Pam’s Pictorama Post: Pictorama readers know I haven’t posted new cat sheet music in quite awhile, but this one caught my eye and I thought it should join the Pictorama collection. Perhaps I will bring it to the office as a return to Columbus Circle offering later this year. (I have written about the sheet music which adorns my tiny office. Those posts can be found here, here and here.)
Despite being The Greatest Comic Song Yet I will admit up front that I was unable to find any sign of a recording of this tune, The Cat’s Dead. A few of his more popular tunes such as And Her Golden Hair was Hanging Down Her Back and Comrades have left some creaky musical tracks. (Period recordings of these can be found on the DAHR, Discography of American Historical Recordings site here if you are curious. However, a better rendition if you actually want to hear the lyrics is the Youtube recording from a performance at the Metropolitan Museum in 2016, performed in the American Wing. It can be found here.)
According to Wikipedia, Felix McGlennon was born in Glasgow in 1856, the son of an Irish shoemaker. McGlennon, who specialized in comic dance hall and vaudeville songs, settled in Manchester, England where he published his first penny songbooks. He later emigrated to the United States in the mid-1880’s and this song and his others of note seem to be published in the United States in the 1890’s. He took his success and return to England and set up his own music and postcard publishing company there in 1909. He lived until age 87, dying in 1943.
My favorite part of the brief Wikipedia entry claims that he had no musical training and picked his tunes out on a toy piano. I share two quotes from the site below which I gather more or less summed up his philosophy on his music:
Assume, if you like, that what I write is rubbish. My reply is “It is exactly the sort of rubbish I am encouraged by the public to write”… All my life I have tried to produce an article for which there is a public demand. If I visit a music hall, it is with the single object of instructing myself as to the class of thing that is pleasing the public. Then, I try to write it – and write nothing else.
On another occasion, he said: “I would sacrifice everything – rhyme, reason, sense and sentiment – to catchiness. There is, let me tell you, a very great art in making rubbish acceptable.
The Cat’s Dead is considered an American song, published in 1893 by the Anglo American Musical Agency, but it has an English copyright. It would appear that the song and music is by Mr. McGlennon.
Sadly there is no artist credit for the great cat art on the cover which is of course why I purchased it. There is a tiny company credit which reads, NAT PH. ENG Co NY in the lower right corner so presumably it came from an engraving company library of sorts.
The music cost a rather dear forty cents. Google tells me that is about $15 in today’s money.
Our feline fellow has something of the old Confederate soldier about him – something about his vest. He has lost an eye and uses these odd crutches (I like that you can see his claws on his paws), but of course there’s something about him that makes you think he could still do a jig if he had enough liquor in him. I love his face with that sharp toothy grin, whiskers aplenty and the one smiling eye.
The lyrics are sort of awful and I will spare you those – all about the various ways they went about killing the cat who always repeatedly came back – until the end of the song. Although, as we see from the cover, Don’t you believe it!!