Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner

Album: Excitable Boy (1978)
Play Video
  • 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
    The 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 week of war

    Norway's bravest son
    Time stands still for Roland til 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'd done him in
    He found him in Mombassa
    In a bar room drinkin' Gin
    Roland aimed his Thompson Gun
    He didn't say a word
    But he blew Van Owen's body
    From there to Johanasburg.

    Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner
    Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner
    Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner
    Talkin about the man
    Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner

    The eternal Thompson Gunner
    Still wanderin through the night
    Now it's ten years later
    But he still keeps up the fight
    In Ireland, In Lebanon
    In Palastine and Berkley
    Patty Hurst
    Heard the burst
    Of Roland's Thompson Gun
    And bought it. Writer/s: DAVID ERIC LINDELL, WARREN WILLIAM ZEVON
    Publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

Comments: 17

  • Tom from Long IslandThanks for pointing out the historical inaccuracies of this otherwise terrific song. (Makes me wonder where David Lindell did his soldiering.) One more thing: the title says it all— Roland was a Thompson gunner, not a fighter pilot. Holy moley.
  • Jim from BostonJennifer
    That’s a great line,I love the wording and the way he sings it is amazing.
    From the same album”mr bad example”the song “heartache spoken here” is also an amazing song.
    Backing vocals by Dwight Yokum.
  • Paddy from Cape TownLocal Brian Finch (RIP) performed this song on one of his albums . Loved it and as an ageing boomer still do
  • Rick Krieg from Jurian Bay Western Australia I used to play this song when I was a DJ at a community radio station as it is an excellent song for a blues programme.
  • Jennifer from IndianaDo you suppose Roland kept tough by eating lots of lutefisk?
  • Jennifer from IndianaSometimes our best entertainers achieve success after death. But the world *still* has not caught up with Warren Zevon, 13 years after his passing. High praise to his ex-wife Crystal, for keeping it together and putting out his biography. "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" is not your average bio. Even if you know him only for the worn-out "Werewolves of London", give this book a read. You'll want to hear the songs once you've learned about them.
    From "Renegade":
    I'll be some old man in the road somewhere
    Kneeling down in the dust by the side of the interstate

    His life & times added up to so much more than this dreary image.
  • Arne from NorwayThere is an ancient poem about Roland: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Song_of_Roland , this could be an inspiration. As a Norwegian, I'm proud of him!
  • Eric from San Francisco, CaI agree with you, Alek, I love those songs, but many lesser known songs are as good. "Tenderness on the Block" and the whole Excitable Boy album, plus his "come-back" album, Sentimental Hygiene. Great album.
  • Rick from Hattiesburg, MsSince when was Che' considered a "freedom fighter?" Mercs are paid to do a job, regardless of the "rightness" of the side paying them.
  • Smartalek from Boston, MaAk!
    That's "swan-SONG," of course.
    I don't think there is any such thing as a "swan-sing," unless maybe it's a rite of passage or a contest for waterfowl.
  • Smartalek from Boston, MaWhat Cody from PA said.
    It's really ironic that such a phenomenal singer / songwriter is best known for a novelty song or three.
    It's great that "Werewolves of London" was what first got the world's attention, and earned Mr Zevon a place in the musical firmament. It's great that he came up with brilliant tracks like "Lawyers, Guns, and Money," "Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me," and this one.
    At the same time, it's a travesty that these remain his best-known works, and that most of the people who know him by these songs are largely (or completely) unaware of his more serious, and even more brilliant works, such as "Desperadoes Under the Eaves," "Tenderness on the Block," "Mohammed's Radio," "Accidentally, Like a Martyr," "Carmelita," "Hasten Down the Wind," "Backs Turned Looking Down the Path," "Mutineer," "Join Me in L.A.," and the most beautiful, heartbreaking, perfect swan-sing ever penned, "Keep Me in Your Heart."
  • Devin from Anywhere, PaWhen I hear this song. I think of any freedom fighter. Che Guevara stands out as one. A great song :)
  • Maggy from Cincinnati, Oh"I'm talking about the man." Roland is awesome
  • Pat from Albuquerque, NmI wonder how many people remember who Patty Hearst was these days. Otherwise, Roland's a great song, knee deep in gore.
  • Lalah from Wasilla, AkZevon was clever with the twists and play of words but I was always confused on how a headless gunner could say a word before blowing away his enemy. Of course he didn't say a word! No head.
  • Cody from Lititz, Paall of zevons songs are awesomazing he is way too underrated
  • Trey from Kalamazoo, MtThis song is amazingly awesome. It's awesomazing!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Chris Rea

Chris ReaSongwriter Interviews

It took him seven years to recover from his American hit "Fool (If You Think It's Over)," but Chris Rea became one of the top singer-songwriters in his native UK.

Jimmy Webb

Jimmy WebbSongwriter Interviews

Webb talks about his classic songs "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman" and "MacArthur Park."

Songs Discussed in Movies

Songs Discussed in MoviesSong Writing

Bridesmaids, Reservoir Dogs, Willy Wonka - just a few of the flicks where characters discuss specific songs, sometimes as a prelude to murder.

John Kay of Steppenwolf

John Kay of SteppenwolfSongwriter Interviews

Steppenwolf frontman John Kay talks about "Magic Carpet Ride," "Born To Be Wild," and what he values more than awards and accolades.

Lou Gramm - "Waiting For A Girl Like You"

Lou Gramm - "Waiting For A Girl Like You"They're Playing My Song

Gramm co-wrote this gorgeous ballad and delivered an inspired vocal, but the song was the beginning of the end of his time with Foreigner.

U2

U2Fact or Fiction

How did The Edge get his name? Did they name a song after a Tolkien book? And who is "Angel of Harlem" about?