Pour one out for the Cat & Fiddle -- another pub lost in the Southland

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 20, 2014 03:54pm | Post a Comment
Somewhere I don't want to be

If in the bar of your dreams every centimeter of wall (and ceiling) space is covered with banks of televisions flashing seizure-inducing commercials unblinkingly stared at by backwards-capped man-children guzzling plastic pitchers of thin macrobrew between failed attempts to scream over the top of deafening sports commentary, then you’re in luck because there are still about 2,000 places that fit that bill in Hollywood alone. If you enjoy waiting 45 minutes for a man dressed as a 19th century Canadian lumberjack to rub a mason jar with the entire contents of a spice rack then you're similarly set. 

Ooohhh, Ladyboys!

On the other hand, if the happy haze of your drunken hour involves sitting in a cozy corner, enjoying a round of ladyboys and perhaps playing a game of darts (or pool, skittles, dominoes, cards, or trivia) --  then you’re going to have to either broaden your horizons or let your dream die because sadly, The Cat & Fiddle is closing on 15 December after 32 years in business -- and English pubs in the Southland are becoming rarer than rain during a superdrought.

If you're able to travel, you can visit pubs not just in the UK and Ireland but (I'm told, because I'm not able to travel) Australia, Canada, New England, New Zealand, and South Africa. Sadly, pub culture has never really taken root in the semi-arid soil of SoCal even though we generally welcome all non-natives. Sometimes you'll see a name like Pig N’ Whistle and wrongly assume that it belongs to a pub.  If you're less cautious, you might find yourself in a place like Dillon’s Irish Pub, where being a green-schemed Hooters rip-off with chilled Guinness on tap has apparently made the owners think that they're running a public house. 

Meanwhile, bikini bars, hostess clubs, izakayaspijiu wu and bodegas (not to mention coffee bars, lingerie cafes, and teahouses) all seem to be flourishing and I’ve enjoyed drinking at all of them (actually, I still find the hostess experience somewhat unnerving). I, for one, would rather be in a bar (with my head on the bar) and if it's at all possible, in a place where air smells of malt vinegar and scotch and the ambiance makes me feel like it’s raining outside -- since that's the next best thing to actual precipitation.  

Pubs aren’t the only drinking establishment that is threatened, it should be noted. Gay piano bars, saloons, and tiki bars, once covered the land but are now threatened. Pubs though are critically endangered -- just one notch above “extinct in the wild” and watching them close isn’t easy. Until 2011, I regularly passed afternoons inside Royal Claytons. They promised to re-open soon three years is as long as I hold my breath. Tom Bergin's in Miracle Mile closed in 2013 but thankfully re-opened. If you know Santa Monica you might assume that it’s a safe place for pubs but skyrocketing rents have driven much of that city’s English-American minority into exile. When they leave, Anglo-catering businesses do to, like Tudor House which closed in 2012 after 50 years in business. 

The Birds in The Deadly Bees (dir. Freddie Francis, 1967)

Hopefully the Cat & Fiddle will find a new home. The current location, after all, is not its first. When it opened in it was located up the hill in Laurel Canyon, near the Canyon Country Store. It was there opened in 1982 by Paula and Kim Gardner, who met one another in New Orleans where Paula was working at a clothing store called The Cocky Fox. Kim Gardner was a musician who played in Ashton, Gardner & Dyke, Badger, The Creation, Garwood Pickjon, and my favorites, The Birds. Sadly, he passed away in 2001 but Paula and her daughter Ashlee have continued to operate it mostly unchanged since for the thirteen years since and it was always a popular spot for Amoeba employees to find solace or even employment in at least one instance. 

Public Houses and gentrification have both been around since ancient rome and it is unlikely that either will vanish from this any time soon. Cat & Fiddle is reportedly being pushed out by their landlord (Jesse Shannon of Atlanta-based Branch Properties) who has found a tenant willing to pay thrice as much rent as the pub, which means we’ll probably get a soulless corporate chain or worse -- an urban taco fabricator. My fingers are crossed for something better but I also realize that crossing one’s fingers has never been effective at changing outcomes although I suppose a prayer to Saint Morrissey or the apostle Tim, both of whom I’ve seen relaxing in the beer garden, couldn’t hurt.

Meanwhile, if you like pubs it’s imperative that you donate to your local charity. There are the aforementioned Santa Monica pubs (The Britannia Pub, The Cock ’n’ Bull, The Daily PintO’Brien’s, and Ye Olde King’s Head), The Red Lion (a German gasthaus with pub-like atmosphere which not-coincidentally began as an English pub) in Silver Lake, The Tam O'Shanter in Atwater Village, Irish Times in Palms, The Whale and Ale in San Pedro, Lucky Baldwin's in Pasadena, Casey's in the Financial District. I haven't yet been to them but perhaps a mission to Molly Malone’s in Beverly Grove, The Fox & Hounds in Studio City, The Robin Hood in Sherman OaksTimmy Nolan’s in Toluca Lake, The Auld Dubliner or Murphy’s (both in Long Beach) is in order. Orange County, I'm told, is home to Durty Nelly’s and The Harp Inn in Costa Mesa, Muldoon’s in Newport Beach, Branagan’s in FullertonPatsy’s Irish Pub in Mission Viejo, and The Olde Ship British Pub & Restaurant with locations in both Fullerton and Santa Ana. If there are any decent pubs in the Southland, let me know and don't wait until they're gone to tell them that you love them!


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Happy Discovery Day -- Real Geographic Discoveries of the Modern Age

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 13, 2014 04:42pm | Post a Comment

I will not make the argument that Columbus's arrival in the New World was insignificant merely because he was an absolutely awful person or because he didn't actually discover anything (which he himself maintained, claiming until his death that he'd merely found a different route to Asia). But think about this before you dismiss -- before Columbus, avocado, bell peppers, blueberries, cashews, cassava root, chili peppers, chocolate, cocaine, gourds, maize, peanuts, pecans pineapples, pumpkins, squash, tobacco, tomatoes, and vanilla were all unknown in the Old World and alcohol, apples, bananas, barley, cheese, coffee, mango, onions, rice, tea, and turnips, and wheat were unknown in the Americas. Imagine an existence without any of those and you can hopefully begin to get a taste of the importance of the Columbian Exchange. Imagine Italian cuisine without tomato sauce or gnocchi and you can't help but wonder if this is why Columbus is so dear to many Italians. Imagine, on the other hand, genocide, slavery, and old world diseases and you'll understand why he's even more hated by many others. 

We all know now that Columbus wasn't the first European to visit the Americas either -- but neither was Leif Erikson. Europeans had been living in the North American territory of Greenland since sometime between 876 and 932 CE when Gunnbjorn Ulfsson was blown off course and sited the world's largest island. Around 978, Snæbjorn Galti was the probably first European to set food on Greenland but we rightly don't make a big deal out of that since there were already Inuits living there and before them, an earlier people who'd arrived and abandoned the country -- and that cultural exchange was by most measures, less impactful on the planet.

The Divine Comedy - "A Seafood Song"

Greenland, of course, is just as much a part of North America as are the Bahamas (where Columbus landed) as are the US and Canada -- or Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Clipperton Island, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curaçao, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Navassa Island, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Saba, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and United States Virgin Islands, for that matter.

Crime & the City Solution - "The Bride Ship"

The fact is that people have been exploring for roughly 1.8 million since Homo erectus first caught that ramblin' fever years ago and identifying the first European to do something is a silly pursuit. Exploration and adventuring, on the other hand, is vital and something done by all good people (and plenty of bad). Most of the inhabitable world was discovered in antiquity but in the post-Classical age, new lands were still being discovered by humans around the planet -- especially Arab, Austronesian, and European seafarers. In the 15th Century, the more isolated islands of the Atlantic were still being added to maps with some regularity and discovery of islands in the Arctic and Southern Oceans continued into the 20th Century. Here then is a look at some of the real discoveries of the modern age -- previously uninhabited lands just waiting for humans to despoil them.



Madeira (image source: World for Travel)

Madeira was first claimed by Portuguese sailors in the service of Infante D. Henrique in 1419, who were driven by storm to an island harbor which they called Porto Santo. Settlement of the island began in 1420 and by 1433 it was known as Ilha da Madeira.


Azorean chamaritta 

The Azores were known of in the 14th Century but humans didn't begin to colonize them until 1433. Before arriving, sheep were deposited to establish a food source for the colonists, who included Sephardic Jews, Moorish prisoners and African slaves, as well as Flemish, French, and Spanish colonists. Nowadays there are about a quarter of a million residents of the country.


Morna performed in the documentary Dix petits grains de terre

The volcanic islands of the Cape Verde archipelago were discovered by Italian and Portuguese navigators around 1456. The first settlement, founded in 1462, was the first European settlement in the tropics. Located off the coast of West Africa, Cape Verde's economy was predictably built on the back of the slave trade but the African population was joined by Jewish refugees from the Inquisition, as well as Dutch, French, British, Arabs, Chinese, Indians, Indonesians, and other settlers.

Vive les minets - French Dandyism in the 1960s

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 8, 2014 08:00pm | Post a Comment
As a fan of fashion, youth subculture, and the 1960s, at some point I was bound to be made aware of the French minet subculture. Obviously, since I'm writing about it, that momentous occasion has arrived at some point in my past. I can't remember when or where it occurred (the internet is a safe bet) but in the intervening years I've found very little about this stylish group. Compounding my frustration is the fact that what little that I have uncovered about minets is almost always written or recorded in French -- a language of which a month of skipping class at College les pins Castries did little to improve my command. The French Wikipedia (Wikipédia) is humorously blunt in its entry: un jeune homme vêtu à la mode, équivalent masculin de la minette. Last and least -- most of what has been written about minets in English is by writers discussing within the larger context of mod subculture -- a style tribe about which far too much is artlessly written and rehashed.

With that in mind, however, kindly allow me briefly add to the conversational clutter concerning mod, as its evolution is tied closely to that of the minet. Although today mod is often characterized as a mid-60s, working class subculture fueled by the holy trinity of amphetamines, scooters and soul music, it first appeared in the late 1950s when a largely middle class group of mostly Jewish teenagers with families in the clothing business and for whom the chosen drug was apparently coffee. Modernists, as they then to themselves referred, championed modern jazz over trad jazz (which was championed by the Acker Bilk-listening, bowler-hatted, beer-swilling, baggy sweater-and-duffle coated trads). Sharing their love of modern jazz were the beatniks, but their beardy, black, cultivated scruffiness was rejected in favor of the natty continental style associated with untouchable icons of French cool like Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon

The caffeinated coffee bar scene had sprung up in the London's Soho area and attracted skiffle fans, rock 'n' rollers, beatniks, trads, mods, and more. There were venues like Les Enfants Terrible, Le Macabre, Le Kilt, and La Poubelle which catered to a caffeinated clientele of French au pairs, expats, children of diplomats, students, tourists, and the Francophile Modernists, who adopted the custom of smoking Gauloises, the French cut hair style and Shetland wool cardigans paired with brushed or quilted bluejeans, white socks, and loafers (either tasseled or penny -- with a genuine American cent piece, of course). The English exposed the French, in turn, to a better class of pop music. 

The mod's French cousin first appeared in Paris around 1962, often lurking around Le Drugstore which despite its name, was more akin to a department store. It was supposedly the only place in France where one could keep up with the English music scene through editions of the now defunct weekly, Melody Maker. Perhaps more importantly, it was also open later than other businesses. 

Shortly after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, the American Ivy League look which had so distinguished him from his buttoned-up predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, proliferated on the campus of The American University of Paris. Madras or seersucker jackets were paired with pastel sweaters, oxford shirts, blue jeans, and shoes from English manufacturers like Church's and John Lobb. Suits, when worn, were snug and made of Harris Tweed, herringbone cheviot, hound's-tooth, or mohair. That same year Maurice Renoma opened his shop, Renoma, which was likely the first French boutique with the English-and-American-influenced minet aesthetic.

Seize millions de jeunes' mod expose

The Ivy League look was also influential on the mods over in the UK. In 1965, Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française were curious enough about mods to send a production crew to London where they filmed an episode of the series Seize millions de jeune, which aired in May. In October, the same series turned its sites to the minets. 

Seize millions de jeunes' minet expose

For mods, obscurity was prized and finding soul records that no one else had was rewarded with cultural capital. Americanophilia and Angolophila had long been present in French youth subcultures -- going back at least to the zazous of the swing era up to the yé-yés of the late 1950s (who were of course detested by the minets) and snobbery (ironically, since snobbishness is one of the stereotypes most commonly attributed to the French by Anglos) seems to have been less important. Not only did minets embrace mod groups like The Small Faces and The Who, but well-known British Invaders like The Moody Blues, The Pretty ThingsThe Spencer Davis Group, and The Yardbirds.

As with mods, the minets also championed American rhythm & blues, rock 'n' roll, and soul acts like Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Otis Redding, and Wilson Pickett -- who were heard in Europe via anti-authoritarian British pirate radio stations like Radio Caroline and Wonderful Radio London (both of which launched offshore in 1964) and the English language Radio Luxembourg. However, whereas most mods seemed only to appreciate mostly black American music and style icons, the minets were embraced the sunshine pop of The Association, the baroque pop of The Left Banke, and the garage rock of The Shadows of Knight. Approval was also granted to rebellious figures like James Dean and -- after he starred in 1966's The Wild Angels -- Peter Fonda

In May 1966, the American magazine, LIFE, ran a piece titled "Face It! -- Revolution in Male Clothes," the sartorially subversive subjects of which profiled men in the UK, the US, and France. Five months later, the first song which acknowledged the existence of the minets topped the French pop charts, Jacques Dutronc's "Les play boys." First Nino Ferrer, then Vignon (né Abdelghafour Mouhsine but sometimes referred to as "Le James Brown marocain"), and Michel Polnareff were among the few French pop singers rated by the minets before the dawn of Dutronc.

Dutronc was employed as a songwriter and artistic director at Disques Vogue, whose previous efforts to exploit subcultures included records by Dylan-inspired hippie, Antoine, modish Les Mods, and beatnik Benjamin. Rising above all silly subcultures was the magnificent Françoise Hardy, who would years later marry Dutronc. Benjamin had recorded the satirical, "Et moi, et moi, et moi," a collaboration between Dutronc and Jacques Lanzmann -- an established novelist, ex-boyfriend of Simone de Beauvoir, and future director of the epic holocaust documentary, ShoahUnsatisfied with the Benjamin's version, Dutronc gave the song a shot and it almost topped the charts. 

Dutronc's second single, "Les play boys," was released in October 1966 and the lyrics humorously acknowledged the minets with the lines:

J'ai pas peur des petits minets
Qui mangent leur ronron au Drugstore
Ils travaill'nt tout comme les castors
Ni avec leurs mains, ni avec leurs pieds

"Les play boys" resided at the top of the charts for six weeks and sold more than half a million copies and Dutronc become one of the few French musicians adopted by the mods. The two subcultures continued to convergently evolve and around 1967 a psychedelic foppishness began to undermine the dignified dandyism of both. Furthermore, the original stylists of both were becoming a bit old for  adolescent scene-dependent soul searching and group-derived displays of non-conformity.

Even as the scene lost its style steam the void left by the departing originals was filled by growing numbers of new, peacockish recruits. Catering to them were new hangouts in and around Saint-Germain-des-Prés including Carette, Le Club Pierre Charron, Le Mimi Pinson, Le New Store, Pub Renault, Le Relais de Chaillot, and Scoss. If maturation and domesticity claimed most of the original minets, more were led away by the events of Mai 68, the cultural effect of which was far more resounding than even the tunes of their 45s. 

The final generation of minets continued to dance dance dance at then-new clubs like Le Roméo Club Paris. When Jim Morrison and Pamela Courson moved to the Le Marais area of Paris in 1971, Courson frequently crossed the Seine with her dope-dealing chum, Count Jean de Breteuil, to hang out with the last minets at places like Brasserie Lipp, Cafe de Flore, and Les Deux Magots. Whilst I wouldn't want to be the first person to suggest that Morrison was inspired by minets, Courson was certainly aware of them and Morrison did seem to trade in his leathers for a preppier look. 

Jim, Alain and Pamela - 28 June, 1971, St Leu d'Esseurent (image credit: Alain Ronay)

The impact of the minet subculture seems to have mostly faded in the 1970s although the Japanese cityboy (シティーボーイ) trend of the late 1970s (associated with the magazine Popeye) similarly embraced a preppy yet anti-authoritarian bohemianism -- as does Free & Easy, which promotes the what they call the "rugged ivy" aesthetic (although few would argue that either are fully-fledged subcultures). In 1998, Franco-Teutonic band Stereo Total released a song "Les Minets" on their album, Juke-Box AlarmThe current preppie-but-not-peppy uniform of the Hipsterjugend - though uninspired in its execution -- is perhaps nevertheless in part inspired by the minets -- although that shouldn't be held against them (and one of their betters should tell those knaves to starch and tuck in their shirts). More clearly aspiring to minet revivalism are so-called Paris Mod Allnighters, with a flyer from one such event pictured here.

The little that I have found about minets which I can share is this short documentary, Les Minets du Champs, which is really just a short interview with former minet Bernard Bacos, who's one of the scene's only chroniclers of which I'm aware (check out his website, Paris 70). There is at least one written work, Christian Eudeline's Anti-yé-yé: Une autre histoire des sixties which I haven't read but has a nicely provocative title. 

Probably the highest profile look back at minet movement was La bande du drugstore, the debut film of writer/director François Armanet which I also haven't seen and has so far only been released on a PAL 2 DVD with French audio and no subtitles. That film also resulted in the release of a soundtrack available on CD, a format for which there are thankfully no region codes and which includes many of the aforementioned bands as well as the Autralian band The Easybeats, Sam & Dave, Cream, Little Esther Phillips, Sonny & Cher, Christophe, The Troggs, and The Full Spirits.


If you've got more information on minets, please let me know in the comments and... 

9 songs about cats

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 30, 2014 03:52pm | Post a Comment
Although LOLCat Bible literalists believe differently, people of science generally hold the view that 
cats first domesticated humans at least since 7500 BCE, when the inhabitants of a neolithic village on Cyprus gave a feline (not native to the island) a ceremonial burial. What we know call the domestic cat was more truly feral when it split off from the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica), much earlier, some 10,000 years ago. They likely enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with humans -- proving their usefulness to the Natufians of the Levant by preying on mice whilst ignoring (since they are obligate carnivores) the Natufians' mouse-attracting stores of grain. 

African wildcats in the wild (image source: Seasons in Africa)

Eventually cats moved were promoted from rodent catcher to household members and even divine beings. In Egypt cats were sacred and associated with the goddesses Isis, Mafdet (also spelled Maftet), and Bastet (also known as Baast, Ubaste, and Baset). The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that when a cat died, Egyptians would go into mourning, shaving their eyebrows to mark the loss of a family member. Cats were famously mummified and afforded dignified (by human standards) burials in Egypt. In 1888 a farmer discovered a tomb outside Beni Hasan which contained the mummies of about 80,000 cats (and some other animals). 
Neolithic grave with a human and a cat (left) and mummified Egyptian cats (right)

The reverence afforded to cats in ancient North Africa probably strikes most humans today as excessive and strange. However even the most insensitive amongst us usually react with repulsion, horror, and indignation when they learn that in places like Guangdong, Guangxi, Japan, Korea, Melmac, Mparntwe, Okinawa, Peru, Switzerlandcats have traditionally been eaten or used in medicine. It seems a bit rich to me when coming from people who think nothing of eating a fish, bird, cow, or pig.  

Room 8 

In placs where felines are off the menu they have inspired artists like the 9th Century Irish monk who wrote, "Pangur Bán," Gioachino Rossini, T.S. EliotSakiHiroyuki Morita. Although there were famous cats before the advent of the internet (e.g. Room 8 of Elysian Heights), it might appear to aliens observing our planet that it was invented to honor them -- the modern incarnation of feline worship passed down from ancient Egypt. Our modern pantheon includes Ceiling Cat, Happy Cat, Grumpy Cat, Hipster Kitty, Keyboard Cat, Lil Bub, Maru, Missy the CatNekopanNyan Cat, and Snoopybabe, to name but a few.

When I was a kid we had a couple of cats (Felicity and Lazuli)
 as well as numerous pet bantams, dogs, ferretsKhaki Campbellsmallards, parakeets, rabbits, and many varieties of fish. However, since I was sixteen I haven't had any proper pets until Alan Gudguy came to Pendersleigh. Alan is, I'm fairly certain, a Norwegian Forest Cat (or at least significantly part skogkatt). He's an early riser, has a large vocabulary of sounds, hates my cooking (his squints and mimed burials make Gordon Ramsay's culinary criticisms seem quite understated by comparison), and likes watching nature documentaries. For some reason he smells like labdanum, the resin obtained from several species of Mediterranean rockroses and used to make perfume. 

He's been exposed to quite a variety of music and from what I can tell, he's indifferent to it all with the exception of some experimental music and the guitar stylings of Speedy West -- both of which drive him insane. Trying to find something more to his liking I played for him the Jingle Cats singing "What Child is This?" and Takako Minekawa's song "Cat House," both of which were met with possibly exaggerated disinterest. 

This got me thinking about the best cat songs and I correctly assumed that many listicles would already clutter the internet although all that I've seen are better suited for the litter box. Too many (all that I've seen, really), are the apparent result of a quick Google search, fifteen minutes of work, and zero amount of thought or discretion. Obviously not EVERY song with the word "cat" in the title is worthy of either being thought of as a song about cats (e.g. "Cat's in the Cradle") and as far as I know, of Cat Butt, Cat Stevens, Los Gatos, Kitty WellsPussy Cat, Sally & the Alley Catsand Stray Cats, only the latter actually made songs about cats. 

Alan has since pushed this mug to its destruction :/

Furthermore, not all cat-inspired art is equal, the 1970s gave us two awful pop culture cats -- Heathcliff and later Garfield (although Garfield Minus Garfield brings tears to my eyes) and Paula Abdul's interspecies love affair with the coprophiliac MC Skat Kat celebrated in the song and video for "Opposites Attract" is surely more objectionable than the consumption of cat meat. Hopefully it's apparent that I've put a bit more work in this list of nine great songs about cats!

Alan the Dingus Gudguy in the SHU

Pink Floyd "Lucifer Sam" from the album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1968) 

Pink Floyd's debut, the only album with the visionary Syd Barrett, is that band's masterpiece. Although the song's slightly sinister surf rock guitar (a sound by then associated with super spies like James Bond) has helped make the song a staple at 60s revival clubs, the only album track released as a single was the lysergically transcendental "Flaming" (see also "Sing a song of eiderdowns"). "Lucifer Sam" was supposedly about Barrett's Siamese cat although it's not clear to me whether that was it's name since it was originally titled "Percy the Rat Catcher."

The Kinks - "Phenomenal Cat" from the album, The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968) 

There's the obvious double meaning of the so-called fat cat in The Kink's "Phenomenal Cat." However, Davies's sped-up vocals seem to represent those of a fictional, anthropomorphized feline. It's a short, slight song with appropriate whimsy and a nice late Small Faces vibe. 

Tyrannosaurus Rex - "Cat Black (The Wizard's Hat)" from the album, Unicorn (1969)

Deciphering the meaning behind any Marc Bolan composition is probably a fool's errand. Although he ostensibly sang in English, his lyrics almost always seemed to be glossolaliac. As Lawrence said of Bolan in Will Hodgkinson's book, Song Man: A Melodic Adventure, Or, My Single-minded Approach to Songwriting, "It's brilliant, but it can't have any meaning whatsoever. So words without meaning can be fantastic, but you have to have a creative and poetic mind to get away with it. When a band like Oasis do it, it's just plain bad." Morrissey wrote of Tyrannosaurus Rex in his autobiography that Bolan seemed to be singing "in Olde English -- incomprehensible to the modern ear." In other words, it could almost be aout anything or nothing but I'm including it in the list if simply because I like it so much. 

Al Stewart"Year of the Cat" from Year of the Cat (1976)

"Year of the Cat" might only indirectly be about an actual cat but again, it's so good that it has to be included. Scottish singer Al Stewart's lyrics actually concern a fling in an "exotic" country with a woman in a silk dress and waking up to find some of his possessions missing. A hint about the events' location can possibly be derived from the fact that, in the Vietnamese calendar, 11 February, 1975 to 30 January, 1976 (when the song was written) was the year of the cat. However, after its use in Hello Ladies, I still can't hear it and not imagine Stephen Merchant

The Cure"The Lovecats," a non-album single from 1983, later included on Japanese Whispers.

The Cure earlier sang of cats on 1981's somber dirge, "All Cats are Grey," its title an apparent reference to John Heywood's book of proverbs (1546) which includes the adage, 'When all candles be out, all cats be gray." Much more feline in its sound (complete with meowing guitars) is 1983's appropriately jazzy (because there's something undeniably jazzy about cats) "Lovecats."

Look Blue Go Purple - "Cactus Cat" from the EP, LBGPEP2 (1986) 

According to William T. Cox's 1910 work, Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods, the cactus cat is a nocturnal, spine-covered bobcat-like creature which feeds off the juice of cacti and lives in the deserts of the American southwest. Spending too much time in the desert does strange things. This legend apparently made its way to New Zealand, where Look Blue Go Purple penned this excellent ode to the cryptozoological creature.

The Vaselines - "Monster Pussy" from the album, Dum-Dum (1989) 

If the Vaselines are too believed, "Rory Rides Me Raw" is about an old bike that belonged to Frances McKee which had a "rough saddle" and was named Rory. Placing all faith in artists to accurately interpret and honestly explain the subtext and meaning of their work, we must then accept that "Monster Pussy" is about a cat that also belonged to Frances. 

Takako Minekawa - "Fantastic Cat" from the album, Roomic Cube (1996)

The first song I heard by Takako Minekawa might have been "Cat House" but I reckon that as far as her cat-related compositions go, "Fantastic Cat" has it beat, if only by a whisker. Roomic Cube was released in 1996, when the shibuya-kei scene was moving towards pico pop and it was the cavalier and carefree riposte to puffed up post-Grunge, New Lad, and Gangsta posturing. 

Girlfrendo - "Cat Heaven" 
from the album, Surprise! Surprise! It's Girlfrendo (1998) 

Gothenburg, Sweden
's Girlfrendo chose "Cat Heaven" as the only single off of their debut album. The cover of the single seems to depict a kitten on its back, mid-swipe. Even the lyrics reinforce the false dichotomy of cats and dogs and Alan likes to groom his canine cousins, he doesn't seem to mind... and since I'm now writing this from a standing position because he's pushed me off the chair in front of my desk and is taking a nap, I'll wrap it up now.

Honorable Mention:
Bent Fabric - “Alley Cat,"
 Johnny Cash - "Mean-Eyed Cat," Petula Clark - "Cat in the Window (The Bird in the Sky)," Stray Cats - "Stray Cat Strut," Deee-Lite“Pussycat Meow, and Primus “Tommy the Cat” 


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California Fool's Gold Episode Guide

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 23, 2014 08:33pm | Post a Comment

I thought that it might be useful to publish an "episode guide" of my California Fool's Gold pieces here on the Amoeblog. I've also been invited to speak about them for a class on diversity in Los Angeles at Emerson College so this goes out to the students in Professor Oliver's class. 

Sonic Youth - "Eric's Trip" (off Daydream Nation)

If you're a fan of this sort of thing (or you're just temporarily mesmerized by the computer screen in front of you) you might also enjoy my column over at KCET called Block By Block in which I explore our vast Southland without the use of a car whether by foot, bike, bus, train, subway, ferry or otherwise. As with Eric's Blog, Block By Block also often feature my maps which I create as Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography

Wire - "Map Ref. 41°N 93°W" (off 154)
When I explore a new community, I usually rely upon the vox populi which is why anyone may vote for what communities they'd like to become the subject of future articles by clicking here for Los Angeles neighborhoodshere for Los Angeles County communities, and here for Orange County communities. Check back occasionally for new episodes -- next up, if all goes according to plan, is Westlake

Billy J. Kramer with the DakotasTrains And Boats And Planes (off Trains And Boats And Planes)
If the reader wishes, they may also read brief introductions to all of the communities in the poll which are organized by regional primers corresponding to the 22 Kingdoms of the Southland:

Angeles ForestThe Antelope ValleyThe Channel IslandsDowntown Los AngelesThe EastsideThe HarborHollywoodThe Mideast SideMidtownNorth Orange County, Northeast Los AngelesNorthwest CountyThe Pomona ValleyThe San Fernando ValleyThe San Gabriel ValleyThe Santa Monica MountainsThe South Bay 
South Los Angeles's EastsideSouth Los Angeles's WestsideSouth Orange CountySoutheast Los Angeles CountyThe Verdugos
, and The Westside 

R.E.M. - "Maps & Legends" (off Fables of the Reconstruction
Season 1 (2007)

Granada Hills

Season 2 (2008)

San Marino
Morningside Circle

Season 3 (2009)

Elysian Valley
Yucca Corridor
Cypress Park
Wilshire Park
The Arts District
Canterbury Knolls
Little Osaka
Laurel Canyon

Season 4 (2010)

Longwood Highlands
Boyle Heights
Echo Park
Thai Town
Eagle Rock
Little Bangladesh
Rowland Heights
Silver Lake
Sherman Oaks
Little Ethiopia
Santa Ana
East Los Angeles
Monterey Park
Highland Park
Skid Row
Costa Mesa
Los Feliz
Garden Grove
Mar Vista
Angeleno Heights

Season 5 (2011)

South Pasadena
Long Beach
Historic Filipinotown
Huntington Beach
San Gabriel

Season 6 (2012)

Lincoln Heights
Mount Washington

Season 7 (2013)

El Monte
Santa Catalina Island
Laguna Beach
East Pasadena
Culver City
San Clemente
Chesterfield Square
Happy Valley
Monterey Hills
City Terrace
Hillside Vilage

Season 8 (2014)

University Hills
Rose Hill
North Hollywood
South Central
Little Seoul
Glassell Park 
Atwater Village
Terminal Island
Little Italy (San Diego)

Season 9 (2015)

Franklin Hills
Victor Heights


Tom Waits - "In the Neighborhood" (off Swordfishtrombones)


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