Warren Zevon wrote this with guitarist Robert "Waddy" Wachtel. When Zevon was working with The Everly Brothers, he hired Wachtel to play in their backing band. At one point, Phil Everly asked them to write a dance song for the Everly Brothers called "Werewolves Of London." Wachtel and Zevon were good friends and were strumming guitars together when someone asked what they were playing. Zevon replied, "Werewolves Of London," and Wachtel started howling. Zevon came up with the line, "I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand," and they traded lyrics back and forth until they had their song. (Thanks to the good people at warrenzevon.com for this info.)
Zevon had this song written long before it was released in 1978. After releasing an album in 1969, he took work writing jingles and became The Everly Brothers' bandleader. His good friend Jackson Browne championed him and started performing "Werewolves Of London" in 1975, always explaining that the song was written by Zevon.
Browne convinced his label, Asylum, to sign Zevon, and they did, pairing them in the studio with Browne producing. They didn't record "Werewolves Of London" for Zevon's first Asylum album, Warren Zevon, in 1976, because Browne - already a savvy industry veteran with three albums under his belt - knew that Zevon's more outlandish songs like "The French Inhaler" and "Desperados Under The Eaves" wouldn't make it to his second album.
Meanwhile, Browne's label pushed him to record "Werewolves," but he refused, knowing it was quintessential Zevon. Browne returned to produce Zevon's next album, Excitable Boy, and this time they included "Werewolves Of London."
According to legend, a Werewolf is a man who turns into a wolf when there is a full moon. The only way to kill one is to shoot it through the heart with a silver bullet.
This was featured in the 1986 movie The Color Of Money, starring Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. Robbie Robertson from The Band put together the soundtrack.
The lyrics tell the story of "a hairy-handed gent who ran amok in Kent." He's well-dressed ("I'd like to meet his tailor"), well-groomed ("His hair was perfect"), and "preying on little old ladies."
The Chinese restaurant mentioned in the song, "Lee Ho Fook," was real. It was situated on Gerrard Street in London's Chinatown (the nearest Tube station is Piccadilly), and displayed a photo of Zevon. It closed in 2008.
Geoff - Morecambe, England
Mick Fleetwood and John McVie - the "Fleetwood" and "Mac" of Fleetwood Mac - played drums and bass on this track. Session man Waddy Wachtel, who co-wrote the song and produced the album along with Jackson Browne, was the guitarist, and Zevon played piano.
This being Los Angeles in the '70s, there was a plethora of musical talent floating about, contributing to each other's albums. Linda Ronstadt, Jeff Porcaro of Toto, and J.D. Souther also make appearances on Excitable Boy.
When Zevon played this live, he sometimes replaced the line "I'd like to meet his tailor" with "And he's looking for James Taylor!"
"Werewolves Of London" was the only Top 40 hit for Zevon as a singer, although his song "Poor Poor Pitiful Me
" went to #31 for Linda Ronstadt in 1978. Beloved by critics and with an ardent fanbase, he was poised for stardom, but was also struggling with alcoholism. He didn't make many live appearances and stayed out of the studio until 1980, squandering his "Werewolves" momentum. For the rest of his career, he had a cult following but was not widely known outside of this song.
In 1981, John Landis directed a movie called An American Werewolf In London
. He went on to direct Michael Jackson's "Thriller
" video, which featured Jackson as a Werewolf.
Zevon filled in for bandleader/keyboardist/producer Paul Shaffer at Late Night With David Letterman whenever Shaffer was unable to attend the taping of the show. Letterman was a big fan of Zevon, and did some very moving interviews with him before his death, including one in which Zevon gave this advice: "Enjoy every sandwich."
In 2000, a fight broke out while Zevon was performing this at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. Zevon stopped, waited for the fight to end, said "I bet this never happens at Sting concerts," and continued the song.
There was a minor league baseball team in London, Ontario (Canada) called the London Werewolves.
Jesse Ventura had this played at his inauguration party when he became governor of Minnesota.
Zevon died of lung cancer in 2003. He lived with the disease longer than doctors expected and made his last album, The Wind, while he was dying.
In some versions, Zevon mentioned the actor Jack Nicholson in the lyrics, often replacing the werewolf in the last verse.
Matt - Concord, NH
Kid Rock sampled this on his hit "All Summer Long
Lee - Chicago, IL