How Ted Nugent Hit His Commercial Stride on ‘Cat Scratch Fever’
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Ted Nugent‘s third solo album, the outrageous Cat Scratch Fever, was released in May 1977. The record is best known for its title track, which remains one of the Motor City Madman’s most beloved anthems (surpassed perhaps only by “Stranglehold“), but from the strutting “Death by Misadventure” to the Bo Diddley beat of “Live It Up” and the storming “Sweet Sally,” there’s plenty more to love on the album.
Nugent explained Fever‘s appeal in his typically restrained, modest manner during an InTheStudio radio special commemorating the album’s anniversary: “It’s not the cleanest, most in-tune recording of all time — which is its beauty. It’s raw, it’s a primal scream, it’s defiant, it’s irreverent — it’s the reason Les Paul electrified the damn guitar. It’s the reason Chuck Berry invented those rhythms … it didn’t fit any formula, we made a point of that — formulas are shot on site before they get anywhere near the perimeter.”
The album’s influence has revealed itself via younger generations of musicians in some pretty interesting ways. It’s side one-closing instrumental track, “Homebound,” was sampled by the Beastie Boys on the Check Your Head track “The Biz vs. the Nuge.” Well, to be more accurate, they played the first 30 seconds of the song one time while their friend Biz Markie sang on top of it. It’s entertaining, at least.
You want an even better measure of how influential Cat Scratch Fever is? A band, and a rather popular one at that, named themselves after a turn of a phrase from one of Nugent’s legendary pre-song rants, in this case introducing the album’s least subtle song, “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” — “This is a love song. I’d like to dedicate this to all that Nashville P—-.”
Cat Scratch Fever was the last album to feature Nugent’s original solo band, with vocalist Derek St. Holmes and bassist Rob Grange, who had featured so prominently on the guitarist’s first three albums, departing the group prior to the release of 1978’s Weekend Warriors.
Regardless, Nugent’s career and methodology were both firmly established: “I basically shoved guitar rock ‘n’ roll down the throat of U.S. radio. I said, ‘Hey, listen, by the way ladies and gentleman — this is what the rock ‘n’ roll people are digging. If you pass it up, you’re a chump!'”
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