Many of your letters this week dealt with one of the most stunning and unexpected developments in recent months. No, not the midterm elections (we'll get to your mail on that in the days ahead), but my recording of Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever". Ted himself enjoyed it:
The great Czar of commonsense Mark Steyn nails the soulfullness of my classic song! God I love this shit! Worth listening to all the way. Killer band! Killer arrangement! Killer attitude!
The great Dennis Miller agreed. As he said on the radio last week:
Mark Steyn singing Ted Nugent. It doesn't get any better than that.
But not everyone felt the same way. Down Under, at The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, one of Tim Blair's readers commented:
Steyn should be regularly beaten with a cabbage after that horrendous version of an all time classic rock song. That's the first time I've ever heard a song raped.
Great. I am to music what Jian Ghomeshi is to wannabe CBC production trainees.
Well, we got a lot of correspondence on that and related topics, so herewith a musical mailbox. Longtime correspondent Angie Sharp is in the same camp as that Aussie listener:
Holy mother of gawd!
Had that song been written by anybody else but Nugent, you would've been cited for a hate crime.
Well, as Bill Bennett said on the radio after playing "A Marshmallow World", "That's what he should have been taken to the Human Rights Commission for." If it's any consolation to Angie, things could have been a whole lot worse:
I enjoyed your rendition of "Cat Scratch Fever", but in your preamble you missed out the most interesting piece of trivia regarding the song: that it was ripped off by The Replacements for their vastly superior "Gary's Got A Boner".
Cole Porter it ain't, but I think it has a certain charm.
Dunno 'bout that, but I might do a cover of "Bjorn's Got A Volvo" after this high praise from Scandinavia:
Cool to sing Cat scratch fever!
Please give Mark five thumbs up from Sweden!
Thanks for being the voice of reason and common sense in a world gone mad.
One of the nicest notes I received came from an unexpected source, my old pal Barbara Simpson, the Babe in the Bunker whose show in San Francisco I used to enjoy doing so much:
LOVE your version of Cat Scratch Fever - - it's a favorite of mine and your version is great - - by far, better than most!
Which is very generous of Barbara, but puzzling. As I recall, in contrast to every other talk-show, which opens with "Eye Of The Tiger" sideways, Barbara's theme music was Benny Goodman. Which I always thought was super-cool. So I don't associate her with the Nuge. Maybe she could compromise and use my version of "Cat Scratch"...
Great take on 'Cat Scratch Fever.' How'd you do it? Sampling those horn riffs or did you record 'em live? No matter, it sound great and that's what counts.
I recommend Lester Bangs' 'Psychotic Reactions And Carburettor Dung' very highly. Lester was a great writer on the verge of perhaps doing something great until, oops, made a mess of the cough medicine and painkillers. Get that book, read it aloud to friends ('I saw God and/or Tangerine Dream', f'rinstance) and fall about laughing.
I'm gonna do that right now. I've more to write, but laughing is more important. Leave you with this, friends of mine went on a rock and roll tour of the USA some years ago and visited Ted Nugent's ranch and were most chuffed to meet Ted working at the front desk. You won't meet Tom Morello that easily.
I'm not sure I even know what "sampling" is. That was Russell Bennett playing his trumpet solo live. I was watching him in such stunned amazement I nearly missed my cue. Howard McGill and Nick Mills on the saxes, Tim Smart on trombone, lot of flesh-and-blood guys on that track. Russ is a useful guy to have in the studio. At one point in that session, Tim had some fiendish solo to play that required the cup mute but didn't leave him a spare hand to hold it with. So Russ stood behind him waggling the mute leaving Tim looking from the front like some Vishnu trombonist out of a Bollywood finale. Can't do that with "sampling". Jim Parsons adds:
The bass line and drums really make your version work... great trumpet work too of course, just nice arranging all the way around. Now I keep hearing you do "Stray Cat Strut" by the Stray Cats, in keeping with the theme.
That's Beth Symmons and Mike Smith on bass and drums. And Jim isn't the only one proposing rockin' covers for your showtune boy:
Oh boy, I just listened to Cat Scratch Fever as done by Mark Steyn. My Halloween is now complete!
Mark, darling, won't you now do a nice, poppy version of Def Leppard's Pour Some Sugar on Me?
I'd consider it, but, as Richard Campbell points out, a fellow Canadian beat me to the punch:
Did you ever hear or write about Paul Anka's Rock Swings?
I love his version of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun".
Cheers, Richard Campbell
North Caldwell, New Jersey
Agreed. Paul Anka was one of the very first celebrities I ever met, when I was 18 years old and went to apply for a job at CITY-TV in Toronto. Didn't get one, but I did bump into Mr Anka in the lobby. Very friendly.
As for the rest of our Halloween podcast, James Ord would like a bit more period charm:
Great job on "Cat Scratch Fever", and well deserving of Mr Nugent's encomium!
I do wonder, however, why in your introduction as you cycled through a few seasonal songs and introduced 'You do Something to Me' as by Cole Porter from 1928 you used what I took to be an extract from Cranky Franky from the 1950s. I defer to your knowledge musical, but the juxtaposition of '1928' with the 'cool cat' '50s sound was quite jarring. Although not 1928, wouldn't Marlene Dietrich's 1939 recording (with Victor Young and his Orchestra) have been more in keeping with the feel and texture of 1928? I mention this recording only because I have a copy and am familiar with it and not anything earlier.
More broadly, would you give any thought to doing a feature on Dietrich (or other sirens like her, either of song or screen)? Perhaps a series on the slow decline from the ironic, knowing and womanly seductiveness of the pre-War 'femmes fatales' such as Dietrich et al., through the immediate post-War more girlish 'sex kittens' such as Monroe (sorry a singer's name does not spring immediately to mind; Julie London is perhaps not the best example of a 'kitten') et al., to today's empty pump-and-grind robots such as Miley Cyrus would fit in with your larger theme of apocalyptic cultural catastrophe and could be an interesting cross-over.
Anyway, just a thought.
Our other Halloween song was not sung by me because Sinatra had the first and last word on it:
Just read your Post on Cy Coleman's and Carolyn Leigh's "Witchcraft".
I always enjoy your take and background on songs from a simpler age.
Although I thought you might have given a brief mention in the piece on a song from a more contemporary time: "Witchy Woman" – The Eagles.
BTW: Can't wait for the Trial of the Century to begin. Hopefully it will be this century...
A friend of "Witchcraft"s co-author, Carolyn Leigh, writes:
Ah how nice. I knew Carolyn in the early 80's and eventually was invited to her memorial concert. Among two of my favorite of her songs are "I walk a little faster" and the melodically tricky "You fascinate me so." Assume you know both.
Delighted to see this tribute. Like your politics and your taste in music.
I love Carolyn Leigh's work. My friend Dorothée Berryman, who sings delightfully on The Mark Steyn Christmas Show and our Frank Loesser special, does my favorite versions of both those songs. Her vocal tone on "You Fascinate Me So" is just beautiful.
Carolyn Leigh died far too young, and I never knew her. But many years ago I spent a wonderful evening with her sister June at her place north of New York, discussing Carolyn and her songs till two in the morning. She's one of Dorothée's and my desert-island lyricists.
Steve Schiff points out another bewitching song:
Hi Mark -
My favorite song along these lines is, by far, the Steve Lawrence version of the theme song from the TV show "Bewitched." Most people don't know the song even has lyrics, but it does, and I notice they're very similar to the Porter and Arlen/Mercer lyrics you quote in your article.
I love that Steve Lawrence version, and, if you ever saw Nora Ephron's ghastly big-screen version of Bewitched with Will Ferrell and Nicole Kidman, you'll know Steve's ring-a-ding record on the soundtrack was the only truly magical moment in the film. Chris Whelan liked it, too:
Regarding witch-themed lyrics, let's not forget Jack Keller's for the sitcom Bewitched-- though only Howard Greenfield's tune was used on the show. (I've always been partial to Steve Lawrence's version of the song.)
You've got me in your spell.
You know your craft so well.
Before I knew what you were doing,
I looked in your eyes.
That brand of woo that you've been brewin'
took me by surprise.
You witch, you witch!
One thing that's for sure,
that stuff you pitch,
just hasn't got a cure.
My heart was under lock and key, but somehow it got unhitched.
I never thought my heart could be had
But now I'm caught and I'm kind of glad
to be bewitched, bewitched.
By the way, Keller used to work for Don Kirshner and co-produced the Monkees' first album, which ties in with what you said this week about your comparing yourself to the Monkees wanting to be serious artists.
Our Song of the Week last week came from a couple of apocalyptic Steyn bestsellers ago, "It's The End Of The World As We Know It":
Even though the meter is different, I have always thought that R.E.M. was offering a tip-of-the-hat to T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men".:
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
Notice the three lines about the end of the world, and then a comment about said ending.
FWIW I would like to nominate Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" as the greatest poem ever written in English.
Whoa! Include me out on that last point. All kinds of fellows I'd take before that one: Shakespeare, Byron, Blake, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Andrew Marvell... Don't get me started.
My review of Mean Girls wasn't about music, but it did mention Janis Ian and described her as a one-hit wonder. An extraordinary number of Janis Ian fans wrote to point out that, in fact, she's a two-hit wonder - "Society's Child". Well, yes, but I think "At Seventeen" has lingered as the last word on a certain adolescent angst in a way that "Society's Child" hasn't, and that's certainly why Tina Fey used her name for that particular character. (My old friend Liz Robertson made a record of "At Seventeen" in the Eighties. She was at the time the eighth wife of Alan Jay Lerner, librettist of My Fair Lady, Gigi, Camelot et al, and heaven knows what Alan made of his missus warbling all Miss Ian's bum rhymes.) Anyway, Daniel Hollombe provides chapter and verse on the two-hit wonder:
I'm probably not going to be the only one who mails you about this, but Janis Ian had an earlier hit in 1967. She is one of two people (at least, that I can think of) who bear the interesting distinction of having two big hits eight years apart, the other one being Dobie Gray.
I'm not going to go into all the complicated details surrounding THIS  momentous tune, but I'll just say that it was produced by the "legendary" Shadow Morton...As a result, for obvious reasons, people frequently would call up radio stations and mistakenly ask to hear "I
Can't See You Anymore" by the Shangrilas. I'm certain you'll find the lyrics interesting, even if you don't fully appreciate all the complicated chord and tempo changes.
Finally, to return to the subject of swingin' the newer stuff, Michelle Blanchard writes:
Mark, there is a group of extremely talented young singers known as "Postmodern Jukebox" who take popular songs and redo them in different genres. Here is a jazz version of "All about that bass", which, I think, will charm even you.
I wish I'd thought of that. Since "All About That Bass" keeps coming up in my radio conversations with Hugh Hewitt and Michael Medved et al, I might as well reveal that the first time I heard that song I was tootling along in my motor car heading to the airport, and on the text display on the radio up popped the title. I assumed, as one does, that it was more likely to be a paean to the musical instrument than a song about the special of the day at her favorite restaurant. It never occurred to me that "bass" was a synonym for the female posterior, and, as Michael and I discussed on Friday, I'm not even sure it works anatomically. With the bottom dropping out of pop music, my son thinks I should try and get a piece of the action. He suggested I cover Meatloaf: "Butt Out Of Hell."
~Drop Steyn a line on his lawsuits or anything else at Mark's Mailbox. And to help his pushback against hockey-stick climate mullah Michael E Mann, please see here. There's a wide range of music discussed in The [Un]documented Mark Steyn, from Stephen Foster and Bob Dylan to Tamil and Irish rebel anthems - and royalties from the book go to help stick it to the Big Climate crowd, who also come in for some mockery in its pages. It's available in America from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, not to mention Costco, and from Indigo-Chapters, Amazon and McNally-Robinson in Canada. Or, for instant gratification, get it in eBook - in Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks.And, wherever you are on the planet, we're happy to ship you a personally autographed copy direct from the SteynOnline bookstore.
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