At least in the mind of the man himself, Cat Scratch Fever is the work of the baddest mofo alive. A dude who will take your little ones crossbow hunting for bison in the surly woods of Michigan, take out a beaver or two with a semi-automatic, then serenade everyone around an open campfire with his bullet-deflecting rock and roll magic. To a great many more people, though — perhaps the majority of Americans, now that we no longer think fringe jackets and peach fuzz mustaches are de rigueur stylings for a job interview — The Nuge lies somewhere between a pathetic asshole that’s cool to make fun of, and that strange uncle that you don’t acknowledge is even a blood relation. A cursory glance at the man’s life instantly reveals the major levels of hypocrisy, idiocy, and in some cases, blatant criminality.
-Nugent is so cartoonish in his continued belief that â€œstoned, dirty, stinky hippiesâ€ and homosexuals are totally responsible for the ills of America that at times it seems that he could be a covert liberal in disguise as a Republican. He has stated that George W. Bush is not conservative enough, and that the problems the U.S. has had in Iraq are because we didn’t “Nagasaki them.” In August 2007, he threatened Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton at a concert, telling them to “suck on [his] machine gun.” He later directed a similar threat to both California senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.
-The Nuge’s one admitted vice is women. When he’s not threatening to assassinate them, he’s fucking them. He likes a lot of them, and he likes them young. In fact, in order to once avoid likely statutory rape charges in 1978, he bought off the parents of his 17-year-old girlfriend, so that they would sign over the rights of legal guardianship to him, and he could continue to sleep with her without consequences. He also admitted to a British newspaper in 2004 to cheating on his second wife and having a child out of wedlock with another woman in 1994. Of course, by the time he admitted to “being a prick” for his actions, he had already been sued twice by the mother of his child for child support.
-Like a lot of bullies, Nuge tends to talk tough after the fact, or at least until someone calls him on it. In addition to his admission of cheating, he also claimed to have dodged the Vietnam draft by stopping showering, eating poorly, and literally shitting his pants weeks in advance of when he had to see the draft board. Of course, these admissions were made in High Times magazine in 1977, back when he talked to filthy stoned hippies and it was cool to say you avoided the war. Now that he’s a tough guy, he admitted a few years back that he avoided Vietnam by getting a one-year student deferment, so that he wouldn’t get his “ass blown off in Vietnam,” but that he regretted that decision 30 years after the fact. In 2004, he showed he’s “not a coward” by taking a USO trip to Iraq — where he was under 24-hour armed protection.
-My favorite story which shows that Nugent may not be able to cash every check his mouth writes: In a 2001 editorial he scribed for the Wall Street Journal railing against Napster and for intellectual property rights, The Nuge tells a story of going up with his posse to — what else? — hippies selling bootleg t-shirts outside his concerts, stealing the shirts and the guys’ cash, then later using some of the shirts to clean his guns. He said he did this for years, and his message for anyone who wanted to try this was “bring it on, greaseballs!”, because he’s a guy who “hunt[s] grizzly bears with a bow and arrow.” A couple of flaws in this story, though: Firstly, if the headlining act were coming out of the stadium into the parking lot among a swarm of tailgaters, wouldn’t there be some sort of commotion? Would he just be able to walk up unnoticed to his target? Also, other than this editorial, there is no report of Nugent doing this once, let a lone on a regular basis — not in newspapers, not on fan communities, nowhere. And most importantly, this story bears some resemblance to the plot point of an episode of That ’70s Show that The Nuge guested on and which debuted two months after he wrote this editorial — an episode in which Nugent is shown happily surrounded by stoned groupies.
Which leads us into the greatest irony in the life of The Nuge: While the man is a teetotaler and has supposedly never used illegal drugs, I don’t think anyone who has ever attended a Nuge concert has done so sober. It just seems a mandatory requirement to getting one’s Nuge on. I don’t even drink much myself, but listening to this album I get the sudden craving for some ice cold PBRs. This is especially ironic, because Nugent himself has stated that drunk drivers are terrorists who are helping Al-Qaeda, and they should be put away for life after their third DUI. As one commenter aptly put it, if you “locked up all the people who use and drive I really doubt there would have been many people left to buy tickets” to a Ted Nugent concert.
As for his music. Rolling Stone once stated that the only good song Nugent has released after 1975 was the title track to Cat Scratch Fever. That does seem a bit harsh, even towards a man who has created possibly more generic cock rock than anyone should have a right to make. Is this album a classic? No. Not even close. Even at his most powerful, Nugent is nowhere near the upper echelon of guitarists — not enough soul nor creativity, too much useless fretboard wankery. And his guitar is pretty much the only reason to listen to his records, as there is usually something lacking in the quality of the lyrics and overall songcraft — though it is a bit of a kick to hear Nugent’s singer, Derek St. Holmes, sounding like a young John Mellencamp. However, Cat Scratch Fever holds the most positive exceptions to this rule. Forget about the other “hit” from this album, “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang,” which is pretty lame even by Nugent standards. Among the pleasant surprises here are “A Thousand Knives” (download). One of the album’s more hook-laden offerings, it’s built around a riff very much like The Beatles “If I Needed Someone,” and includes nice pedal effects which create a guitar sound very close to an amped harmonica. The Bo-Diddley-esque “Live It Up” (download) has a couple of very well crafted, straightforward solos by the Nuge, and solid drum and percussion work, including the appearance of, yes, a cowbell. And then there’s “Workin’ Hard Playin’ Hard” (download), which opens with some Dick-Dale styled surf-guitar work, before deciding to switch into a bad-ass Southern Rock-cum-Eddie Money song.