has done a lot of things in his life, many of which have to do with rock and roll and some with cats. So when I saw this stellar review
of his new book, The Sound of Our Town: A History of Boston Rock
, I knew I had to ask him to blog.
Take it away, Brett!
In the 1920s, there existed an over-the-counter alcoholic tonic, beloved by certain blues artists, known as Hadacol. According to legend, that medical-sounding name came about because they hadda call it somethin’.
I kept a lot of the same logic in mind when I chose names for my cats…After a few days being able to settle on a name, you wind up punting because “Hey, cat!” isn’t working anymore. Being of a musical persuasion, I tend to name my cats after musicians. Though those names don’t always suit the character. During the ’80s I loved the Ramones, so it made sense that I named my cat—a big, floppy black Persian—after the bass player, Dee Dee. But it must be said that he bore no resemblance to the band’s scrawny, wired-up bassist. If anything, I heard often that he looked more like James Brown. There were times when he vocalized like him too, though his moves, bless his heart, were a whole lot clumsier. And he’d never wear a cape, no matter how many times you tried to drape it round him.
The dilemma turned up when I recently came to own a big, grand, silver Maine coon. Musical names in fact run in his family: His dad, the most prolific stud cat of his neighborhood, had earned the name Led Zeppelin—not just for the sexual connotation, but because he did resemble that silver blimp on the band’s album covers. My guy had been christened Mick, as in Jagger. While the name seemed appropriate swagger-wise, it didn’t sit well with either of us: the name doesn’t roll off the tongue (a good cat name should be at least two syllables), and seemed a bit generic—while my cat was anything but. Given my love for New Orleans music, I started going through the musicians’ names in search of an appropriate monicker.
Mac (as in Rebennack, a/k/a Dr. John) was an early contender, but had the same problem as Mick: Not enough resonance, though my cat does share some of the Doctor’s imposing character. Fess, as in Professor Longhair, was also briefly considered. Finally I went down the list of Neville Brothers. Art and Charles were too common to be good cat names. Aaron? Getting closer, though how can you give that name to a doesn’t like to meow? (This, I have to say, was strictly a phase: He now meows in three languages and sings gospel). So I went with the fourth brother, Cyril. Not only is it a fine-sounding name—the Cy sound is perfect for calling cats across the room—but it suits him; Cyril being the most fiery of the four Nevilles and the percussionist (my Cyril mainly plays percussion by knocking bottles off shelves). He began responding to the name almost immediately, emitting a little chirrup whenever he’s called, so it must be working. Besides, I hadda call him something.