Werewolves of London

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"Werewolves of London"
Werewolves of London Single.jpg
Single by Warren Zevon
from the album Excitable Boy
B-side"Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner"
ReleasedJanuary 18, 1978[citation needed]
Songwriter(s)LeRoy Marinell, Waddy Wachtel, Warren Zevon
Producer(s)Jackson Browne, Waddy Wachtel
Warren Zevon singles chronology
"Hasten Down the Wind"
"Werewolves of London"
"Lawyers, Guns and Money"
Music video
Warren Zevon - "Werewolves Of London" (Official Music Video) on YouTube

"Werewolves of London" is a rock song performed by American singer-songwriter Warren Zevon. It was composed by Zevon, LeRoy Marinell and Waddy Wachtel and was included on Excitable Boy (1978), Zevon's third solo album. The track featured Fleetwood Mac's Mick Fleetwood and John McVie on drums and bass respectively. The single was released by Asylum Records and was a top 40 US hit, the only one of Zevon's career, reaching No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 that May.[1]

Background and recording[edit]

The song began as a joke by Phil Everly (of The Everly Brothers) to Zevon in 1975, over two years before the recording sessions for Excitable Boy.[2] Everly had watched a television broadcast of the 1935 film Werewolf of London and "suggested to Zevon that he adapt the title for a song and dance craze."[2] Zevon, Marinell and Wachtel played with the idea and wrote the song in about 15 minutes, all contributing lyrics that were transcribed by Zevon's then-wife Crystal. However, none of them took the song seriously.

Soon after, Zevon's friend Jackson Browne saw the lyrics and thought "Werewolves of London" had potential and began performing the song during his own live concerts. T Bone Burnett also performed the song, on the first leg of Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue tour in the autumn of 1975.[3] Burnett's version of the song included alternate or partially improvised lyrics mentioning stars from classical Hollywood cinema, along with mentions of vanished labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, and adult film stars Marilyn Chambers and Linda Lovelace. "Excitable Boy" and "Werewolves of London" were considered for but not included on Zevon's self-titled second album in 1976.[4]

According to Wachtel, "Werewolves of London" was "the hardest song to get down in the studio I've ever worked on."[5] However, Wachtel "laid down his solo in one take."[6] They tried at least seven different configurations of musicians in the recording studio before being satisfied with McVie and Fleetwood's contributions.[2] The protracted studio time and musicians' fees led to the song eating up most of the album's budget.

A storefront with a large cartoon pig on it
Lee Ho Fook in London—the werewolf goes here to get beef chow mein.

The song's lyrics "He was looking for the place called Lee Ho Fook's / Gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein" refer to Lee Ho Fook, a Chinese restaurant on 15 Gerrard Street in London's Chinatown, which is in the West End of London.[7][8] Egon Ronay's Dunlop Guide for 1974 discussed the restaurant and said it served Cantonese cuisine.[9] In concerts, Zevon would often change the line "You better stay away from him, he'll rip your lungs out, Jim / I'd like to meet his tailor", to "And he's looking for James Taylor".[10]

Over Zevon's objections, Elektra Records chose "Werewolves of London" as the album's first single (he preferred "Johnny Strikes Up the Band" or "Tenderness on the Block").[2] The song was a quick hit, staying in the Billboard Top 40 chart for over a month.


Reception and legacy[edit]

BBC Radio 2 listeners rated it as having the best opening line in a song.[11]

Zevon later said of the song, "I don't know why that became such a hit. We didn't think it was suitable to be played on the radio. It didn't become an albatross. It's better that I bring something to mind than nothing. There are times when I prefer that it was "Bridge Over Troubled Water", but I don't think bad about the song. I still think it's funny."[12] He also described "Werewolves of London" as a novelty song, "[but] not a novelty the way, say, Steve Martin's "King Tut" is a novelty."[2]

The song had a resurgence in popularity in 1986 due to its use in a scene in The Color of Money, where Tom Cruise dances and lip-syncs to the song in a scene in which Cruise "displayed the depths of his talents at the billiards game of 9-ball."[13]

After Zevon's death in 2003, Jackson Browne stated that he interpreted the song as describing an upper-class English womanizer: "It's about a really well-dressed, ladies' man, a werewolf preying on little old ladies. In a way it's the Victorian nightmare, the gigolo thing."[2]

Chart history[edit]

Samples and other versions[edit]


  1. ^ "Warren Zevon - Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f George Plasketes (June 15, 2016). The Secret Inspiration Behind Warren Zevon’s ‘Werewolves of London’, Medium.com, accessed 30 July 2018
  3. ^ "The Rolling Thunder Revue - Werewolves Of London". Pastemagazine.com. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  4. ^ Zevon, Crystal. I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon, p. 112.
  5. ^ Zevon, Crystal. I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon, p. 138.
  6. ^ Browne, David (April 12, 2013). "The Knights of Soft Rock". Rolling Stone. No. 1180. p. 58.
  7. ^ Wooldridge, Max (2002). Rock 'n' Roll London. New York: Macmillan Publishers. p. 38. ISBN 0-312-30442-0. Retrieved 2020-08-09.
  8. ^ Self, Will (2001). Feeding Frenzy. London: Viking Press. p. 252. ISBN 978-0-670-88995-2. Retrieved 2020-08-09.
  9. ^ Robards, Terry (1974-03-21). "Michelin Guide Invades Britain, But It's No Star‐Filled Journey". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2020-08-09. Retrieved 2020-08-09.
  10. ^ Zollo, Paul (1 November 2020). "Behind the Song: Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London"". American Songwriter. Retrieved 7 October 2022.
  11. ^ Vine, Jeremy (May 2004). "Greatest Opening Song Line – The Winner!". BBC Radio 2. Archived from the original on 8 December 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  12. ^ Stephen P. Wheeler. "Warren Zevon: Your Guide Through Transverse Citye". Rock's Backpages.(Subscription required.)
  13. ^ Brad Steiger, The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings, 2011, p. 315.
  14. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  15. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2019-07-07.
  16. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search rianz". Flavourofnz.co.nz. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  17. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  18. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 5/20/78". Tropicalglen.com. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  19. ^ "Official Charts Company". 1987-04-18. Retrieved 2019-07-08.
  20. ^ "Kent Music Report No 236 – 1 January 1979 > National Top 100 Singles for 1978". Kent Music Report. Retrieved 8 January 2022 – via Imgur.com.
  21. ^ "australian-charts.com - Forum - Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts - 1980s (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Australian-charts.com. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  22. ^ "Top 200 Singles of '78 – Volume 30, No. 14, December 30 1978". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  23. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1999). Pop Annual. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-142-X.
  24. ^ "Grateful Dead - Tour Statistics". Setlist.fm. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  25. ^ "LINDLEY EL RAYO-X EASY, BREEZY 'GREASY'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  26. ^ Deming, Mark. "Enjoy Every Sandwich: The Songs of Warren Zevon – Various Artists | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  27. ^ Lifton, Dave (3 September 2013). "Adam Sandler, 'Werewolves of London' –- Terrible Classic Rock Covers". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  28. ^ Peisch, Will (30 October 2015). "7 Spooky Bangers and Monster Mash-Ups". The Dartmouth. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  29. ^ Plasketes, George (23 May 2016). B-Sides, Undercurrents and Overtones: Peripheries to Popular in Music, 1960 to the Present. Rutledge. p. 194. ISBN 978-1-31717-113-3.
  30. ^ "AdWeek – Ad of the Day: Masha Sings a Sultry Remake of 'Werewolves of London' for Three Olives Vodka". Adweek.com. 2014-12-04. Retrieved 2014-12-04.
  31. ^ Elliott, Stuart (8 December 2014). "Ads Imply This Vodka Has a Real 'Bite'". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  32. ^ Lukovitz, Karlene (2 December 2014). "Three Olives Unleashes 'Werewolves in London' 12/02/2014". MediaPost. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  33. ^ Sisario, Ben (2 October 2008). "Kid Rock, Longtime Holdout, Goes Digital With Rhapsody". MediaPost. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  34. ^ Marvaldi, Selena (2017-10-19). "Elio e le Storie Tese: ultimo concerto e ultimo singolo Licantropo Vegano". chemusica.it (in Italian). Retrieved 2023-01-09.