Werewolves Of London

Album: Excitable Boy (1978)
Charted: 21
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  • 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Matt - Concord, NH
  • Kid Rock sampled this on his hit "All Summer Long." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Lee - Chicago, IL

Comments: 55

  • Shawn from Baltimore, MarylandRE: Carolyn In Knoxville: Your comments were stirring a memory in my ADHD & Asperger's brain to a song I'd heard from someone who was a child star of the 50s TV show Ozzy And Harriett. I believe in the show and in real life he went on to play seminal work that became the foundation of Rock n' Roll in 1955. He played the hits as years went by and this is his last big hit & like Zevon he had a "Love/Hate Relationship" with a song. I'm wondering if his offhand comment about driving a truck is a backhanded compliment of Elvis before he became an icon?

    As soon as I remembered who the guy was I forgot it! I did a search for a star who said that he'd rather be a mover. Must've been a Freudian Slip to Dire Straits, "Money For Nothing" and I found it and heard the song I remembered & I thought that it was the perfect summation of your comments! But to even leave this comment I had to endure a grueling process of registration that was a lot harder than clicking a link to an account that already has all of your information on a seamless handshake with the server you are trying to reach. I hope that you get to see this sometime in the future ????! (https://youtu.be/nT6bgyimP8g)

    I was a long-haul trucker and I always loved to see Knoxville 'cuz it meant that I was getting close to Covenant Transport in Chattanooga, Tennessee! I liked to get a bite to eat at the little independent truckstop in between both cities. I stopped by on a Sunday and folks were playing live Gospel Music! I travel by car with my best friend Eric Zimmerman, who is an international Autism advocacy awareness speaker and we got caught up in a backup for an accident. It was just outside of Knoxville and it was hours of waiting so we got out of car and talked people nearby. A man behind us asked about our Maryland tags saying he had lived in Taneytown and named after Supreme Court Justice Taney who wrote the majority opinion in the infamous Dredd Scott Decision. Barring a slave from suing his Master as he was not considered to have legal standing in the Court. I mentioned to him as it was a time popular to relocate statue's from the Civil War that Justice Taney's was moved from the Frederick, Maryland courthouse square plaza to Mt. Olivett Cemetery & the final resting place of town native and offhandedly a musician by way of, "The Star Spangled Banner" Francis Scott Key taken off the streets of Baltimore to be held on a British ship of the line and bombarding Fort McHenry as he was trying negotiate a prisoner exchange when he got caught up in history by being a lawyer. There's something ironic about a lawyer accidentally becoming involved in music! In a "Jump-The-Shark Moment" earlier that lead me to look at this song apparently Kid Rock had a song that mashed-up this song & "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynrd Sknyrd which Warren Zevon called, "That Song By Dead Guys" & it was used in the movie "Con Air" Steve Buscemi says, "The very definition of ironic is guys on a plane dancing on to a song by guys who were killed on a plane!"
  • Johnny from Hollywood CaSaw Warren at the Roxy the year Werewolves came out. Linda Ronstadt and Jerry Brown were in the little balcony upstairs. Most of Fleetwood Mac was in the audience, at a a little table ten feet away. Waddy crushed his Gibson's neck with his slide, Warren played piano from hell, and I went deaf right there. Can't get that no more.
  • Rotunda from Tulsa, OkBack in '78 when this song was on the charts, I was ten. I thought the song got a lot of radio airplay. I'm flabbergasted that it only peaked at #21 and thought it surely got higher than that. I loved the song; the tune was so catchy and the lyrics so cool, even tho' bizarre. All the kids in my school loved it back then. My oldest brother in college in 1978 bought Zevon's album "Excitable Boy" and I got to play it whenever he'd come home during his breaks. He was a fan of Warren Zevon's for sure. My brother said he heard that Warren had a drinking problem. It seems that those who are extraordinarily talented are driven to excesses of some fashion. But we still loved his music anyway. Wheneve I go into Walmart, it seems their music system plays this song a lot. Must have some Zevon fans at Walmart! haaa! Ahhhh Ooooooooo!!
  • J Cole from Pemigewasset Valley, NhAnd the winner for best alliteration in a song..."Little old lady got mutilated late last night".
  • Cliff from Oakdale, NyThe week Warren Zevon died David Letterman had Paul Schaffer and his band play this song throughout his Late Night Show one night as a tribute to his friend Warren Zevon
  • Deethewriter from Saint Petersburg, Russia FederationRoy Marinell: 'Writing “Werewolves of London” was a good lesson in never taking yourself too seriously. On most songs you write, you labor and you craft after a song for weeks. You put everything into it, every word is agonizing, and people say, hum, that's a nice song. “Werewolves” was literally a 15 minute song that none of us took seriously. We did it as spontaneously as could be and look what happened. The story starts out with Crystal [ Zevon], Warren and I sitting around my house in Venice… Actually, Phil Everly likes to stay up all night and watch old movies and he had talked to Warren about a great English movie called Werewolf of London that was made in 1930. He though we should write a song called “Werewolves of London” and make it a dance craze. So, Warren was telling me the story and I said, “What a great idea.” Waddy walks in and, he said, “You mean, Ah oooh.” We said, “Whoa, great.”
  • Deethewriter from Saint Petersburg, Russia FederationWarren Zevon from 1983 “Off The Record” interview with Mary Turner: 'Actually, Phil Everly said, in the course of one of these albums he was making, he said, “I need a dance song. Why don’t you write me something. Like “Werewolves of London.” … you have to understand that, if the song is about anything it’s about the kind of friendship where you don’t question what your friends say. Waddy and I have been conversing that way for over a decade, and so we were at LeRoy Marinell’s house in Venice, CA. And we were playing and I was strumming 3 chords. Waddy [Wachtel] walked in and said, “What’re you guys doing?” and we said, “We’re doing the Werewolves of London.”
    Waddy said, “Ah-oooh, that’s easy.” I said, “That’s great.” We just rapped. Waddy said, “I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand” and I’d throw something back.. Crystal wrote everything down… she had this notebook … steno pad she always carried around, for occasions like that, I guess … we’d come up with lines and she’d write them down. It went very fast.'
  • Tt from Cedar Falls, IaDoes anyone know why the bass drum on 'Werewolves of London' drops out of the song just before the lead? Did someone hit a button or fader by accident or something in the recording? It just dispappears and then comes back after the first bar of lead?
  • Gregory from Buena Vista, CoSteve, in Calabasas, CA: What do Warren Zevon, Waddie Wachtel and Keith Richards all have in common? The Everley Brothers...Don mentioned the 'open G' tuning to Keith.
    Say, would you know Brett T.? He lives in your town, and has played with Waddie, Stevie Nicks, and several others...
  • Smartalek from Boston, MaThe name of the actor, Lon Chaney, Jr., is spelled with one "a" and one "e," though many people write it as "Cheney."
    Since the former Vice President, Dick Cheney, is clearly not human, the confusion is understandable.
  • John from Grand Island, NyA perfect song, cannot be improved. These are rare.
  • Pat from Albuquerque, Nm"Werewolves of London" is a great song on its own, but the "Excitable Boy" album is probably his best LP/CD in general. They must have been having a great session when they recorded those tracks. "Send Lawyers, Guns and Money...Dad get me out of here."
  • Jon from Enumclaw , WaI love this song it's to bad he had to pass away.
  • Kevin from Jefferson, WiAlmost every version I've heard ends with "draw blood."
    In concerts true Zevon fans would repeat just as they would "and his hair was perfect."
  • Steve Dotstar from Los Angeles, CaThis was not much of a record, but The way Zevon
    sings the line "Werewolves of London" makes it all worthwhile.
  • Niles from Belpre, OhHe performed a concert in Merrillville , Indiana with Dave Mason.It lasted for 4 solid hours, non-stop pickin' and singin', best one I've ever seen!!!
  • Wayne from Crockett, TxI find it cryptic that Warren mentions "he'll rip your lungs out" on this song and he died of lung cancer.
  • Thomas from Somerville, AlAnd his hair was perfect.
  • Thomas from Somerville, AlI think it's perfectly ok to sample someone elses song. Especially if they are dead. It is almost like a tribute to thier music. I does however need to be tastefully done and I think Kid Rock did a good job of mixing the two songs and doing it with taste and without taking anything from any of the three songs playing at once. God Bless you Warren. One day, if you are a fan, look up and listen to a Zevon song called Disorder in the House. You will LIKE it.
  • Rory from Columbus, Ohhas anyone ever considered the possibility that this is about someone like Jack the Ripper? It's kind of obvious.
  • Jim from Dunedin, Fl, FlSadly, everyone forgets that Leroy Mainell was invoved in the writing of this song as well (a past friend of Warren).
  • Mary from Phoenix, AzI used to have a friend that played in bars around town (Scottsdale)...solo. He just played cover songs. This was one of the songs he had on his list...but he always sang "Warewolves of Scottsdale" I miss him. Jim Newman, where are you?!!!
  • Blake from Tahlequah, OkI think its B.S that Kid Rock did that to this and "Sweet Home Alabama". I like kid rock, and I know alot of people like that song, but you just should'nt mess with other peoples songs.does anyone else agree?
  • N.i. from Baltimore, MdWhen I wrote that comment earlier about "Werewolves of London" being vaguely reminiscent of "Sweet Home Alabama," that was well before Kid Rock released "All Summer Long," which combines the riffs of both songs.
  • Matto from Norman, OkI'm pretty sure that Kid Rock ripped off the main riff of Zevon's song in his release of All Summer Long on Rock and Roll Jesus. I heard the beginning of the song on the radio and started howling only to find out that I was listening to a Kid Rock rip off...not cool man not cool at all!
  • Matt from Concord, NhIn some versions Jack Nichloson replaces the werewove in the last verse.
  • N.i. from Baltimore, MdOne of the better novelty songs. The tune is nicely minimalist, reminiscent of a variety of older songs ("Shambala" with a dash of "Sweet Home Alabama," maybe?).
  • Amay from Edison, Njthe best Halloween song, ever.
  • Voodoocat from Zimbabwe, United StatesMy second favourite song of all time.
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesOne of the most hilarious mashups I've ever heard combines this with Stevie Nicks' "Angel" off the Tusk album. The chord progression and tempo are identical, both singers are making similar noises, and I fell off my chair laughing.
  • Homzd from O-town, NvZevon is one of my all-time favorite artists. I got into to his material after reading the various works of HST, who was a close friend of Zevon and who mentions WZ quite a bit. Both had quirky personalities but in a funny way.

    Along with "Werewolves" I love all of his stuff, Lawyers..., Roland..., Excitable Boy, Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, etc...
  • Maurice from Philly, PaLon Cheney is the actor who played the werewolf in the 1940s movie "Wolfman"
  • Paul from Townsend, MaDoes anyone know if this song was played in the movie "Teen Wolf" with Michael J Fox? I've heard it in several movies and wish there was a list of the movies this song is found in.
  • Brook from Atlanta, GaLong ago a man told me that there was/is a British special forces (commando type) group nicknamed the "Werewolves of London". They're anti-terrorist and supposedly quite secret, kinda James Bond like. I guess you really don't want to mess with 'em, Jim.
  • Pat from Las Vegas, NvThe album "Excitable Boy" is absolutely terrific. besides "Werewolves" and "Lawyers Guns and Money," there are a lot of other really good songs on that album, such as "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner". I wore out my original LP years ago. Gotta find a CD somewhere...
  • Jared from Rochester, NyWaddy nailed the slide guitar solo in one take. He'd planned on doing it again and again and was prepared to settle in; but the engineers thought his first attempt was perfect. They added some echo and double-tracked a few segments; but Waddy's work was done.
  • Stuart from Rowlett, TxI heard Zevon do an acoustic set in the early 80's. He changed the line "I'd like to meet his taylor" to I'd like to meet Liz Taylor."
  • Mia from Wellston, MiYesterday i worked at a halloween carnival. I bet the dj played this song 20 times during a 5 hour period
  • Christian from Copenhagen, DenmarkMick Fleetwood and John McVie didn't sing backing
    vocals on this song. They played drums and bass.
    But Lindsey Buckingham, another Fleetwood Mac, did sing backing vocals on the song "Poor Poor Pityful Me" from Zevons 1976 album "Warren Zevon".
  • Honkycat from Dallas, TxIn case anybody cares, Waddy Watchel played back up guitar for many with The Stone Ponys and then later Linda Ronstadt on her solo tours. He has a very distinctive sound made by strumming forward and backwards on the upbeat.
  • Jude from Thomasville, GaWarren Zevon could not write a bad song, but this is one of his best! I love the catchy piano and the twisted lyrics. For me, the best part is the reference to Lon Chaney, Jr. who played the classic movie werewolf, and his dad, Lon Chaney, who made a film called "London after Midnight".Great stuff!
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, Scwhat a quirky song! I love it!
  • Steve from Calabasas, CaThe explanation about Phil Everly, Waddy Wachtel, WZ et al is also FIRST HAND in WZ's own liner notes in the "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" anthology:

    Says Warren:
    >>Phil Everly said, "I'm making another solo album. Why don't you guys write a song for me - a dance song. Call it 'Werewolves of London'". I was at LeRoy's house a few days later, and he was playingthat little V-IV-I figure when Waddy walked in. "What are you doing?" he asked, and we answered, "We're doing the Werewolves of London". Waddy said, "You mean Ahhooo - THOSE Werewolves of London?"<<

    --That explanation is straight out of the horse's mouth...

    BTW, Warren had no particular attachement to London or anything happenning with the London scene...WZ was an Angeleno- an LA guy - an alum of Fairfax High School in west Hollywood (same high school that gaveus Steely Dan and others)...
    Lee Ho Fook's IS a real restaurant in London...

    Trader Vic's is a bar/restaurant originally out of Beverly Hills, CA that has branched out and has a location in London at the London, Hilton...

    This song, basically, though, was written as a "goof" by a bunch of guys hanging out at someone's house in LA...

    More than anything, especially in THOSE days, Warren was into having fun...
  • Scott from St. Louis, MoAdam Sandler does a decent cover of this on the 2004 Zevon tribute album, "Enjoy Every Sandwich"
  • Jonathan from Oklahoma City, OkThis is proably my Favorite song of all time. I just cant get enough!! Love ya Warren!!
  • Dave from Baltimore, Mai meant to go to lee ho fooks and also to shoot some pinball when i was in soho last april but instead went to this italian place, anyone ever been?
  • Keith from Slc, UtTrue WZ fans place this song below "Lawyers, Guns and Money" and "Roland, the Headless Thompson Gunner," which itself enjoys something of a cult following among "filk" singers at science fiction conventions.
  • Max from Scranton, United Statesmarvin there are many live lyrics zevon did some are
    instead of beef chow mein (brain chow mein)
    little old lady got mutilated(milli vanilli)
    werewolves of london agian (Clarence clemons again, brian deplama again)
    i saw a werewolve drinking a piana colada(I saw jack kemp drinking a pina colada)
    some other variations are
    hes been looking for james talyor, or jimmy buffet, or hes been listening to james tylor.

    i saw sylvestor stalon running down the steps of the art museum he was doing another sequel

    i saw bruce springsteen walking with the queen he was telling her all about nebraska

    i saw jimmy swaggart walking to a motel he was doing... ehh never mind

    see there are many many variations
  • Rhett from Melbourne, Australiawhat a song! one of my all time favs!
  • Phil from Tampa, FlLee Ho Fooks is a real restaurant on Gerard Street in London.
  • Adam from Lake Forest, Il"It was around the time that album was being made that "Werewolves of London" was born out of the fertile imaginations of Zevon, Wachtel and Waddy's songwriter friend LeRoy Marinell. As Waddy tells the story: "We wrote the song one afternoon. I remember going by Roy's house one afternoon on my way into town to do some sessions, and Warren was there, and he says , 'Waddy, it's great you're here! Phil Everly gave me a great title for a song. We're going to write a song called "Werewolves of London." I said, '"Werewolves of London?" okay.' Now, Roy had been sitting around for months with this little guitar figure [which eventually became the main piano vamp for 'Werewolves'], and we never could do anything with it. I said to Warren, '"Werewolves of London?" You mean like, "ow-ooooo"?' Warren says, 'Yeah, yeah!' I said, 'That's easy: Roy, play that lick of yours.' And he started playing it. I had just gotten back from England so I had all these lyrics in my head, so I just spit out that whole first verse. Warren says, 'That's great!' I said, 'Really? okay, fine-there's your first verse. You write the rest; I've gotta go into town.' And then they worked on the rest of it.""

    - Blair Jackson, Mix Magazine Online, Apr 1, 2000
  • Enzo from Adelaide, AustraliaAh,just one of those tunes you cant get out of your head some days.I love it.
  • Marvin from East Brady, Paactually, the reference to james taylor is in the studio version..."you'd better stay away from him / he'll rip your lungs out JIM / huh, i'd like to meet his TAILOR!!!

    just to add, i read it's about people who look like anyone else during the day but then turn into "werewolves" at night and commit violent crimes...esp. rape

    ...i also read it's just a fun, meaningless song
  • Nia from Mesa, AzThis song is played at Phoenix Coyotes games (that's AZ's hockey team for those who aren't aware) when the hometown boys score a goal. Not exactly the right species, but it does get the crowd howling!
  • Mary from North Fort Myers, FlI read that the song was about a particular masculine look that was popular in England then which featured facial stubble. To keep the stubble, but to avoid a beard, men adjusted the heads on their electric shavers.
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