Album: Meet The Cat Burglars
About 30 years ago or so, a weird song just kinda showed up at my college radio station KFSR and became a unlikely hit. It was a tribute to Julie Newmar, who was one of the women who played Catwoman on the 1960s Batman TV series. While it was received at the time as a novelty song, future rock historians have reassessed it as something much deeper.
One thing you have to remember about 1985: it was pretty much the last moment where that the 1966 TV series was the dominant cultural representation of Batman. (Even the Filmation cartoons took their cue from it, otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten that motherfucking Bat Mite.) Frank Miller would put out The Dark Knight Returns the very next year, followed by the Tim Burton’s films, and Batman would grow ever darker.
However, in 1985, a Batman-oriented song by a band of deep thinkers who clearly loved that Batman TV series could still find a small audience. And of course, “Song For Julie Newmar” had more than just lust for a Batman actress on its mind,as a deep dive into the lyrics will soon reveal. It’s actually a trenchant look at the price of fame and how it can twist our perceptions of the famous.
No one ever found out who The Cat Burglars really were: to the listening public, they were known only as Bob Feline, Jools Newmar and Anonymous.
Julie, can you hear me?
I can see you on TV
Hiding in the Batcave
Just 14 miles away
Of course, that opening line is a reference to The Who, but the rest of the verse raises. Is Bob Feline saying that Julie is on the Batcave’s TV, or he’s watching her on TV, hiding in the Batcave. The “14 miles away” is of course, the distance from the entrance of the Batcave to Gotham City. But everybody knows that.
Then you’re in the Twilight Zone
Sitting on your evil throne
Crank calls on the Batphone
And something’s in your hair.
This is a reference to the famous Twilight Zone episode “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville” where Ms. Newmar played the Devil. Bob Feline has noticed the parallels in this role to her role as Catwoman, especially that in both of these roles, she’s got something sticking out of her hair: a costuming consistency that links the two characters in the minds of a generation.
Then, on the bridge, Feline observes:
Cat or devil, horns or ears
You call forth the greatest fears
Batman’s who you love and hate
I thought he was overweight
Who is this woman? That’s what Bob Feline wants to know. In his mind, she is both terrifying and alluring, but in a way, it doesn’t matter, because she’s clearly got only the Batman on her mind. Which pisses Bob Feline off, since Batman clearly needs to lay off the late night visits to Gotham’s Waffle House.
Dancing at the Pink Sandbox
Temporarily Woolite socks
You were better than Eartha or Lee
In fact, you still look good to me
Meanwhile, while generation after generation of Batman scholars puzzle over the hidden meaning of “temporarily Woolite socks” by pouring over Julie Newmar’s IMDB page – or maybe the socks she was dancing in at the Pink Sandbox were washed in Woolite, but who could know that? – the song shifts musically into a straight “Like a Rolling Stone” parody.
How does it feel?
To be a cat?
To be stared at?
To be caught by a bat?
To be far from flat?
Like a Batman villain
Like a Batman villain
Setting aside the dodgy-by-2015-standards “to be far from flat?” and the weird shouting of the Batmobile’s license plate number, these are all incredibly trenchant questions. What is the price of fame if you have play a cat? Or be caught by a guy in a bat suit? Is it too much?
What is it like to be a Batman villain?
Can you even deal with the fact that you’re not even the only person to play that villain? And the world will rank you against the other people who played that villain forever? The whole world wants to know, Julie.
And the song shifts gears once again, going into the famous “Louie Louie” riff, as Bob Feline, now joined by his compatriots Jules Newmar and Anonymous, decides to make his move.
Julie, Julie, oooooohhhhh
I said, we gotta go now
Meow meow meow meow meow meow
Julie Julie, oooooooohhhh
I said, we gotta go now
Why the meows? Some scholars think that the Cat Burglars are making fun of her for being cat caught by a bat, but I think that they they’re saying “look, Julie, we can be cats too!!” This is reinforced by as they stop the song cold so that Bob Feline can cosplay as Batman via The Troggs.
Catwoman, I think I love you
But I wanna know for sure
Then, the whole song falls apart for a second as there’s what sounds like a recording of a kitten locked in a bathroom, The Joker laughing,
a jealous Robin calling her a “hateful hussy. and the Penguin going “wak” “wak” “wak” in a desperate frenzy of just trying to get her attention before reprising the “Julie Julie” part as a round.
Did it work? History records that the photo with his post is allegedly Julie Newmar actually listening to “Song For Julie Newmar,” but of course The Cat Burglars themselves had a checkered history to say the least. While they had a couple of other minor songs – “Saturday Morning” and “Take a Walk (to The Litter Box”) – those seem to be lost to history, and besides this song, the only existing recording is a live concert on KFSR, where they sounded over-reverbed and under rehearsed.
I happened to have been around for that – in fact, it was one of the first times I ever played drums – and the problem was that The Cat Burglars, in order to protect their identities, wore cat masks the whole time. Even during rehearsals. The other musicians who backed them, Blake and Ross and Joseph, could probably testify how intransigent they were the whole time.
And while Kirk & I tried to impress on them just how important a live radio broadcast could be to their career, they were far more wed to their concept, and stuck to wearing masks even while playing in a closed radio studio. Such, I guess, is the price of art.
That said, noone was surprised when they died soon afterwards, leaving this as their one legacy.
“Song For Julie Newmar” on Soundcloud