Chiefs Culture Challenge: The Music from “Cats”
I’m scared about this one. Jason, for those of you who don’t know (likely everyone), is a musical maven. We’ve listened to tracks from Rent and Avenue Q and quite a few others on road trips, as Broadway soundtracks make up a good chunk of his iPod. So when JB told me to review the music from Cats, I figured he, as a musical aficionado, was a fan of it. Then he said he had never seen the play and didn’t understand why it ran for as long as it did. Oh. Well, here goes nothing…
Cats is the second-longest running play in Broadway history. It is also based off of a T.S. Eliot book, which makes sense in some other world. I do not recall anyone ever telling me they have seen Cats, however, despite its longevity. But my mom (it’s a good culture challenge when you defer to your mom for advice) told me the most famous song from the musical was titled Memory. We’ll start there…
Fun fact: Barry Manilow covered this song! Therefore, Jason would like it. It’s easy to see why this is the big show-stopper of the play – it’s sung from the vantage point of a person, er, cat, who seems to be reminiscing about the good old times. But that’s a universal theme of sorts, and this is a song that has no allusions to cats or feline life or nature.
Would Jason like this? Absolutely.
Next, there is a song on the right side of the page called “Rum Tug Tugger.” Obviously, I have to choose this next, because when else do you get to listen to a song called “Rum Tug Tugger”?
So this starts with a cat that looks like Mick Jagger jumping out and growling. He then dances like Mick Jagger. Here is the first stanza of the song:
“If you offer me pheasant I’d rather have grouse
If you put me in a house I would much prefer a flat
If you put me in a flat then I’d rather have a house
If you set me on a mouse then I only want a rat
If you set me on a rat then I’d rather chase a mouse”
I am continually told that the Rum Tum Tugger is a “curious” cat. Yep. Curious works. This is not particularly good-sounding, and it is hideous to look at.
Would Jason like this? About as much as eating a mouse.
Next, by randomly chosen on-the-side-of-YouTube selection: “Macavity: The Mystery Cat.”
This is a totally different sound from the Rum Tum Dum Dum Tugger Tailor Soldier Spy fellow…the previous one is an upbeat, electric guitar and horn-filled romp. Not good, but a romp. This is a slow-burning jazz-y spy-sounding theme. It has a neat instrumental sound behind it, and the singer is competent and less David Bowie-esque here. The song rhymes with “Macavity” with “gravity,” which surprisingly works. I feel sufficiently intrigued about the whereabouts and doings of this Macavity follow after this. Of course, none of makes sense outside of the musical, but it’s not that bad.
Would Jason like this? On a good day.
Next up, because I can’t believe this is a real title: “Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer.”
Really, do not adjust your computer screen. Those are words. (Or at least pretending to be.)
These two, I’m told in the lyrics, are notorious cats. There’s also a ridiculous British accent that’s employed by one or both of the cats at times. The tempo picks up after about sixty seconds – and so does the horrendous accent usage. And then it slows down after 30 seconds. What is happening here?
Would Jason like this? Oy, ah don’t ratfully thank so. Et’s blimey bloodey rubbish, et is.
OK, one more…”The Old Gumbie Cat.” Perhaps this is similar to “My Old Kentucky Home”, or “Old McDonald Had A Farm”, or the theme song from “Gumby.” Let’s hope it’s the latter.
Well, any hope of this blog post ending in a strong fashion is completely shot after the following opening lyrics:
“I have a Gumbie Cat in mind
Her name is Jennyanydots”
By the way, this is not sung in a wink-wink kind of tone…it is totally straight-faced and dramatic. Also, this video has 101 likes and 3 dislikes on YouTube. What are you doing, America? Oh, another profound lyric…
“She sits, and sits, and sits and sits!
And that’s what makes a Gumbie Cat…and that’s what makes a Gumbie Cat!”
Then a bunch of lady cats join in. I should mention that first part was sung by a man, which is the first time that’s happened in any of these songs. I really can’t listen to this one anymore. It’s quite bad.
Would Jason like this? Did Mitt Romney want to release his tax returns?
In summation, this was a better ratio than I expected: two songs that I enjoyed, three that I really did not. Now I don’t want to entirely bash the musical because of it, because I’m sure it all makes sense in a connected-story type of fashion. But let’s just say I won’t be clawing my way to the front of the line for Cats any time soon.
(Get it? Clawing? That was a joke. This is a statement of that fact.)
I’ve been a bit mean so far in the challenge, infiltrating Nic Cage and Rob Schneider on the world: so now I’ll play nice. Jason, your next task is to listen to perhaps my favorite album of all-time, and one from my favorite band: Oasis’ (What’s The Story?) Morning Glory. It’s part of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums Of All-Time (#376) and probably a top three album for anyone who lives in Great Britain. If you don’t like this one, I might work for free this year. (I say might because you went to law school, and I’m not taking any chances with that one.)
As always, shoot your ideas over. We want ’em. We need ’em. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com will do the trick.