Werewolves of Kid Rock

Skynyrd, sure, but don't forget Warren Zevon.

Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” looks like the monster summer hit of 2008. In today’s compartmentalized market for pop music, this song is big in a lot of compartments. The lyrics reminisce about a summer when he was young, and the girlfriend he had then, and how they would all sing “Sweet Home Alabama” a lot. Like “Sweet Home Alabama,” the song’s chords are half a bar of D, half a bar of C, and a bar of G, repeated with no variation throughout the song’s verses, choruses, and solo, with no bridge to break it up the pattern. Mr. Rock works in a lot of backing vocals and lead guitar lines from the Lynyrd Skynyrd hit, and because “Sweet Home Alabama” still gets plenty of airplay on country and classic rock stations, even young kids get the reference. There’s a key reference they don’t get, though. The first time I heard the opening of “All Summer Long” on the radio, I said to my daughter “Cool! Someone’s covered ‘Werewolves of London’!” I was wrong, but not far off.

If you’re not familiar with the late Warren Zevon, I could compare him to Randy Newman or Nilsson, two more LA songwriters with a cynical sense of humor whose greatest commercial success as songwriters were more well-known artists' versions of their songs—in Zevon’s case, Linda Ronstadt’s version of “Poor Pitiful Me.” (Be thankful that Newman is still with us.) Not only does “Werewolves of London” do that same D-C-G thing throughout, but the piano part that kicks off “All Summer Long” is clearly a copy of Zevon’s, if not a sample. When I pulled out my vinyl copy of Excitable Boy and played it for my daughters, they acted blasé about the resemblance, but teenagers are good at that. Make the comparison yourself, even if you only listen to the first 10 seconds of Werewolves of London and All Summer Long:


Kid Rock always seemed to straddle multiple cultures with a grin and a wink; I’ll take this juxtaposition as one more wink.

Update: my brother pointed out that Rock did the right thing, spreading the publishing around to all the authors of both songs—even the great LA session guitarist Waddy Wachtel.

8 Comments

By James Lynch III on September 1, 2008 12:44 PM

I think he’s acknowledged sampling both tunes… but I can’t help but think this is a totally crass way to get a hit in this f-ed up music marketplace

By Danny on September 1, 2008 2:52 PM

I listened to Zevon all the way through (an old fave, hadn’t seen the vid). Watched 30 seconds of Kid Rock, stopped it and listened to Zevon again. Now I’m off to youtube to find the Skynyrd thing. Must be getting old…

By Danny on September 1, 2008 3:39 PM

“don’t forger Warren Zevon” - typo or intentional?

By Peter on September 1, 2008 3:59 PM

I just heard it for the first time and remarked “Wow, sampling werewolves. Pretty clever.” And then I was informed I was ‘out of the loop’ and it was Skynyrd. Same freaking key. Look for lazy mashups coming soon.

By Bob DuCharme on September 1, 2008 4:20 PM

Danny: it was a typo, and I’ve corrected it. Copying one instrument’s licks from one use of a tried-and-true chord progression isn’t forgery. (Thanks for pointing it out.)

Jim: sampling Zevon, or Skynyrd, isn’t a way to get a hit. You need more ingredients than that, and “All Summer Long” has them.\

By Tim Horrigan on September 1, 2008 5:52 PM

Hmm, I wonder if Warren Zevon was consciously referencing the riff of the original “Sweet Home Alabama” in “Werewolves of London.”

BTW, even those two songs are classics, I think Kid Rock’s mashup is an improvement on both of them. And I speak as someone who is not that a big fan of his :-)

Kid Rock rips hooks from other 70s and 80s artists as well… the drum sound is straight from the Ramones' cover of “Time Has Come Today,” the vocal harmonies from Madonna’s “Like a Prayer”, some of the guitar riffs are from “Blue Skies” by the Allman Brothers and others are from “Tumbling Dice” and other Rolling Stones classics.

By Rob Koberg on September 1, 2008 7:34 PM

The Dead covered ‘Werewolves of London’ often (I saw them do it in London :) Best cover of a Warren Zevon song is Dwight Yoakum’s version of Carmelita.

By Bob DuCharme on September 2, 2008 12:15 PM

Tim: tough points to prove.