Our Halloween horror video this year has its origins in the arrival chez Steyn of a new member of the family - Marvin the cat (at right, dipping into some of his favorite books). He came into my life last year at a rather dark and depressing time for me - and after a similar period, I gather, for him, as a stray on the mean streets. But he is a friendly and loving fellow, and, as time passed, in our daily interactions he taught me a lot about what's really important in life - cream, fish, a favorite window that catches the sun, and ripping the guts out of the occasional mouse.
Generally speaking, when I'm pottering about, I hum and whistle and sing about whatever's to hand - if there's a moon, I hum "Moonlight Becomes You"; when I was in Sweden the other week, I found myself whistling early Abba ("Honey Honey" and "Ring Ring"); etc. So, with Marvin the cat, I started lapsing into cat songs - "Ev'rybody Wants to be a Cat", "Cat Scratch Fever", "The Cat Came Back"...
And then it occurred to me that there were rather a lot of good cat songs, certainly when compared to dog songs ("Old Shep", :How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?"), and that Marvin seemed to be enjoying them. So I thought I'd put some of them down on record - that's me and Marvin on the cover, commiserating at the end of a long night. There are songs about prowling the alley after dark, chasing the cute kitty next door; there's a feline dance craze, and Rossini's Cats' Duet transformed into a samba. But, when you do an album of cat songs, there are certain ones that everyone expects you to have - and "I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat", beloved by three generations of Looney Tunes fans, certainly falls into that category.
The only problem was I couldn't think of any way to do it. I mean, Tweety and Sylvester are great, but I didn't want to attempt a third-rate Mel Blanc impression, thufferin' thucotash. And yet there didn't seem to be any other way to sing the number. And then one day I chanced to be in the car tootling around and twiddling the radio dial and, from out of nowhere, the Police song "Every Breath You Take" came on. And, listening to the famous guitar intro, I suddenly thought: "Wait a minute! This is 'I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat'!"
And so I airily said to Kevin Amos, peerless musical director, let's do "I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat" in the style of "Every Breath You Take". And, instead of hurling the piano stool at me, he came up with a cracking arrangement, including the Looney Tunes theme rendered on electric guitar by Pete Callard and spooky backing-vocal interjections by Emma, Jan and Alison. There's also a special appearance right at the end by David Porter-Thomas from the English National Opera.
So, after doing Looney Tunes Sting-style, I figured I might as well make an Eighties rock video to go along with it. We hope you enjoy it:
In a strange way, it's also a footnote to our Sinatra Century series. "I Taut I Taw A Puddy Tat" was written by Warren Foster, a stalwart of the Warner Bros cartoon division, and two men very familiar to Sinatra fans: Alan Livingston, the brother of Jay Livingston (composer of "Buttons And Bows", "Que Sera, Sera", etc), was the record company exec who signed Frank to Capitol and ushered in the singer's golden age; and Billy May was the arranger of some of Sinatra's best albums, including Come Fly With Me and Come Dance With Me. What Billy would have made of my rocky version of his most successful composition, I cannot say, but I think it would have brought a smile to his face.
At any rate, I thank my beautiful cat Marvin, without whose encouragement it would never have occurred to me to go anywhere near this song. The album - Feline Groovy: Songs for Swingin' Cats - will be released in a few weeks, but is exclusively available for pre-order right now.