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When Cats Go Wrong













Taxi News, July 2003, p. 15
© Norm Hacking 2003

If I knew then what I know now, I may never have written "The Song." It was never my intention to become known as the "Catman" of folk music. It just kind of happened…

The story begins 20 years ago.

I'd gotten home from playing a late night gig at some downtown bar.

Having satisfied my thirst for music and single malt liquor, I was now parched for sleep.

As I lay beside my wife, tuning up for a night of Guinness Book of World Records snoring, my two cats appeared, wanting cat food.

They began an awkward "cat ballet" as, in turn, each one jumped over my face. They made sure to gently brush the tip of my nose on the way by.

This comical scenario went on for several minutes, 'til I resigned myself to the fact that I had two choices:
a) go to the 24 hour Mac's Milk to get cat food, or…
b) do something else.

So, I got up and wrote them a song.

The two furry criminals in question were: "Syd," 137 lbs. of orange street cat gone wrong and "The Flea," a little black kitten that looked like a flea that had jumped off Syd's back, when they stood "side by each."

At 4 a.m., in my living room, I played them the finished song, title simply, "Syd and The Flea," for their approval.

They were not impressed. They wanted tuna, not tunes. When I finished singing them their new song, they walked away shaking their heads.

I could have sworn I heard Syd mutter, "He's not coming back this time, is he?"

So, stuck with a song about my cats, I tried it out on an audience or two. Sure that this was a throw away song, I was puzzled at the exuberant response it elicited from my folksy listeners.

"Play the cat song" became the most frequently shouted request, and every effort on my part to retire the song from my repertoire proved futile.

Then, my manager at the time decided cat t-shirts were in order.

A kind and beautiful artist and friend, the late Liz Rock, arrived one day with a Polaroid camera, and Syd and The Flea did their first photo shoot!

From the photos, Liz created a couple of amazing caricatures of my feline super-stars, and soon we had people walking around wearing Syd and The Flea caricatures on their chests.

It was now too late to get out…

A second cat song was written, the premise being that now, with their newly found celebrity status, Syd and The Flea found themselves surrounded by an entourage of hangers on. The song was called "Cats Everywhere" and it made it on to the next Hacking CD, Skysongs. It had lines like:

"There's a cat on the piano
And a cat on the guitar
There's a cat in the driveway
Parking his car
There's a cat in the bathtub
Tryin' to get clean
There's a kitty cat message
On my answering machine
There's cats everywhere"

With an increasing demand for cat songs, Kirk Elliott and I got together and made an album titled, Orange Cats Make the Very Best Friends.

The result was truly amazing.

With no promotional budget whatsoever, Festival Distribution suddenly started ordering and re-ordering cat CDs, forcing an early second pressing.

The CD has remained on Festival's "top ten sellers" list for months now.

CBC has featured it on Vinyl Café, Fresh Air, Metro Morning and many other shows. At least one CBC promo voted it one of the top songs of the year.

And, I've appeared on a CBC interview, in which the on air host, Jeff Goodes, telephoned my new cat T-Pot to make sure she was listening to my interview!

So, roll me a catnip cigarette, give my whiskers a trim, and it's showtime!

"The couch is ripped and torn apart
The stuffing is pulled out
The litter box is empty
With the gravel strewn about
Everything's in disarray
It makes me grump and mutter
There's cat hair on the tablecloth
And tongue marks on the butter!
Life with a naughty kitty
Isn't very pretty
So I sing this mournful song
About when cats go wrong…"

- The Catman

P.S.  Norm's CDs Orange Cats, One Voice and Skysongs may be ordered from:  Festival Distribution, Inc., 1-800-633-8282, , or visit Norm's web site

Webmaster's note:  Full lyrics for a number of Norm's songs are on this website.  Click on title for those mentioned above:
Syd and The Flea
Cats Everywhere
When Cats Go Wrong

See the list of Norm's on-line lyrics, poetry and prose, including other Taxi News columns.

Taxi News website is with Norm's current monthly column at and a few archived issues in .pdf format at (check the last few pages of each issue). Taxi News is a monthly publication with news and commentary on Toronto's taxi industry and is available by subscription or free at distribution points.


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Added to Norm's website February 29, 2004