, guns, and money, the Option ARM crisis has hit the fan.
I have not heard this since I lost it when my last desktop computer went belly up.  {#Mrgreen}
 conglif wrote:
 Misterfixit wrote:
(snip)
I can't think of a worse weapon to carry into a war.  Damned heavy; muzzle jumps like a baboon climbing a tree with his ass on fire.  .45 rounds and the 50-round drum weigh a ton.  Nope, give me a good ole AK47 anyday.  Utilitarian death-machine.
(snip)

Well, maybe, but...

Furthermore, this ain't a Thompson, either:

Patty w/ Machine Gun

Its called "Artistic License."

Warren wasn't writing for a gun rag, dude!

"Roland the Headless AK Gunner" or "Roland the Headless Uzi Gunner" just don't have the same ring to 'em! (Now do they?)

 
Well said.............{#Motor}
 Misterfixit wrote:
(snip)
I can't think of a worse weapon to carry into a war.  Damned heavy; muzzle jumps like a baboon climbing a tree with his ass on fire.  .45 rounds and the 50-round drum weigh a ton.  Nope, give me a good ole AK47 anyday.  Utilitarian death-machine.
(snip)

Well, maybe, but...

Furthermore, this ain't a Thompson, either:

Patty w/ Machine Gun

Its called "Artistic License."

Warren wasn't writing for a gun rag, dude!

"Roland the Headless AK Gunner" or "Roland the Headless Uzi Gunner" just don't have the same ring to 'em! (Now do they?)

We miss you Warren. You wrote some great songs. Peace brother.
 Misterfixit wrote:
Bush and Cheney's exit-stage-right theme song.

Of course, Zevon writes/sings about "a Thompson Gun"  and I suppose he meant the Thompson sub-machine guy of 1920's Chicago fame.   I can't think of a worse weapon to carry into a war.  Damned heavy; muzzle jumps like a baboon climbing a tree with his ass on fire.  .45 rounds and the 50-round drum weigh a ton.  Nope, give me a good ole AK47 anyday.  Utilitarian death-machine.

BTDT, BTW.

Dave

 
The SPCA loves Warren Zevon, but I think they'd like to speak to you about that baboon whose ass you set on fire.

Zevon The Hunter S. Thompson Gunner
I was on a submarine crew when this album was released.  We were Headless Thompson Gunners in bars throughout the Pacific Rim — from Oakland to Agana to the Chagos Archipeligo.

Thanks for the flashback, bro!


One of the great song titles of all time! (leave it to WZ)
 AlienRelic wrote:
I always liked this song, but always wondered about the line
"He didn't say a word..."
Uhh, he was headless. How COULD he say a word?
 
It's a joke! {#Lol}
 AlienRelic wrote:
I always liked this song, but always wondered about the line
"He didn't say a word..."
Uhh, he was headless. How COULD he say a word?
 
Me too.

This was the unofficial anthem of the Wargamers' Club when i was in undergrad.  A mercenary action/adventure/espionage/revenge/ghost story ballad—how can you not love this?  {#Clap}
 Misterfixit wrote:
Bush and Cheney's exit-stage-right theme song.

Of course, Zevon writes/sings about "a Thompson Gun"  and I suppose he meant the Thompson sub-machine guy of 1920's Chicago fame.   I can't think of a worse weapon to carry into a war.  Damned heavy; muzzle jumps like a baboon climbing a tree with his ass on fire.  .45 rounds and the 50-round drum weigh a ton.  Nope, give me a good ole AK47 anyday.  Utilitarian death-machine.

BTDT, BTW.

Dave
 
Your comment reminds me I need to trim my nose hairs.
Bush and Cheney's exit-stage-right theme song.

Of course, Zevon writes/sings about "a Thompson Gun"  and I suppose he meant the Thompson sub-machine guy of 1920's Chicago fame.   I can't think of a worse weapon to carry into a war.  Damned heavy; muzzle jumps like a baboon climbing a tree with his ass on fire.  .45 rounds and the 50-round drum weigh a ton.  Nope, give me a good ole AK47 anyday.  Utilitarian death-machine.

BTDT, BTW.

Dave

I always liked this song, but always wondered about the line
"He didn't say a word..."
Uhh, he was headless. How COULD he say a word?
 steeler wrote:
{#Sunny}

The cryptic and sometimes understated brilliance of Warren.
 

How true!
This has always been a good campfire song over the years, provided the right people with guitars were present. {#Smile}
{#Sunny}

The cryptic and sometimes understated brilliance of Warren.
Never heard this before, but it is pretty good.  Love the ending.....

Don't hear this one all that often. Thanks, Bill.

Man, I miss Warren, more than I thought I would.


Great Zevon tune! Thanks Bill!

Brilliant. Enjoy every sandwich indeed.
Enjoy every sandwich. - WZ
Bill's in a revolutionary mood this morning.
 top20 wrote:
I hate this track - I'm sure it would never be played on a british station - mawkish crap
 
I vote Zevon and this from Grande Breton. Actually, commercial & public stations are pretty crap here - that's why I listen to Radio Paradise. Cheesy DJ's, lack of music mix, blah, blah, snore.

Warren's at the top of his game on this one. Great to hear some of the lesser known cuts here... thanks Bill.  Rest in peace Warren... a lot of us out here miss you.

top20 wrote:
I hate this track - I'm sure it would never be played on a british station - mawkish crap
Pretty much why the colonies broke away as I recall...
Pure genius!
I hate this track - I'm sure it would never be played on a british station - mawkish crap
A fav amongst mercs everywhere.
"Patty Hearst heard the burst..."
This was on the "Excitable Boy" LP, not sure about the one pictured here. "Excitable Boy" was a fantastic album, as I am sure was "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead." Bottom line, you can NOT go wrong buying a Zevon album, but if this is a track you want I'd maybe go with "Excitable Boy."
Time, time, time for another peaceful war ... And it continues as before.
I'm liking this alot. And so are the people in the other room.
Excellent. I've been thinking of buying some Zevon (in theory, I could rip from the old LP's, but . . .) and this clinches it.
i like the intro and long piano version on learning to flinch too...i think i like it better...