1978 was generally a pretty good year for lycanthropy. Warren Zevon had been one of the few Americans to crack through my then very Anglocentric and punky taste in music, with his shaggy west coast looks beguilingly betraying his in your face attitudes. "Werewolves of London" is arguably a pretty slight song, essentially repetitive and without a middle eight, relying almost totally on it's pounding piano motif, quirky lyric and howl-a-long chorus. Rely away, it worked and it still works for me. OK, it helped that I was a devotee of the Lon Chaneys, junior and senior, namechecked in the song, and who each played myriad mosnters in the black and whites. I had also been to Lee Ho Fook, the Chinese restaurant then a staple of the Sino-British food connection, with drying and seemingly decaying ducks hanging forlorn in the window, and more fried rice than you could ever eat. (Quick interweb check reveals it's still here, alarmingly, or reassuringly, as I swiftly add seemingly to the sentence ahead of this.) Some of the rest of the lyric was beyond me, but folklore has it that the perfect hair of the unknown be-tailored individual was some sly reference to James Taylor. (No, me neither.) What I didn't know, however was that the rhythm section on the song was Messrs Fleetwood and Mac(Vie). Here it is, anyway:
I was a convert, and bought up his live LP, Caught in the Fire, baffling and bemusing my friends with the other strange lyrical deviations of this innocent looking madman. Looks, I gather, perhaps enabled him to get away with much excitable behaviour in his real life, too, to all intents maybe a man not too nice to know, as drink consumed him, rather than the other way round. I have his biography on my shelf, waiting to be read, and it is said to be an uncomfortable read. Ironically it wasn't alcohol but tobacco, his other vice, that killed him, via lung cancer, in 2003, leaving a later legacy of songs a little more reflectful. But only a little.
My loyal reader, hi, Kenny, knows I am a lover of the cover, with a bad habit, expensive anyway, of hoovering up other versions of songs I like, so here is a scattering of those who have covered this paean to panmorphism. I offer you David Lindley , The Flamin' Groovies and even The Grateful Dead. Aficionados will note the date of the last performance. I guess you had to be there........