Cats versus dogs, I’ve had both, but as a traveller it’s hard to have either. I’m not sure we need to choose, I mean budgie or parrot, snake or axolotl, spider or stick insect, goldfish or rabbit. Animal preferences might be based on whether you are trying to build a relationship? It’s pretty hard to build a relationship with a goldfish, but then I see people in the park talking to their dogs as if they were small children, “Why did you do that? What’s the matter with you? You know that’s not allowed”. The dog cowers in shame and that response is seen as “I’m sorry, you’re right”. So I guess this means that unlike the goldfish the dog responds to your tone of voice and that’s a relationship, shouting at the goldfish doesn’t make them obedient, feel shame or love you more for exposing their mistakes.
The other day I was walking up to Dare’s house and saw this most beautiful cat. It was so beautiful that I took a photo on my phone to show Olivia. Today we were both walking up to Dare’s and Olivia said ‘look there’s that cat you took a picture of’. We walked over only to discover that there were two of them. It turns out that they are Bengal cats. Interesting breed, originally a mix of a wild Asian Leopard Cat and the domestic Spotted Egyptian Mau. Bengals are smart, playful, like water and have some genetic problems with their hearts, issues with red blood cells and retinal atrophy but beautiful. They are expensive too, maybe $2000 in the US where they are also restricted for breeding as there are issues about the breeding of wild and domesticated animals, but they sure are beautiful.
The whole idea of cross-breeding animals is born of a strange desire, humans experimenting with other creatures. What’s the story with Pugs and their breathing? When someone asked what would happen if you bred a Corgi with an Alsatian and tried it, I wonder if they also wondered about breeding a cow with a sheep, and did they try it? Genetic experiments are a dodgy concept, aren’t they? If you breed a female horse with a male donkey you get a mule, if you breed a male horse with a female donkey you get a hinny. A mule and a hinny have subtle differences but can be male or female. And if you are interested, a horse has 64 chromosomes and a donkey 62 chromosomes, a mule/hinny has 63 chromosomes and therefore cannot reproduce. That might be nature’s way of saying, ok, stop already!
When I was a child before we moved to Liverpool I lived in the country near Glossop with views of the Southern end of the Pennines (a mountain range), this area is known as the Peak District, despite its lack of peaks. We could see the highest (Kinder Scout) from our front porch, our house was even called Kinder View. We had an acre of ground and lots of animals: hens, four geese and ducks. The hens didn’t have names, neither did the ducks, but for some reason the geese did, one was called Arthur another Winnie, I can’t remember the names of the others, but it seems we give certain animals personalities and we love them, others we see as food, but most interestingly there’s other animals we see as without any personality at all and are certainly not thought of as food. Why the goose and not the hen? (It sounds like a book by Alain de Botton.) What exactly are vermin? Is your pet hamster vermin? Would it be if it hung out with rats? It’s hard to see the personality in a slug. We also had a cat called Blackie, a dog called Butch, a budgie and a rabbit (I forgot their names too, but they did have them). I remember the day we had to put Butch to sleep, I must have been eight or nine years old. They put a needle in his paw and I remember him looking up at me before he closed his eyes, rested his head on his paws and fell asleep.
So is it about our idea of intelligence and/or beauty? They say that pigs are extremely intelligent, but are they just not beautiful enough? They say (who are they?) that Afghan Hounds are not that smart, but they are really beautiful. Sheepdogs seem to be so smart, faithful, obedient, easy to train, a working dog (like gun dogs), lovely faces and coat, a highly regarded member of the family. Pigeons can apparently recognize faces (they say) and yet there is a certain disdain for them despite their higher level of skills, probably smarter than a beautiful Robin Redbreast, but you’d never let your kid terrorize a family of robins. This video of a crow is certainly food for thought:
Music today has been cat heavy and I started with Cat Power and The Covers Record (2000). I hear people love her, but I haven’t seen it yet. I’m told that the previous album, Moon Pix (1998), is the album to listen to. This very sparse and simple album of mostly unknown covers sounds very much like it needs to be experienced live, it needs her legendary live emotional outbursts.
Cat make the Partridge Family sound like Pantera. I picked this 1972 album up somewhere in America, I don’t remember where or when, I will have bought it purely because they were called Cat. They are Canadian, formed in 1968 and they are one of those bands that are too middle of the road to be understood from the future unless you were living in the North East of the US or in Canada in 1972 where they might have been on the gig circuit. It’s interesting how bands can be regionally massive, like Head East, big in the Midwest and the South, or Michael Quatro, big in Michigan (brother of Patti who was in latter-day Fanny and Suzi who sold 55 million records worldwide). 55 Million? Really?
On a slight tangent, The Jam fared better in England than in America (obviously you say), and yet Morrissey seems to be really big in America, what’s the difference with these quintessentially English groups? You think America would like the rockier Jam more than the fey Morrissey. In the seventies The Kinks killed it in America and struggled in the UK and what’s more English than The Kinks?
Next came two Cat Stevens albums, Tea For The Tillerman (1970) and Teaser And The Firecat (1971). Some lovely songs on these two albums, Father And Son, Wild World, Where Do The Children Play?, the over-played Peace Train, Morning Has Broken and Moonshadow, Sad Lisa, Tuesday’s Dead. It’s that tone in his voice and his sincerity, can anyone get away with being so sincere these days?
Def Leppard’s Hysteria (1987) with its ridiculous lyrics is a ‘guilty’ pleasure, the tunes, the riffs, those lovely fluffy-haired Sheffield lads, the Queen-inspired harmonies. Then there’s the crazy story of drummer Rick Allen losing his arm in a car accident, incidentally on the Snake Pass (in the Pennines). Apparently a nurse was passing, saved his life if not his arm.
I met Slim Jim Phantom, drummer from The Stray Cats, once in LA when I was hanging out with my mate Jay Aston from Gene Loves Jezebel. What a lovely guy he was too, you can see why Britt Ekland married him (ha ha). Incidentally the famous record store I worked at in Stockholm, Pet Sounds, was started as a partnership between the present owner and Britt Ekland’s brother. I don’t know if you remember but there was a hell of a hoo-ha when The Stray Cats appeared on the scene – in England. Their debut album, produced by Dave Edmunds, went into the Top 10 and their second album Gonna Ball, both released in 1981, went Platinum. The first American album, Built for Speed (1982), was a compilation of the first two UK albums. Their success seemed odd to me because they were, well, so Rockabilly. I couldn’t figure out why the world would want them even if they were good as their fans said they were, because their style was not considered mainstream. Perhaps it was because they weren’t really like other things, you never know if complying with or bucking the trend is going to work. They went on to sell Gold and Platinum albums in America over their initial five years together.
Song Of The Day is Ravens from All About Eve’s Touched By Jesus (1991). The song had me playing the mandolin and is in honour of that clever crow in the video.
Late last night, about a quarter to twelve
In the middle of an awful storm
I took fright at the terrible sight
Of a raven flying into my room
My blood ran cold, my heart stood still
As I pulled the covers over my head
A minute dragged by as I opened my eyes up
To find her at the end of my bed
Then she spoke in a devilish croak
About herself being one of a score
And I felt sick at the very idea
Of dealing with nineteen more
She said, “look out your window”
I see a skyfull, I pull a rifle on them all
Pink sunrise in the wintry skies
All warm on the wings of a dove
She sinks and lands on the back of my hand
And sings with the voice of love…
“Thoughts made flesh can be beautiful things
As I am one of the same
Fed so well on the best of your dreams
And the beauty found within
But those black beasts that you see in the east
Are scratching on the orchard floor
At split, sweet fruits and the writhing worms
That you keep behind the straining door
Go to the cellar!
I see the beasts and they’re eating
Feasting on it
Fill my head with small white flowers
Help the sweetness heal the sour
Draw on high religious power
Free the ravens from the tower
(Cousin, Price, Regan, Willson-Piper)
All About Eve – Touched By Jesus (1991)