From his 1978 album Excitable Boy, Warren Zevon’s terror trilogy — a ghostly, ghastly three-song sequence brimming with abandoned amusement — was made up of “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner,” “Excitable Boy,” and “Werewolves of London.” The latter was an additional “literally 15-minute song” that none the its co-writers — Zevon, LeRoy Marinell, and Waddy Wachtel — took seriously. The spontaneous composition, referred to by Zevon as “a dumb tune for smart people,” defied the conventional characteristics of songwriting such as labor, craft, and also agonizing.
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The idea originated v Phil Everly who, after ~ watching the movie Werewolf of London (1935) ~ above late-night television, suggested to Zevon the he adapt the title because that a song and dance craze. When Wachtel heard the idea, the mimicked a wailing wolf — “Aahoooh” — i m sorry became part of the howling chorus. The trio frivolously alternated verses, start with what might be one of the all-time opened lines: “I observed a werewolf v a Chinese food selection in his hand/Walking under the highways of Soho in the rain.” The romp is comic noir, special a stylish werewolf top top his method to Lee Ho Fooks because that a “big dish of beef chow mein” and another “drinking a piña colada at trader Vic’s.”
There is a warning of “the hairy handed gent who ran amok in Kent” alleviated through nifty alliteration — “little old lady got mutilated late last night,” droll fashion declaration — “his hair to be perfect,” characteristic celebrity name dropping — Lon Chaney, and Lon Chaney Jr. Walking with the Queen, the dance venture Everly had actually hoped for, “doing the Werewolves of London,” and an “Aah-oooh” chorus. Zevon effortlessly sprinkled verses through punch lines: “You far better stay away from him/He’ll rip your lungs out, Jim/Heh, I’d favor to satisfy his tailor.” that drolly punctuates the prance with a salivating, “Draw blood.”
Fortunately, crystal Zevon was present to transcribe the lively lyric exchange top top a steno pad the she always carried. The following day in the studio with Jackson Browne, who was cutting part Zevon demos to solicit come the Eagles and also Ronstadt to perhaps record before the Warren Zevon sessions began, they discussed the “new song” and also recited the “Werewolves” lyrics. Browne responded favorably. One hear was sufficient to prompt the to occasionally perform the song live as at an early stage as 1975 — three years before it was recorded. Bootleg recordings that those performances, significantly the Main point show, commonly circulated, creating expectations native Asylum that Browne was going to record the song.
Recording “Werewolves” was a contrast to that is hasty composition. Wachtel compared his struggles throughout the studio sessions come the difficulties that manager Francis Ford Coppola confronted during the production of the Vietnam battle epic, Apocalypse Now (1979), as chronicled in the documentary Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991). Though the comparison of a three-minute tune to a three-hour film may be a little disproportionate, Wachtel nonetheless taken into consideration “Werewolves” the hardest track to obtain down in the studio the he ever worked on.
The track was built roughly a lick the Marinell had actually been carrying roughly for years. Wachtel supplied seven bands and also endless combinations of musicians, prior to recruiting Fleetwood Mac members Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, who ultimately executed the drum and bass components to best fit the song during an all-night session. Many of the Excitable Boy budget went right into recording “Werewolves of London” due to the disproportionate number of attempts to gain the song done.
When the document label chose “Werewolves” as the album’s single, Zevon and Wachtel were insulted native an creative stance. They were perplexed by Asylum’s logic in taking “that item of shit.” Their preferences for the single were “Tenderness ~ above the Block,” the song co-written v Browne that they taken into consideration exceptional, or the mid-tempo command cut, “Johnny Strikes up the Band.” even if it is luck, intuition, or music marketing savvy, come the label’s credit, “Werewolves of London” ended up being an overnight hit, reaching number 21 and also remaining in the peak 40 for 6 weeks. The single was likewise issued in a limited-edition, 12-inch photo disc special a werewolf close-up and also Zevon sitting in the sleeve’s bottom-right edge in his three-piece suit.
Zevon conceded the “Werewolves the London” was a novelty, though “not a novelty the way, say, Steve Martin’s ‘King Tut’ is a novelty.” Zevon’s hairy-handed fight contained characteristics that, had it been recorded five years later, might have cleared up somewhere in between a weird Al Yankovic parody and the man Landis epic 13-minute music video clip of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in 1983, through werewolves replacing zombies in the horror choreography. Surprisingly, Landis go not encompass the tune in his movie An American Werewolf in London (1981). Comparable to “Excitable Boy” in that is lyrical dexterity, how amazing hooks, merry piano melody, and guilty satisfied sing-along aura, “Werewolves the London” possessed a new nature and abandoned amusement that interpreted well past a Halloween conventional as a tune that was as sardonically smart together it to be savage.
Browne, one unwavering acolyte, provides the song an ext credit than Zevon does. Browne said Rolling Stone’s David Fricke that when someone inevitably made referral to “Werewolves the London” at Zevon’s memorial organization in 2003, Browne come away through a brand-new perspective on the track 25 years later, with one of Zevon’s patented comes-out-of-nowhere currently his focal length point. Browne’s incisive “Werewolves” reading reveals him come be one of those “smart people” Zevon’s “dumb song” was written for:
It’s around a really well-dressed, ladies’ man, a werewolf preying on little old ladies. In a way it’s the victorian nightmare, the gigolo thing. The idea behind every those referrals is the idea that the ne’er do-well who devotes his life come pleasure: the debauched victor gentleman in gambling clubs, consorting v prostitutes, the aristocrat that squanders the household fortune. All of that is secreted in the one line: “I’d favor to satisfy his tailor.” ~Jackson Browne
“I don’t think it was as large a hit as world think the was. Civilization remember that from year come year much more — it’s remained in movies and also it it s okay trotted out frequently — but it’s no as if that sold four million copies, choose a Paula Abdul single, you recognize what ns mean? “~Warren Zevon
“Werewolves that London” to be “trotted out regularly.” The fight song’s 15- minute conception, motivated by a fear film and also a dance-crazed Phil Everly, progressed into a lineage of assorted and unusual social citations. In addition to the song’s signature “Ahh-ooh” chorus howl and also idiosyncratic “I’d favor to accomplish his tailor,” the opened lyric has been abstracted through recognition. In 2004, “Werewolves of London’” won the BBC Radio 2’s “Greatest Opening tune Line” vote, finishing front of invoice Haley and the Comets’ “Rock roughly the Clock,” “Hey Joe” by the Leaves, Jimi Hendrix, and others, little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti,” and also Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird.” The first part of the opening line — “I observed a werewolf through a Chinese menu in his hand” — has likewise been appropriated together a bumper sticker, through the city catchy but confounding come those not acquainted with Zevon.
The most common conveyance of “Werewolves the London” is as a Halloween standard. Beyond the yearly October playlist, the song has been supplied widely in television, including Californication, Community, Grimm, Glee, Hawaii Five-O, and Dancing v the Stars; and also in film, especially Martin Scorsese’s The color of Money (1986). Sheathe versions range from the Flamin’ Groovies, David Lindley, and also Magnolia electrical Co., to gibbs Adam Sandler. Masha Shirin’s sultry rendition gives a striking aberration from the initial within the ironic setup of a noirish musical featuring a stylish lupine ladies’ guy that was part of an advertisement campaign for 3 Olives vodka in 2014. Over there is additionally ironic juxtaposition in child Rock’s “All Summer Long,” a vast hit that got to number one in eight countries in 2008. The song samples the “Werewolves” piano hook, mashed up v Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet home Alabama,” a track Zevon satirized in “Play It every Night Long” in 1980.
“Werewolves that London” surfaced in several quite uncommon settings. During the gubernatorial inauguration round in 1999, Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura growled his means through an essential live power of a tailored version, “Werewolves of Minnesota,” guided by Zevon who common the phase on piano. In major league baseball, Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth consists of “Werewolves that London” in his rotation that walk-up tunes played end the stadion PA mechanism as he ideologies the batter’s box. The an individual theme to be presumably selected to correlate through Werth’s beard and also shaggy hair.
The song likewise circulated come the spirited atmosphere of minor league baseball. In 1999, once the independent Frontier league team Kalamazoo Kodiaks relocated indigenous Michigan come London, Ontario, your name change to “Werewolves” seemed an oddly apparent choice. The team mascot, a harmlessly howling wolf dressed in peak hat and tails, called “Warren Z. Vaughn,” erased any doubt as to the resource of the team name. The caricatured Zevon homage to be weirdly transcendent, one Elvisian distinction and a rarity because that rockers the highlighted the song’s cartoon qualities and also novelty party mythology.
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In cameos on 2 1990s cable comedies ~ above HBO, The Larry Sanders show and Dream On, Zevon progressed his own “hit tune torment” counter-mythology. Zevon screens deft, unaffected, and edgy comic time in hilarious scene in which that expresses his ire at the countless requests, whether from pan or television show hosts, come play your favorite Zevon song, “Werewolves that London.”
“Listen, ns don’t desire to be a prick, yet every single show i do, ns play ‘Werewolves that London’ and also it’s driving me fucking crazy.” ~Warren Zevon, step from ‘The Larry Sanders Show’ (HBO), September 15, 1993
Excerpted indigenous George Plasketes’ Warren Zevon: Desperado the Los Angeles, as a component of Tempo: A Rowman & little field Music series on Rock, Pop, and society from Rowman & small field Publishers. Accessible now in ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other good retailers.