By now it’s a familiar story: Young musical prodigy escapes his backwater hometown, writes the Meow Mix jingle and lives happily ever after. It’s the American Dream. And it was almost my life, but happily ever after only happens in fairy tales and massage parlors. Sit back, tenderfoot, because you’re about to hear the rise and fall of the Meow Mix maestro.
That’s right, I’m the guru behind the Meow Mix jingle. Yes, the Meow Mix jingle. Take a moment to collect yourself. I’m used to it.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “This guy wrote the Meow Mix jingle? He must be living pretty high on the hog.” That’s what everyone says, but they’re wrong. This guy is pretty low on the hog. The hog is probably above this guy by at least a few inches. In fact, this guy hasn’t eaten in a few days, so can we switch topics? Nothing gets me hungrier than hog talk.
Despite writing the Meow Mix jingle, I’m not doing as well as you’d think.
Did I compose the catchiest, most-memorable tune this side of the Kit-Kat Bar ditty? Guilty as charged. Did I sweep the Jinglies that year in every award category? Again, guilty, your honor. But did I also terrorize a local pet store by wandering in nude, climbing to the top of the aquarium display and proclaiming myself “Boss Fauna, Cat Lord and Fish Bane”? I don’t know. I’m a little foggy on the details. All I remember is waking up covered in broken glass and African cichlids. But a Michigan district court seemed to think I was guilty in the literal sense.
Sic transit gloria.
For a while, I was on top of the world. Top cock in the roost. But they say the brightest stars shine the brightest. Or something like that. Whatever. I was too busy shitting out masterpieces to pay attention to what they say.
“Meow Mix in C minor” was my magnum opus. It was my Sistine Chapel, my Vitruvian Man, my Tums jingle. Every “meow” was forged from a complicated lifetime of toil and triumph. I crafted something so ambitious yet so crisp – probably because I was reading a lot of Orwell at the time.
Beforehand, I had been working a few other ad campaigns, but they were going nowhere. I remember one for some Chinese restaurant’s kung pao chicken. I pitched them this great jingle I came up with: “Pao pao pao pao / pao pao pao pao / pao pao pao pao PAO pao pao pao.” It was cherry, but those rubes didn’t get it.
Then Meow Mix came along. They were the new, hip wet/dry cat food on the block – just a bunch of starry-eyed kids, really – and they were looking for a commercial that would be a warning shot for the industry, something that announced, “We’re here! DEAL WITH IT, SQUARES!!!” Those big shots at the top didn’t know what to do with them. But I did.
I worked on that jingle day and night, chasing inspiration, drawing on everything from Motown to Mentos. Me and the boys got real close on that campaign. They even gave me a nickname, The Hepcat, which I later discovered was not because of my affinity for jazz, but rather because of my untreated Hepatitis C infection and the socially unacceptable number of cats I kept in my studio apartment. I still think about those cats sometimes. I wonder if they ever got out.
The rest, well, I’ll let my art speak for itself. Suffice to say the Meow Mix jingle hit and it hit hard.
I was raking in the dough from royalties, maintaining a lifestyle commensurate with how you’d assume the Meow Mix guy would live: like a fucking rock star. I was burning through money. Every morning for breakfast, I ate a bowlful of caviar. Sometimes I’d go to McDonald’s and order a 20-piece McNugget all for myself. People would stare at me like, “Is that a prince?” I even installed solid gold bidets in my home. Sure, gold-plated would have been fine – sturdier, too – but I wasn’t about to go back to living like a peasant, and neither was my anus, not after Meow Mix. Plus, with all that caviar and McNugget action, the bidets were actually a pretty wise investment.
Then it all came crashing down. And when I say “it” I’m of course referring to those aforementioned aquariums I crawled on top of to proclaim myself a beast wizard. Allegedly. Those aquariums shattered on both the floor and my groin like so many shattered dreams. I probably would have appreciated the metaphor more at the time if not for my lacerated scrotum.
I often wonder where everything went south, when my meteoric rise peaked and started heading in a downward trajectory. My court-ordered therapist says I probably took a wrong turn when I first got the Meow Mix account and began eating cat food for every meal. He says “serious malnutrition” and “blood poisoning” resulted in “episodic delirium” and “hallucinations tantamount to waking nightmares.” Pfft. Blah blah psycho-babble liberal mumbo-jumbo. Yeah, I ate cat food. I work Method. What, you think you’re better than me, college boy? I once snorted eight grams of cat nip and tripped my balls off with the winners of the 1987 Cat Fancy Meow-dal of Honor. I think I can eat a few dozen cans of Savory Tuna Paté Morsels. I handle my shit.
No, that certainly wasn’t it. Maybe everything went exactly as it should have. Maybe it was destiny. Maybe I was always going to end up on that fish aisle floor puking up tank water and nutrient flakes. God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes it’s best not to question His plan.
A lot of people ask me if I had to pick one word to describe the Meow Mix jingle – aside from “meow” – what would it be? I can think of plenty. Masterpiece? Definitely. Brilliant? Sure. Timeless? Well, that’s for historians to sort out. All I can worry about is the present, and I’m presently concerned with getting my Hep C medication in hand before I go out cooze-cruising with the boys tonight. I’m celebrating. My agent just landed me the new Similac campaign for baby formula, so I gotta start suckin’ on some titties pronto.
And that about brings us to the present, sweet cheeks, soooooo what’s up?
(*This article originally appeared on The Omnibrow.)