Thursday Inspiration #131 Werewolves Of London

Respond to this challenge, by either by using the prompt word Jim, or going with the above picture, or by means of the song ‘Werewolves Of London’, or by going with another song by Warren Zevon, or a song that fits the Halloween mood, or spirit of the holiday, or anything else that you think fits.  During the early ‘70s, Warren Zevon worked as the piano player and band leader/musical coordinator for the Everly Brothers.  In 1971, Waddy Wachtel auditioned for the Everly Brothers upcoming tour and that’s when he first met Warren Zevon, who was the Everly’s musical director.  In 1975, Phil Everly had a kooky idea after he just watched the 1935 horror film Werewolf of London, and he thought the title and subject matter would make for a great pop song and also become an accompanying dance craze (doing the Werewolves of London).  Everly shared this brainstorm with his touring keyboard player, a then-unknown musician and songwriter named Warren Zevon.  Alongside buddies LeRoy Marinell and Waddy Wachtel, Zevon promptly wrote ‘Werewolves of London’, a darkly funny ode to a dapper beast who prowls England’s capital city, scarfing down Chinese food and mutilating old ladies.

‘Werewolves of London’ was recorded on Zevon’s third studio album Excitable Boy which was released in 1978, and the single went to reach #21 on the Billboard Hot 100.  It was Zevon’s first and only Top 40 hit, and it followed him throughout his career, returning with a particular vengeance each Halloween.  The song came together essentially in one day at LeRoy Marinell’s house in Venice Beach, California where the trio frivolously alternated verses.  Waddy Wachtel who is regarded as one of the greatest studio guitarists of all time stopped by on his way to a different session and found Zevon hanging out.  Zevon told Wachtel about the crazy song title Everly had suggested, and Wachtel responded, “‘Werewolves of London?’  You mean like, ‘Ah-hoooo?’”

LeRoy had this guitar lick that he didn’t know what to do with so it was just sitting around and that became the piano melody for the song.  Waddy had just gotten back from England so he had all these lyrics in his head, and when he spit them out, that became the first verse.  He told Warren and LeRoy to finish the song, because he had to go.  Fortunately, Warren’s wife Crystal Zevon was present and she transcribed the lyrics onto a steno pad that she always carried.

The next day, Zevon went to the studio to pitch some of his new songs, hoping that the Eagles or Linda Ronstadt might want them and while he was there, he played ‘Werewolves of London’ for his producer, Jackson Browne.  Browne liked the song and began performing it sporadically in concert.  Wachtel used seven bands and endless combinations of musicians, before recruiting Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, who finally executed the drum and bass parts to best fit the song during an all-night session, giving this recording the energy that it demanded, as it went on to become this kind of animal feeling in the rhythm and the whole attitude of the song.  Months later, Zevon called Wachtel out of the blue to say he wasn’t happy with the song’s closing line.  Zevon thought it should end with, “I saw a werewolf drinking a piña colada at Trader Vic’s, and his hair was perfect.”  Wachtel laughed but later realized it was exactly the right line.

After Zevon’s death in 2003, Jackson Browne was able to make more sense out of this novelty song interpreting it as describing an upper-class English womanizer, saying that “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.”  The idea behind all those references is taken from three slightly different personalities, one being a ne’er-do-well who devotes his life to pleasure, another a debauched Victorian gentleman in gambling clubs and consorting with prostitutes, and finally the aristocrat who squanders the family fortune.  This is summed up in the line, “I’d like to meet his tailor.”

He’s the hairy handed gent who ran amok in Kent
Lately he’s been overheard in Mayfair
You better stay away from him he’ll rip your lungs out Jim
Huh I’d like to meet his tailor
Werewolves of London

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