Tommy The Cat

Album: Sailing the Seas of Cheese (1990)


  • Like many Primus songs, this one features a pretty outrageous character, in this case, Tommy The Cat. It's unclear if Tommy is a real cat or a man (a "Tomcat" is a male cat), but he certainly gets a lot of pussy. The lyrics sound like the clever dialogue of an old movie as we hear Tommy's story over the intricate bassline Primus is known for.
  • This song is "somewhat based" on Tommy Crank, namesake of the Tommy Crank Band, which Claypool was part of in the early '80s. "He was just this smooth character," Claypool said in the book Primus, Over the Electric Grapevine. He always wore a fedora - long before anybody was wearing fedoras. Actually a wide brim, more of a Panama. Just a real smooth guy, a cool guy. It's kind of based on him. But it's purely fictional. It's my 'Mickey Mouse,' basically."
  • A live favorite, this song was released in 1990 on Suck On This, which was Primus' first album - a collection of their live performances. In 1991, they recorded a studio version with Tom Waits on vocals that appeared on their album Sailing the Seas of Cheese.

    Waits would later gain widespread acclaim, but at the time he was a relatively obscure artist. Les Claypool of Primus was a big fan from the jump. He told Songfacts: "When I first started talking about Tom Waits to friends of mine, they all thought I was nuts, because they thought I was saying John Waite. I'm like, 'Yeah, let's listen to some Tom Waits.' They're like, 'What the hell are you talking about?' So it's pretty amazing to see his evolution just as far as his status in the world of music."
  • In Primus, Over the Electric Grapevine, Claypool explained how this song came together. "'Tommy The Cat,' I had this bass part that I really liked. This sort of freight-train–sounding bass part. I remember playing it for this woman, from a band, who I was kind of going out with, and she was like, 'Oh my god, it sounds like something moving slow and low to the ground.'

    So I got to kind of thinking about it, and I had this whole 'Say baby' thing in my head - Say baby, do you want to lay down with me? And I was like, 'How can I say that?' Because I was never one to write songs about partying or 'Who's that sexy chick?' That's not my thing.

    But I loved that 'Say baby, do you want to lay down with me?' How can I make that something that reflects something that I would do, and not a song about just, 'Hey, let's go fuck.' So I thought of this whole tomcat character, and him seducing this very voluptuous vixen."
  • Primus performs part of this song in the 1991 movie Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey during a Battle of the Bands scene. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Donovan Berry - El Dorado, AR

Comments: 3

  • Myke from Davis, CaMaybe it's about the movie "The Aristocats"? There is a "Thomas O'Malley" character in it... Maybe it's a coincidence...
  • Aaron from South C, AlI actually know a guy who grew up with Les Claypool in central California and played drums for a band called "Blind Illusions" His name is Bret Hern, and what he told me is Tommy the Cat is an actual guy that Les and Bret grew up with. He lives in Roseburg Oregon somewhere (Where Bret and I live).
  • Amy from Hartford, Ctbest bass ive ever heard in a song
see more comments

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