ted could tour on just this album alone sweet sally, a thousand knives,death by misadventure,plus the mega hits cat scratch fever and wang dang sweet poontang. this album is the reason people even know what poontang is, thank you ted day is what this album deserves. if you don`t already own this it`s probably too late for you anyway
Submitted September 23, 2011
Tom Werman remembers the first time he heard Ted Nugent play “Cat Scratch Fever” in its entirety, during a concert at the Omni in Atlanta.
“I remember hearing it and sayin ‘Oh, thank God—Ted finally wrote a single,” says Werman, who had co-produced Nugent’s two previous multi-platinum albums, Ted Nugent and Free-For-All, and was preparing to work on the Cat Scratch Fever album. “I told my boss that we finally had a single from Ted, which everyone was always looking for.”
Indeed, the big smash hit was probably the only thing missing from Nugent’s oeuvre as he and his band started work on Cat Scratch Fever during early 1977. The quartet had accomplished so much in the previous year, including two hit albums of gonzo guitar rock—matched perhaps only by Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith for their furious energy and unbridled attitude—and a reputation as one of, if not the, hottest live bands on the planet (for testimony, see the two bonus tracks from a 1977 show at England’s Hammersmith Odeon included on this expanded edition of Cat Scratch Fever).
That, of course, isn’t surprising when your leader is a guy who arrives on stage via rope, Tarzan-style, stalks around in nothing but leather loincloths and plays with the ferocity of a hunter celebrating a kill, something Nugent did in abundance during those rare breaks from the group’s 300-night-a-year road habit.
Simply put, Nugent had established himself as the real deal, a bit of libidinous rock ‘n’ roll mania for fans who were being bombarded by disco on one side and by a plastic, faceless brand of rock that was dominating the radio on the other. But, he acknowledges, “I wasn’t a household name outside the music industry. We were still opening for Aerosmith and ZZ Top, or kind of co-headlining in a lot of areas. We made a lot of money, but we still weren’t the top dog, y’know?”
“Then ‘Cat Scratch’ was released, and forget it. Move over, rover; let Teddy take over. That was what did the trick.”
Indeed it would. “Cat Scratch Fever” became Nugent’s one and only Top 40 hit, peaking at No. 30 during the summer of 1977. The Cat Scratch Fever album, meanwhile, soared to No. 17 on the Billboard chart and became Nugent’s third consecutive million-seller. It’s still his best-seller to this day, and its success would make him rock’s top-grossing road attraction in 1977.
Nugent credits the Rolling Stones with providing the impetus that he turned into “Cat Scratch Fever,” the song. “It was kind of a metamorphosis of the ‘Satisfaction’ guitar lick combined with the original ‘Honky Tonk Women’ rhythm, he explains. “I could name you 100 licks that have the same basic pattern. But instead of using it as a subtle rhythm, like ‘Honky Tonk,’ I beasted it up a bit. It’s a direct response to the effect the amplifiers have on you when you get dangerously close to them—not just ringing in your ears but a real pummelling in your skull. It makes you play a certain way.”
The title, Nugent remembers, was drawn from an old medical journal his wife, an antiques collector, had picked up. “One of them pointed out the history of a disease called Cat Scratch Fever,” he says. “I’m notorious for shooting wild cats all the time around our place, but I never heard of this disease. It’s not unlike rabies, but it’s not as dangerous.”
“So I had that, and after coming up with that (guitar lick), it was one of those co-rhythmical confluences of life’s experiences. I said that’s gotta be ‘Cat Scratch Fever.’ ”
This was not something the American Medical Association might put in one of its journals, however-unless lyrics such as “I make a pussy purr with the stroke of my hand/They know they’re gettin’ it from me” suddenly become diagnostic terminology. No; as he’s wont to do, Nugent twisted “Cat Scratch Fever” into one of his federal come-hithers, the appropriate kickoff and theme-setter for the most sex-crazed of his albums.
“Hey, we had ‘Wang Dang Sweet Poontang’ on there; I don’t know how much over the border you can get than that,” Nugent notes. “I think there’s something very attractive about the savage, to both men and women. All men want to be the top of the pecking order cavemen, totally in control. And women want someone to take care of them and protect them. That’s the drive of mankind. There’s gazillion dollar marketing campaigns based on that—Super Bowls, sporting events, every car commercial. I don’t need a marketing team to tell me how to use that.”
Nugent also didn’t need outside voices telling him whether he could or couldn’t sing the song himself. But that became an issue during the sessions—so much so that those who felt Derek St. Holmes should sing it instead (virtually everyone involved, according to Nugent) called a meeting to persuade Nugent they were right. Nugent let them have their say and thanked them for their input.
“Then I said ‘If everybody is done now, we better get back to the studio, ‘cause I’ve got a song to sing,’ and I just got up and went back to the studio,” he remembers. “There was this gargantuan ‘harrumph’ from those in attendance, but, obviously, the rest is history. To this day, I consider that song the barometer of the perfect example of what my voice is best-suited for.”
Cat Scratch Fever is about more than one song, of course. Besides containing such Nugent staples as “Wang Dang...,” “Live It Up” (his customary salutation) and “Workin’ Hard, Playin’ Hard,” it also finds the group getting funky on “Death By Misadventure” and includes “Home Bound,” an instrumental that features some of the most sophisticated mood-shifting he ever laid on tape. Moreover, the Cat Scratch Fever album, with its shorter song lengths and plethora of hooks, is the tightest and most crafted of his celebrated first three albums, managing to sound punchy and polished without taking away any of the explosive grit that was Nugent’s stock in trade.
“Without question, the Cat Scratch Fever album was the best production,” Nugent says of the album, which was recorded in New York and London (and features Bad Company’s Boz Burrell on backing vocals for the title track). “It was Tom Werman and everybody buckling in, plugging into their hearts and souls in a united statement.”
It would be the last time this happened with this particular aggregate of the Ted Nugent band, too. During the 1977-78 tour, the disagreements between Nugent and St. Holmes in particular turned downright hostile, escalating into full-blown fisticuffs in front of a room full of label executives.
“That severed the tie right there,” says St. Holmes, who was convinced by manager David Krebs to stay on. “We mellowed it out, but he didn’t like me from then on, and I didn’t like him. We just bit our tongues and got on with the touring.” But after the group’s March 18, 1978 performance at the California Jam II, St. Holmes and bassist Rob De Lagrange left for good.
It brought the end to a crucial era of Nugent’s career, one that established him as a preeminent rock ‘n’ roll force with one of the most manic followings any artist could hope for. He would go on to more triumphs, and today he’s not only still making music but is also an outspoken environmentalist and a crusader for hunters rights.
And he also has a better perspective on what he experienced during 1977.
“I’m more aware and more cognizant of what that was now than I was all through the ‘70s,” Nugent says. “I was in such a whirlwind at the time, I didn’t grasp what was going on; I had my modus operandi, which was make records and play and raise a ruckus. Today I appreciate it more, just as an independent human being trying to make a statement—which I did then and still do now.”
–Gary Graff (an award-winning syndicated music journalist and Supervising Editor of the Music Hound Essential Album Guide series on Visible Ink Press)
Submitted December 04, 2009