I’ve had a song on heavy rotation in my head today. It’s an up-tempo ditty called Lord Byron’s Luggage by the criminally-underrated (and sadly no longer with us) American singer-songwriter Warren Zevon:
As a lyricist, Zevon was up there with the best of them. Dylan, Waits, Costello and Cohen – that’s the kind of league he played in. That being said, I never really gave much thought as to what Lord Byron’s Luggage was all about until today.
Here’s the first verse:
Lord Byron had a lot of luggage
He took it when he travelled far and wide
He didn’t get to bathe very often
But he liked to change his clothes all the time
That seems straightforward enough. Zevon composed a song dedicated to the notoriously-randy English poet Lord Byron, undermining his ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ credentials by focusing on practical travel and transit considerations. The Byronic myth is further deconstructed by some wry observations on this self-destructive fop’s seemingly lax approach to personal hygiene.
Unfortunately, this interpretation of the song is undermined by the next verse:
I had a little friend named Mister Johnson
Who always tried to be like me
He rose to the heights of his profession
He was hard on his friends and family
It seems I was mistaken. He’s actually singing about his dick.