Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner – Finch & Henson
Brian Finch and Kenny Henson have produced a number of notable songs, some of which will eventually appear on this list, but for this entry we look at a great cover version that Henson recorded as part of Harambee and which appears on the Finch & Henson ‘greatest hits’ ablum ‘Free And Easy’. ‘Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner’ was a song written and originally recorded by Warren Zevon. It would be the last song Zevon would perfom live before his death in 2003.
The song tells the story of a fictional Norwegian mercenary, Roland, who gets caught up in the Congo Crisis between 1960 and 1965. He is such a good Thompson gunner that the CIA arrange for his head to be blown off by a fellow mercenary called van Own. Roland’s ghost then roams around and eventually catches up with van Owen in Mobassa where he ‘blew van Owen’s body from there to Johannesburg’.
Perhaps it is the South African connection of where van Owen’s body ended up that attracted Finch & Henson to record the song. Whatever the reason, both their version and Zevon’s seem to spit out a venomous distaste for the actions of the CIA in the story in the song. Both versions are worth listening to, for their rock sensibilities as well as the tale of revenge that the lyrics tell. While this song is available on the ‘Free And Easy’ compilation, you can aslo seek out the harder to find ‘Giving A Little Away’ album by Harambee and hear it in its original crackly vinyl glory.
Where to find it:
Free And Easy – Finch & Henson (1993), Tusk, WOND 116