Werewolves of London: How The Everly Brothers and a B-Movie from 1935 Inspired Warren Zevon's Monster Hit

Ah-hoooo! Warren Zevon performing at New York City's Bowery Ballroom in 2000.
Ah-hoooo! Warren Zevon performing at New York City's Bowery Ballroom in 2000.
Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images

In 1975, Phil Everly had a kooky idea. The rock legend best known as one half of The Everly Brothers had 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 accompanying dance craze.

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.

Three years later, "Werewolves of London" was officially released as part of Zevon’s 1978 album Excitable Boy, and went on 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. Zevon once described “Werewolves of London”—featuring that irresistible "Ah-hoooo" chorus—as a “dumb song for smart people.” It’s certainly that, but it’s also part of a lineage of comedy-horror rock novelties stretching back to the ’50s.

 

The peak year for silly songs about the supernatural seems to have been 1958, when David Seville’s “Witch Doctor” and Sheb Wooley’s “The Purple People Eater” both reached #1 on the Billboard charts. They would have reigned back-to-back, but another song held the top spot in between them: “All I Have to Do Is Dream” by—you guessed it—The Everly Brothers. Perhaps that explains why Phil Everly knew his werewolf idea had legs.

Fortunately, Zevon and friends didn’t waste a lot of time in writing “Werewolves of London.” The song came together essentially in one day at LeRoy Marinell’s house in Venice Beach, California. Waddy Wachtel—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?’”

Warren Zevon performing at the Saddle Rack in San Jose California in 1982.Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

That’s exactly what Zevon meant. Wachtel was off and running. First, he told Marinell to play the nifty guitar lick he’d been toying around with for years. As Marinell launched into his now-classic riff, Wachtel began ad-libbing lyrics about a werewolf eating beef chow mein at Lee Ho Fook, a real-life Chinese restaurant in London that's still in operation.

“I had just gotten back from England, so I had all these lyrics in my head," Wachtel said. "So I just spit out that whole first verse. Warren says, 'That's great!' I said, 'Really? OK, fine. There's your first verse. You write the rest. I've gotta go into town.'"

It took just 10 or 15 minutes to finish what Wachtel had started. Zevon penned the second verse, while Marinell took the third, which ends with the classic line, “He'll rip your lungs out, Jim / I'd like to meet his tailor.” When they were done, Warren’s wife Crystal told them how much she liked the song. “Fools that we are, we said, ‘You think it’s so great, why don’t you write it down?’” Marinell recounted in Crystal’s 2008 book I’ll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon. “Otherwise, that song never would have gone anywhere.”

The next day, while recording demos for songs he hoped to sell to The Eagles and Linda Ronstadt, Zevon played “Werewolves of London” for his producer, noted rocker Jackson Browne. Browne dug the song and began performing it sporadically in concert. Nearly three years later, Zevon set about recording it for Excitable Boy.

 

While “Werewolves of London” was a cinch to write, it proved a bear to record. Browne and Wachtel co-produced Excitable Boy and tried at first to cut the song with drummer Russ Kunkel and bassist Bob Glaub, session aces who had played with superstars like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Rod Stewart. Kunkel and Glaub definitely had the chops, but something wasn’t right.

“It didn’t sound stupid enough; it sounded cute,” Wachtel said. “Jackson was saying, ‘It's really good!’ and Warren and I were saying, ‘No, man, it's too cute. It's got to be ... heavy.’”

Warren Zevon plays his guitar, while dreaming of a piña colada at Trader Vic's. Hiroyuki Ito/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Wachtel and Browne proceeded to shuffle through session guys, assembling five or six different bands in the hopes of getting the desired level of dumbness. Finally, someone suggested they call bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood, the rhythm section from Fleetwood Mac. Wachtel loved the idea, and since he’d just worked with Fleetwood Mac members Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, he knew how to find them.

McVie and Fleetwood had the right feel, but they weren’t quite nailing it. The band recorded take after take as the moon went down and night turned to day. “I remember at about 5 in the morning saying to Mick, ‘I think we're done!’” Wachtel said. “And Mick looks at me with that crazy look he gets in his eyes and sort of whispers, ‘We're never done, Waddy!’ I thought, ‘Sh*t, we've got a wild one here!’”

After 59 tries, Wachtel and Browne decided to use take #2. Wachtel fared much better recording his guitar solo; he laid it down in a single pass, before he could even sip from the bottle of vodka he had opened. But the song still wasn’t finished. 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.

 

Despite all the hard work they had put into recording “Werewolves of London,” Zevon and Wachtel were miffed when Asylum selected the song, which they considered a novelty, as the lead single off Excitable Boy. They would’ve preferred the more serious “Tenderness on the Block.” But from a commercial standpoint, the label’s instincts were correct. “Werewolves of London” spent six weeks on the Hot 100, peaking at #21. In the decades since, it’s never really gone away.

Even as Zevon emerged as a songwriter’s songwriter, developing a loyal fanbase that included Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan, “Werewolves of London” remained his calling card. In addition to being a perennial Halloween favorite, it has appeared in numerous TV shows and movies, including the 1986 Martin Scorsese film The Color of Money, starring Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. “Werewolves of London” would have been perfect for John Landis’s 1981 horror comedy An American Werewolf in London, but amazingly, the song wasn’t included.

“Werewolves of London” was especially popular in 1999. In January, Zevon took the stage at Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura’s inaugural ball and played piano as the newly elected leader sang “Werewolves of Minnesota.” Later that year, the minor league baseball team the Kalamazoo Kodiaks moved from Michigan to London, Ontario, and changed their name to the Werewolves. The squad’s sharply dressed mascot was dubbed Warren Z. Vaughn.

When Zevon died in September 2003 following a public battle with cancer, “Werewolves of London” was naturally mentioned near the top of almost every obituary. Folks even discussed the song at Zevon’s memorial, which gave Jackson Browne—one of the song’s early champions—a chance to reflect on what the lyrics were truly about. It turns out that the song may have been deeper than anyone ever realized.

“It’s about a really well-dressed, ladies’ man, a werewolf preying on little old ladies,” Browne told Rolling Stone. “In a way it’s the Victorian nightmare, the gigolo thing. The idea behind all those references is the idea of the ne’er-do-well who devotes his life to pleasure: the debauched Victorian gentleman in gambling clubs and consorting with prostitutes; the aristocrat who squanders the family fortune. All of that is secreted in that one line: ‘I’d like to meet his tailor.’”

10 of the Best Indoor and Outdoor Heaters on Amazon

Mr. Heater/Amazon
Mr. Heater/Amazon

With the colder months just around the corner, you might want to start thinking about investing in an indoor or outdoor heater. Indoor heaters not only provide a boost of heat for drafty spaces, but they can also be a money-saver, allowing you to actively control the heat based on the rooms you’re using. Outdoor heaters, meanwhile, can help you take advantage of cold-weather activities like camping or tailgating without having to call it quits because your extremities have gone numb. Check out this list of some of Amazon’s highest-rated indoor and outdoor heaters so you can spend less time shivering this winter and more time enjoying what the season has to offer.

Indoor Heaters

1. Lasko Ceramic Portable Heater; $20

Lasko/Amazon

This 1500-watt heater from Lasko may only be nine inches tall, but it can heat up to 300 square feet of space. With 11 temperature settings and three quiet settings—for high heat, low heat, and fan only—it’s a dynamic powerhouse that’ll keep you toasty all season long.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Alrocket Oscillating Space Heater; $25

Alrocket/Amazon

Alrocket’s oscillating space heater is an excellent addition to any desk or nightstand. Using energy-saving ceramic technology, this heater is made of fire-resistant material, and its special “tip-over” safety feature forces it to turn off if it falls over (making it a reliable choice for homes with kids or pets). It’s extremely quiet, too—at only 45 dB, it’s just a touch louder than a whisper. According to one reviewer, this an ideal option for a “very quiet but powerful” heater.

Buy it: Amazon

3. De’Longhi Oil-Filled Radiator Space Heather; $79

De’Longhi/Amazon

If you prefer a space heater with a more old-fashioned vibe, this radiator heater from De’Longhi gives you 2020 technology with a vintage feel. De’Longhi’s heater automatically turns itself on when the temperatures drops below 44°F, and it will also automatically turn itself off if it starts to overheat. Another smart safety feature? The oil system is permanently sealed, so you won’t have to worry about accidental spills.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Aikoper Ceramic Tower Heater; $70

Aikoper/Amazon

Whether your room needs a little extra warmth or its own heat source, Aikoper’s incredibly precise space heater has got you covered. With a range of 40-95°F, it adjusts by one-degree intervals, giving you the specific level of heat you want. It also has an option for running on an eight-hour timer, ensuring that it will only run when you need it.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Isiler Space Heater; $37

Isiler/Amazon

For a space heater that adds a fun pop of color to any room, check out this yellow unit from Isiler. Made from fire-resistant ceramic, Isiler’s heater can start warming up a space within seconds. It’s positioned on a triangular stand that creates an optimal angle for hot air to start circulating, rendering it so effective that, as one reviewer put it, “This heater needs to say ‘mighty’ in its description.”

Buy it: Amazon

Outdoor Heaters

6. Mr. Heater Portable Buddy; $104

Mr. Heater/Amazon

Make outdoor activities like camping and grilling last longer with Mr. Heater’s indoor/outdoor portable heater. This heater can connect to a propane tank or to a disposable cylinder, allowing you to keep it in one place or take it on the go. With such a versatile range of uses, this heater will—true to its name—become your best buddy when the temperature starts to drop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiland Pyramid Patio Propane Heater; Various

Hiland/Amazon

The cold’s got nothing on this powerful outdoor heater. Hiland’s patio heater has a whopping 40,000 BTU output, which runs for eight to 10 hours on high heat. Simply open the heater’s bottom door to insert a propane tank, power it on, and sit back to let it warm up your backyard. The bright, contained flame from the propane doubles as an outdoor light.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Solo Stove Bonfire Pit; $345

Solo Stove/Amazon

This one is a slight cheat since it’s a bonfire pit and not a traditional outdoor heater, but the Solo Stove has a 4.7-star rating on Amazon for a reason. Everything about this portable fire pit is meticulously crafted to maximize airflow while it's lit, from its double-wall construction to its bottom air vents. These features all work together to help the logs burn more completely while emitting far less smoke than other pits. It’s the best choice for anyone who wants both warmth and ambiance on their patio.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Dr. Infrared Garage Shop Heater; $119

Dr. Infrared/Amazon

You’ll be able to use your garage or basement workshop all season long with this durable heater from Dr. Infrared. It’s unique in that it includes a built-in fan to keep warm air flowing—something that’s especially handy if you need to work without wearing gloves. The fan is overlaid with heat and finger-protectant grills, keeping you safe while it’s powered on.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Mr. Heater 540 Degree Tank Top; $86

Mr. Heater/Amazon

Mr. Heater’s clever propane tank top automatically connects to its fuel source, saving you from having to bring any extra attachments with you on the road. With three heat settings that can get up to 45,000 BTU, the top can rotate 360 degrees to give you the perfect angle of heat you need to stay cozy. According to a reviewer, for a no-fuss outdoor heater, “This baby is super easy to light, comes fully assembled … and man, does it put out the heat.”

Buy it: Amazon

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14 Facts About The Rocky Horror Picture Show for Its 45th Anniversary

Tim Curry, Nell Campbell, and Patricia Quinn in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).
Tim Curry, Nell Campbell, and Patricia Quinn in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Many movies can claim the title “cult classic,” but few have ever embodied that term quite like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. First written as a small stage production by an out-of-work actor who wanted to pay homage to the B movies he loved, the film version flopped at the box office when it premiered in 1975. Then, as midnight showings continued, its following grew, and grew, and grew.

People don’t just watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show, they live it—complete with costumes, props, and very vulgar audience participation. Since its release in 1975, it has remained the quintessential cult classic. So, to celebrate more than four decades of Absolute Pleasure, here are some facts about the film.

1. The Rocky Horror Picture Show began as a way to keep an unemployed actor busy.

What would eventually become The Rocky Horror Show, and later The Rocky Horror Picture Show, began as a way for Richard O’Brien “to spend winter evenings” when he wasn’t working as an actor. O’Brien poured his love of science fiction and horror films into the initial Rocky Horror songs, and eventually he showed the material to director Jim Sharman while they were working on a play together. Sharman took a liking to it, and convinced London’s Royal Court theater to give him a few weeks in the venue’s tiny Upstairs theater to stage a production. It played for only a few dozen people a night, but eventually grew a following. Not bad for something that started as the equivalent “doing the crossword puzzle” for O’Brien.

2. Richard O’brien originally wanted to play the role of Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Meat Loaf in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

As the production took shape, O’Brien knew he wanted to co-star as the motorcycle-riding Eddie, a role that ultimately went to Meat Loaf. Sharman, though, saw O’Brien in the role of the mysterious handyman, Riff Raff, and O’Brien respected and trusted his director enough that he agreed.

3. Columbia and Magenta were originally one character in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

As the stage play began casting, Sharman was hoping his friend, pop star Marianne Faithfull, would play Frank N. Furter’s female counterpart, but Little Nell had already been cast in the production. So Sharman and O’Brien reworked the role into two parts: Magenta and Columbia. When the time came to cast Magenta, Faithfull was already off on a tour of India, so Patricia Quinn was cast. Quinn took the role, despite having almost no lines, just so she could sing the lead song: “Science Fiction/Double Feature,” which she called “the best song I’ve ever heard.”

4. Little Nell was cast in The Rocky Horror Picture Show for her tap dancing skills alone.

“Little Nell” Campbell had a rather interesting audition for the role of Columbia. At the time the stage production was getting underway, she was working as a soda jerk in London. Jim Sharman heard that she would perform tap dances while serving ice cream, and took some collaborators to see her. She danced for them, and won the role.

5. The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Dr. Frank N. Furter originally had a German accent.

Tim Curry, Richard O'Brien, and Patricia Quinn in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Taking a cue from the character’s name, Tim Curry began the stage production of The Rocky Horror Show by playing Frank N. Furter as German. Then, one day, he heard a woman on a bus speaking with a particularly posh accent and decided, “Yes, he should sound like the Queen.”

6. “Science Fiction/Double Feature” had a different singer for the film.

As previously mentioned, Patricia Quinn took the Magenta role just so she could sing “Science Fiction/Double Feature” on the stage, but when it came time to film The Rocky Horror Picture Show, it was decided that O’Brien should sing the song instead. Quinn wasn’t happy, but she did get a small consolation: The iconic lips that sing the song in the opening credits are hers.

7. The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s director agreed to a smaller budget in order to keep the original cast.

According to Sharman, 20th Century Fox offered him “a reasonable budget” if he would cast “currently fashionable rock stars” in the lead roles for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Sharman lobbied instead to keep the original stage cast (with some exceptions, like the addition of Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon), and instead got a “modest budget” and a very tight shooting schedule. Sharman now calls the decision “crucial” to the film’s cult success.

8. Much of The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s look was inspired by an actual rotting mansion.

While preparing to shoot the film, set designer Brian Thomson kept hearing about “the old house” near Bray Studios outside of London. When he finally got to see the house, a 19th-century mansion called Oakley Court, he realized it was exactly what they needed for the film, in part because its owners had essentially left it to rot (they wanted to demolish it, but it was designated as a historic site).

“The minute we saw it, we realized that this gave us the basis for the whole look of the movie,” Thomson said.

Because of its proximity to Bray Studios, the house has also appeared in a number of other films, including several from the legendary Hammer Studios line of horror movies. It has since been restored, and is now a hotel.

9. A large portion of The Rocky Horror Picture Showwas supposed to be in black and white.

While conceiving of the film’s overall look, Sharman, Thomson, and company originally decided that the film’s opening act should be shot entirely in black and white, and that the first color in the movie should be Frank N. Furter’s red lips when he appeared on the elevator. The idea was that Brad and Janet were living in a bland world, and when they met Furter they would be shown something much more colorful. Ultimately, the studio rejected the idea.

10. The reveal of Eddie’s body genuinely shocked the cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

For the iconic dinner party scene, in which Furter reveals that his guests have been dining on Eddie, Sharman elected to tell only Tim Curry—who had to pull away the tablecloth to reveal Eddie’s corpse—what the surprise of the scene was. He wanted the rest of the cast to be genuinely shocked.

11. A cardboard model was used to make the house fly in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

For the climactic scene in which Riff Raff and Magenta launch Furter’s house back to Transylvania, Thomson originally began constructing an elaborate model of the house. In the end, though, there wasn’t enough time or money to produce a full-scale model for the moment, so a cardboard cutout of the house was used. As Thomson later pointed out, you can still actually see the real house in the background of the shot.

12. The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s famous audience participation was inspired, in part, by boredom.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a flop when it was originally released in 1975, but as midnight showings continued it developed a rabid cult following with a penchant for shouting at the screen as the film played. Brian Thomson first witnessed this phenomenon at New York’s Waverly Theater in 1977, and when he asked what was going on, this was the reply:

“We thought it was pretty boring, and we thought if we yelled back [it would be more fun].”

13. Tim Curry was once kicked out of a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show for being an “impostor.”

As the film’s cult following grew, Tim Curry was living in New York, just down the street from the Waverly Theater, so he often witnessed fans going to midnight showings in costume. Intrigued, he called the theater, told them who he was, and asked if he could attend. The theater initially didn’t believe him, until he actually showed up one night. “Finally I showed up, and they sort of believed me and took me in,” Curry later told NPR.

While fans were delighted by Curry’s presence, the theater staff still wasn’t convinced, and an usher grabbed him, called him an “impostor,” and threw him out. Curry then took out his passport to prove he was the real deal, but declined to go back into the theater after the staff apologized.

14. Princess Diana was a major The Rocky Horror Picture Show fan.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Rocky Horror Picture Show has many famous fans (Meat Loaf and Tim Curry actually met Elvis Presley at a Los Angeles performance of the stage production), but perhaps none more impressive than Diana, Princess of Wales. Once, while doing a theater performance in Austria, Curry was informed that the Princess wanted to meet him. When they met, she told him that the film “quite completed my education,” apparently flashing a “wicked smile” as she did so.

Additional Source:
The Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show

This story has been updated for 2020.