He's the hairy, hairy gent
Who ran amok in Kent
Lately he's been overheard in Mayfair
Read full Lyrics
Every now and then, nature or God or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or whoever's in charge throws us a human curve ball: A person with obvious talent, wit, or genius, who applies it in a totally unexpected direction. We end up with a Rube Goldberg, the cartoonist who should have been an engineer but was in just the right place at the right time to comment on the birth of Industrial Gothic. We end up with a Nikola Tesla, a certified mad but brilliant scientist who would have ruled the Earth if he was born a century later. We end up with a Kafka, who would have made a great cartoonist if only he'd thought of it, but instead we have fragmented short stories from which we must try to piece out the meanings. These off-center geniuses always make for interesting characters, despite their only marginal success.
The junction of Red Place and Green Street in Mayfair, Westminster, London
Photo: David P Howard, Geograph Project, CC 2.0
Warren Zevon is one interesting character. He was the musician who would have made a great horror novelist - and then some. He was a one-of-a-kind performer who combined a macabre outlook, a deadpan, sardonic humor, and pretty good musical talent, particularly for lightweight, hooky tunes. You never heard happier songs about death in your life. If the crew of the Rocky Horror Picture Show
joined Fleetwood Mac, or perhaps if Billy Joel was a member of The Munsters
, you'd get something like this. Like Rocky
, he has a cult following.
So we have "Werewolves of London," by far one of his tamer pieces. This song makes Zevon a technical one-hit wonder. It was the only single of his to make it into the top-40, inching up to #21 before dropping back off the radar after only six weeks.
Places within London mentioned in the song are Soho, Kent, and Mayfair. Establishments mentioned in the song are the notorious "Lee Ho Fook's" and "Trader Vic's." Trader Vic's is a real chain of Polynesian-themed restaurants, with locations throughout the world.
"Lee Ho Fook's" is the sort of name you keep looking for a pun in, but you can't quite find a good one and can't quite satisfy yourself that you've looked hard enough. The question is, as in the case with Penny Lane, is the business in London's Chinatown named "Lee Ho Fook" the one referenced in the song, or did a restaurant change its name because of the song? Because if you go to 15-16 Gerrard St., London, UK W1V7LA, you'll find yourself standing in front of it. Reports are that beef chow mein is not on the menu.
Oh, but let's pick a place for this song and put it to bed: It can be the official song of Soho. Soho is just right, being a favorite hub for artists everywhere - musicians especially, for some reason. Soho is an entertainment district known for its theater community, its thriving night-life, and - until sourpusses spoiled the fun - a thriving sex trade. Club Eleven is considered the London CBGB, only for the birth of Jazz music in Europe. You could set a hundred novels here and never use the same character twice.
Which is just why "Werewolves of London" is just the song for it. It's a bedtime story - a scary one. But, actually, "scary" doesn't apply with interesting characters like Warren Zevon. That's just his way of chucking you under your chin and winking at you.Pete Trbovich
January 13, 2013
Werewolves of London Songfacts
Browse all Songplaces