Phenomenal Cat. Well this is certainly a most unusual song .... in my mind at least. stereo mix (2:36), recorded early to mid 1968 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London A long, long time ago, In the land of idiot boys, There lived a cat, a phenomenal cat, Who loved to wallow all day. No one bothered him As he sat, content in his tree. He just lived to eat 'cause it kept him fat, And that's how he wanted to stay. Though he was big and fat, All the world was good to him, And he pointed out on the map All the places he had been. Cowes (?), Sardinia, Kathmandu, The Scilley Isles and Sahara, too Fum, fum, diddle-um di La la la la, la-la la la La la la la, la-la la la la La la la la-la la la Once when he was thin He had flown to old Hong Kong, And had learned the secret of life, And the sea and the sky beyond. So he gave up his diet and sat in a tree, And ate himself through eternity. Fum, fum, diddle-um di La la la la la-la la la La la la la, la-la la la la La la la la-la la la Fum, fum, diddle-um di Fum, fum, diddle-um di Written by: Ray Davies Published by: Noma Music, Inc./Hi-Count Music, Inc. BMI Apparently on the original album cover the song was spelled Phenominal Cat Ray said of the song - "It shows in a very cunning and thoughtful way the mystical and spiritual potential we all have, Phenomenal Cat' is the mystical side of all of us. It's a metaphor, saying, 'You do have a soul.' The cat is the coolest part of you. You don't know it yet but through healing we can throw your ideas up in the air and see which ones stick." Ray apparently also told The Onion that "Maybe Village Green Preservation Society was my psychedelic album. I withdrew into my little community-spirit ... my trivial world of little corner shops and English black-and-white movies. Maybe that's my form of psychedelia." The song sort of works as an allegory. Often cat's are seen in the feminine, and most women I know spend their whole life worrying about their weight, which seems a terrible waste of life.... If I had fifty cents for the number of times a woman had asked me a question relating to her weight and had it changed or does she look bigger or smaller or whatever .... I would be an extremely rich man .... and with the writing of the song being so unusual, it makes me wonder if Rasa had a similar issue and this was somewhat a song written in code by Ray about that.... I don't know, I'm just spitballing ideas here..... Anyway. I always seem to think of this cat as the Cheshire Cat from Alice In Wonderland ... I don't know why, but that is the picture that comes to mind.... I love that book, and through The Looking Glass, and the movies that have been made of them too. We open with Ray setting up who this cat is, and then how he got there. It is really interesting that Ray says the cat was in the Land Of Idiot Boys... in its current state the cat loves to just wallow all day eating, and the impression initially is that this cat is extremely lazy... As the song moves along though, we find out that the cat wasn't always this way. This cat had travelled the world, and led a good life. While the cat had been in Hong Kong it had learned the secret of life, and the sea and the sky beyond (big sky?) This led the cat to stop worrying about its weight, and we can safely assume this, because it si stated that he gave up his diet at this point in time. In its contentedness or satisfaction with this enlightenment the cat decided to sit in his tree all day, and eat his way through eternity. So much of many of our lives is spent worrying about our appearance. We spend untold amounts of time focusing on how we appear to other people. How our hair looks, what kind of clothes we'll wear, whether we will get tattoos, piercings .... all of this outward appearance stuff, that is essentially completely redundant and makes no difference to anything. Yet we frequently don't work on the inside, the part that counts. I don't think it matters who we are, we all have damage from our lives that we store internally and it damages us, and those around us.... the famous phrase " hurt people, hurt people" comes from this ..... We complain about the things outside us that we can't change, yet fail to fix the things inside us that we actually can fix. We are such strange and sadly beautiful creatures...... Anyway I kind of hear this as being a sort of idea of being content with ourselves and living our lives, and not worrying about things that just don't matter ..... That may all be bollocks, but that's where the lyrics here lead me. Whatever the lyrics mean, they are beautifully constructed and work perfectly with the music.... Now the music. From the very first moment that the opening flutes via the mellotron come in, this is a rather different kind of song...... That opening always reminds me of something that just doesn't come to mind. Perhaps it is merely a styling thing, but I always find myself caught in that zone ... you know the one .... " the name is on the tip of my tongue" thing .... so if anyone has any answers, that would be cool. That opening was arranged by Nicky Hopkins, who really was the fifth member of the Kinks up to this point. It seems terribly sad to me that Nicky never became a permanent member of the band, but I guess we would have missed all the great work he did with other artists if that had been the case. We move into the body of the song and we get this pulsing melodic backing to sit under the vocals. The drums start out as just a sort of off beat hit, on the three. When we get to the places being named the drums move to a double time off beat. The guitar comes in on the "though he was big and fat" line, and I really like the way Dave arranged the guitar here. It is again a series of measured chord strikes and arpeggios that just work beautifully. This track is a gentle and soothing track, that for me has a really comforting sound and feel, which lines up perfectly with the idea of the cat up in the tree, just chilling and eating. If this is the Kinks Psychedelia, then the Kinks are just mellowing out and enjoying the ride. They aren't freaking out, or trying to freak anyone else out. Again the chord structure here is just beautiful and I figure it was built around the melody, because again Ray has created the beautiful dreamy melody, that is engaging and entertaining and really draws me into it. Then we get that chorus ... apparently the altered voice is Dave..... This seems like a wholly unusual chorus, but frankly I love it. Ray starts off singing with the cat and then drops out. It seems to represent the cat's contentedness. It has a dreamlike feel and as silly as it could have come off, it just works beautifully for me. To me this seems like a totally unique song, and the cat seems to represent another personality in the village, just not a human one, and he could well live in the tree next to the Animal Farm. This probably isn't my favourite song on the album, but I do love this track, its completely unique personality and arrangement make it something special.