At some point in 1984, I started writing record reviews for CSUF’s newspaper, The Daily Collegian. Their building was right next to the Speech Arts Building (where KFSR) was, and there was definitely some crossover — Collegian folks were DJs, and KFSR people like Kirk & I wrote for the paper — as well as a friendly rivalry going on.
After all, the Collegian was a established CSUF institution — they even had Macs! — and we’d only been on the air for a couple years. I’ve already written how, in a parallel universe, I would have been a Journalism major, so I was psyched to be doing record reviews that somebody else was editing and actually publishing.
After all, my two lifelong dreams were to be a DJ and a rock critic — aim high, Jim! — and here I was, doing both before my 22nd birthday.
I wrote for the Collegian in 1984-1985 and again in 1988-1989, but in the 84-85 run, I was beset by one of my lifelong bugaboos: the feeling that I wasn’t legit enough to rub shoulders with people who weren’t in my tribe. So instead of walking into the Collegian office every couple of weeks and saying “here’s my latest fucking masterpiece, publish it,” I would take my reviews — usually written on Kassia’s typewriter — put them in an envelope with the Editor’s name on it, and slide them under the Collegian’s door.
It’s amazing that they got published at all. And fact, one of them didn’t: the 1000-word screed I wrote about The Lost Weekend. At the time, I considered it my masterpiece, but I don’t remember one lick of it now. Hey, that was thirty years ago, and — of course — didn’t make any copies of it. That said, I think it was all about the intersection of alcohol mythos and the rock & roll mythos.
And I can guarantee you this: it was centered on “King of The Losers,” my favorite song on The Lost Weekend.
Musically, “King of The Losers” is a big drum-filled blooze-rocker. You’ve heard things like it a million times before — big guitar chords over a mid-tempo shuffle. But Danny & Dusty turn that form into utter chaos. First, they set the scene:
Davy Jones locker, Hollywood and Vine
The cavern of darkness they called the Firefly
The king of the losers is holding court tonight
And then, verse after verse, the courtiers and/or courtesans of The King of The Losers tell their stories:
“Mama sent me downtown Saturday at noon
I gotta service that transvestite
Or I’ll be kicked outta my room
The king of the losers, I know we’re through”
And every couple of verses or so, instead of chorus, the song explodes into a party — people hooting and hollering, glasses breaking, drums crashing, echo everywhere — dominated by Chris Cacavas playing piano solo after piano solo. It’s complete and utter chaos, but perfectly matching the tales that are being told.
One of best involves Steve Wynn breaking into the worst falsetto you’ve ever heard as he slips into character.
Over in the corner sits a gal named Sal
She’s laughing like a hyena with the glass of mescal
“The king of the losers can’t touch this gal
Want another time when the king will come my way
And get on his knees and beg for me to stay
Now the king of the losers always had to pay —
And that’s not even Steve Wynn’s best moment. Nope, the last verse of the song is where The King of The Losers himself makes his appearance, and what I love about it is that Wynn uses the same psychotic voice — totally absent from Medicine Show, or the rest of The Lost Weekend — he used in The Days of Wine & Roses songs like “Then She Remembers.”
It’s a thing of insane beauty as The King of The Losers gets the attention of the rest of the room by screaming at the top of his lungs:
“Oh listen to you scumbags, you’re looking for sympathy
You candied-assed whiners are like mosquitoes to me
I’m the king of the losers
Now get down on your knees
I got spit for blood and maggots down my back
I eat whiskey bottles for a midnight snack
You want the king of the losers
Look no further, Jack!!”
After that, the whole song just breaks into pandemonium until it eventually completely falls apart. Which is fair, because not even Chris Cacavas channelling Nicky Hopkins and Roy Bittan at the same time was enough to keep “The King of The Losers” together.
Fan-made video for “The King of The Losers”