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"Werewolves of London"
Single by Warren Zevon
from the album Excitable Boy
B-side" Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner"
ReleasedJanuary 18, 1978[ citation needed]
Label Asylum
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
"Werewolves Of London" on YouTube

"Werewolves of London" is a song by American singer-songwriter Warren Zevon, written by Zevon, LeRoy Marinell and Waddy Wachtel. It was released on Excitable Boy (1978), Zevon's third studio 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 US Billboard Hot 100 that May. [1]

Background and recording

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] Bob Glaub and Russ Kunkel were among the several musicians who auditioned; Zevon rejected them because he thought their playing was "too cute". Although 59 takes were recorded, Browne and Zevon selected the second take for the final mix. [7] Wachtel recalled that the session began in the evening and went into the next morning. [8] 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. [9] [10] Egon Ronay's Dunlop Guide for 1974 discussed the restaurant and said it served Cantonese cuisine. [11] 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". [12]

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. [13]


Reception and legacy

BBC Radio 2 listeners rated it as having the best opening line in a song. [14]

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." [15] 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." [16]

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]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom ( BPI) [26] Silver 200,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Samples and other versions


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  3. ^ "The Rolling Thunder Revue - Werewolves Of London". Retrieved September 22, 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.
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  16. ^ Brad Steiger, The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings, 2011, p. 315.
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  22. ^ "Werewolves of London". Retrieved August 6, 2023.
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  27. ^ "Grateful Dead - Tour Statistics". Retrieved July 27, 2018.
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