Warren Zevon – “Werewolves of London” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” is not your average rock ‘n’ roll track. The song weaves humor, horror, and social commentary into a catchy tune that has had people howling since 1978. At its surface, the song talks about werewolves roaming around London. But look deeper, and it’s an exploration of human vices and social faux pas that manifest in the form of werewolves. These werewolves aren’t just mythical creatures but symbols of our darker instincts. Zevon uses the werewolf as an exaggerated character to lampoon human excess, vanity, and even the aloofness of British high society.

Curious about how werewolves and Chinese menus connect to deeper social meanings? Keep reading to unlock the cryptic messages in this classic tune.

“Werewolves of London” Lyrics Meaning

“I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand / Walking through the streets of SoHo in the rain” — The song opens with an image that’s both bizarre and oddly specific. Why a Chinese menu? Zevon might be using this as a symbol for the werewolf’s hunger, not just for food but for indulgence.

“He was looking for the place called Lee Ho Fooks / For to get a big dish of beef chow mein” — The werewolf isn’t just hungry; he has a preference, giving human-like characteristics to a creature that’s supposed to be wild and untamed. This adds a layer of satire, challenging the listener to question who the real beasts are in society.

“Ah-hoo, werewolves of London” — The catchy chorus serves as an eerie alert, almost mocking the very ‘civilized’ society where these werewolves roam free.

“You hear him howling around your kitchen door / You better not let him in” — The werewolf’s presence is not limited to the streets; he’s now at your kitchen door. This line perhaps warns against letting our darker impulses take over.

“Little old lady got mutilated late last night / Werewolves of London again” — Here, the song gets a little grim. The consequence of letting these darker instincts roam free is portrayed through the mutilation of a ‘little old lady,’ making us confront the idea that society can sometimes harm its most vulnerable.

“He’s the hairy-handed gent who ran amok in Kent / Lately he’s been overheard in Mayfair” — Now, the werewolf is not just a creature but a ‘gent,’ a gentleman. Zevon is pointing out how even the high society in Mayfair isn’t immune to these vices and lapses in moral judgment.

“I saw a werewolf drinking a piña colada at Trader Vic’s / His hair was perfect” — The ending is pure Zevon, blending humor and critique. The werewolf sips a cocktail, presenting an image of utmost vanity, capturing how our darker instincts can be both horrifying and absurdly comical.

The Story Behind “Werewolves of London”

Warren Zevon crafted “Werewolves of London” in the late ’70s, a time often noted for its excess and hedonism. It was a different era, filled with rock ‘n’ roll, disco, and a variety of social and political upheavals. Zevon himself was known for his sharp wit and irreverent approach to songwriting, often tackling complex subjects with humor and cynicism.

The song was actually created in a rather spontaneous manner, almost like a joke among Zevon and his collaborators, LeRoy Marinell and Waddy Wachtel. What started as a fun riff evolved into a hit song that still leaves an impression today.

“Werewolves of London” can be seen as a product of its time, but also timeless in its thematic relevance. It’s not merely a song about werewolves terrorizing London but a clever piece of social commentary. Zevon takes the myth of the werewolf, a creature traditionally seen as the epitome of untamed, animalistic behavior, and makes it walk through the streets of London, dine at high-end places, and even have ‘perfect’ hair.

In short, Zevon brings the werewolf into civilization to challenge us, to ask what makes us civilized at all. He wraps this profound question in a catchy, humorous package, making “Werewolves of London” a compelling listen, as well as a thought-provoking piece of art.