Can we cut the shit and finally admit that maybe, just maybe, Ted Nugent doesn’t deserve the notoriety that he continues to receive some forty-plus years after he dodged his military obligation and chose to become “The Motor City Madman” instead?
The fact is that the Nuge hasn’t produced anything worthwhile in over thirty of those forty years, and his greatest accomplishment-Cat Scratch Fever-isn’t all that it’s stacked up to be.
Come to think of it, this record, and the two preceding it, are only a Ted Nugent solo record in name alone, as the large burst of creativity was just as much a product of the rest of his band as it was to his own compositional "prowess."
In fact, Nugent enjoyed the attention that Cat Scratch Fever provided him so much that he began acting like a complete asshole. And when he alienated himself so much, the talent left him, the hits stopped coming, his impact turned into caricature, and his political commentary began to outweigh anything else he composed in song.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at his chart performance and sales totals after Cat Scratch Fever. They are as slippery as the notion that trickle-down economics somehow can trigger a robust economy.
But let’s go back and take another look at his 1977 high-water mark, a blistering 10-song set that features fellow Michigan-native Derek St. Holmes as the lead singer of a band fronted by a hairy dude in a loincloth, playing a big ol’ Gibson Birdland.
Originally written by Skunk Tarver, “Cat Scratch Fever” is a strange, minor-key ode to promiscuity and the effects of syphilis on the male mind. To study the title track of Ted’s most notorious song is to squander its precious moment: a riff that is to die for. When you combine the riff along with chorus, essentially a lather-rinse-repeat of the song title, you have a legitimate contender for one of rock ‘n roll’s most awesome songs, even if the content and actual lyrics are completely inane.
Beyond that, the rest of Cat Scratch Fever the album in nothing more than a decent 70’s hard rock collection that undoubtedly served its purpose in every Monte Carlo that cruised Main Street on a Saturday night, but it’s hardly a song that defines the decade or the emotional triggers that stemmed from it. It’s is the musical equivalent of a one night stand, an evening where the parties remember each other’s names for prosperity, but with no emotional connection beyond the orgasm (read: riff), “Cat Scratch Fever” is not the kind of song you’d plan as a wedding song.
Leave it to the Nuge to top this with a song that’s so offensively awesome that it too deserves a tip of the hat to old Ted, “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang.” Again, it’s the riff that matters here, and with the lyricist being sort of a dumb witted misogynist, you tend to allow a wide-birth for the fact that it’s essentially a song about how the female reproductive system can make men do (and write) some pretty stupid things.
These two moments of flawed perfection were released as a single, and even with the content being so questionable, Ted managed to score his only Top 40 hit, sans Damn Yankees, of course.
And if it weren’t for the fact that “Cat Scratch Fever” the single contained a pointless edit that only shaved a half-minute off the album version’s running time, I might be inclined to suggest that everyone save their money and seek out just the single.
But there are a few more enjoyable tracks within the full-length, albeit all of them are riddled with clichés and endless machismo. What makes them the best thing in Uncle Ted’s discography is the fact that Cat Scratch Fever (as well as his debut and Free For All-both recommended for further listening) was the product of a band.
Regardless of the fact that Ted’s name is the primary composer on nearly every song, it doesn’t deter from the fact that these songs were conceived, arranged, and executed with three other men who compliment Nugent’s shortcomings.
When vocalist Derek St. Holmes left (the bassist and drummer followed shortly after), Ted was left to his own isolationist views, taking a “my way or the highway” approach that signaled a serious loss in quality while promoting his asshole opinions ahead of anything he could manage to strangle from his guitar.
A waste of talent for sure, but Cat Scratch Fever also shows that it was nothing more than a mid-level entry to a very prolific decade, particularly when it came to hard rock entries. It is Nugent’s most notable moment, but given his endless parade of political nonsense and a mouth as loud as any humbucker pickup, listeners who want to distance themselves from any contact with the record’s primary creative force will not be missing much by placing Cat Scratch Fever into quarantine.