When the Cat's Away (band)

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When the Cat's Away
Origin Auckland, New Zealand
Genres Pop
Years active 1985–1991, 2000-2002
Labels CBS, Peach
Associated acts Sharon O'Neill
Past members Annie Crummer
Margaret Urlich
Debbie Harwood
Kim Willoughby
Dianne Swann

When the Cat's Away is a New Zealand female vocal group, supergroup and covers band formed in 1985. They are best known for their cover of the Blue Mink assimilationist song "Melting Pot", which became a New Zealand number one hit for them in 1988.[1]


At the 1985 New Zealand Music Awards, Annie Crummer, Debbie Harwood, Kim Willoughby, Dianne Swann and Margaret Urlich formed a female vocal group. [2] In 2004 Dianne Swann reflected on their start: "The idea formed to get together, have some fun and sing a bunch of songs that we like, learn some harmonies. I don’t think anybody pictured it as being as popular as it became."[3]

When The Cat’s Away debuted at Auckland's Wildlife in September 1986. Soon after they were performing more frequently at bigger venues, before signing a two singles and live album deal with CBS Records.

In 1987, they released their debut single "Leader of the Pack", followed by "Sanctified", with neither charting. In May 1987, the group began a 30-date national tour, recording the album at His Majesty’s Theatre. In June 1987, the group released the live self-titled debut album, consisting of cover versions of pop songs. The album peaked at number 39 and was certified gold in New Zealand. Debbie Harwood told RipItUp writer Chris Bourke "The Cats is a break from getting our own stuff played, recorded and on the radio. It’s ‘the girls go out to play’ … we’re only there to have fun really – there are no serious messages, just singing our favourites." [4]

In November 1988, the group released a cover of "Melting Pot" which peaked at number 1 and was certified gold in New Zealand. The group toured extensively throughout 1988/89, becoming one of the biggest live acts in New Zealand at that time.[5] The group was awarded Listener Film and Television Awards for 'Entertainers of the Year' and 'Documentary of the Year' in 1988 and also took out the coveted 'Group of the Year' award at the 1989 New Zealand Music Awards. [6]

"Free Ride" was released in January 1990 and peaked at number 12. Soon after, Swann left the group, and the other members followed pursuing solo careers and other projects.

In 2001 the band reformed (minus Dianne Swann) and released a cover version of Sharon O'Neill's 1980 single "Asian Paradise". Shortly after that, O'Neill returned their gesture by performing with them over three nights at the Aotea Centre in Auckland. A live album recorded during that tour and released as "Live in Paradise". The album peaked at number 7 and went platinum.[7]

In Feb 2012, they reformed for a huge outdoor concert at Villa Maria Vineyard near Auckland, 5000 people, $150 a ticket. They performed a 50 minute set and stole the show.

In 2002 the group toured again, playing large outdoor shows and featured Eddie Rayner and Noel Crombie from Split Enz.



Year Title Details Peak chart
(sales threshold)[8]
1987 When the Cat's Away
  • Label: CBS
  • Catalogue: CAT LP001
  • NZL: Gold
2001 Live in Paradise
(with Sharon O'Neill)
  • Label: Peach Records
  • Catalogue: 537030 2
  • NZL: Platinum


Year Title Peak chart
(sales threshold)[1]
1987 "Leader of the Pack" Non-album single
1987 "Sanctified" Non-album single
1988 "Melting Pot" 1
  • NZL: Gold
Non-album single
1990 "Free Ride" 12 Non-album single
2001 "Asian Paradise" 16 Live In Paradise


Year Nominee/work Award Result
1988 When The Cat's Away Listener Television Awards - Entertainment Programme Won[10]
1989 When The Cat's Away New Zealand Music Awards - Best Group Won[11]
1989 Ross McDermott/Annie Crummer ("Melting Pot") New Zealand Music Awards - Best Producer Nominated[11]


  1. ^ a b "When The Cat's Away". Muzic.net.nz. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  2. ^ "When the Cat's Away". Muzic. Retrieved 16 March 2017. 
  3. ^ "When the Cat's Away". Audio Culture. Retrieved 16 March 2017. 
  4. ^ "When the Cat's Away". Audio Culture. Retrieved 16 March 2017. 
  5. ^ "When The Cat's Away". NZ On Screen. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  6. ^ "When the Cat's Away". Muzic. Retrieved 16 March 2017. 
  7. ^ "Class of 81". Eventfinder. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  8. ^ "Debbie Harwood bio". Debbie Harwood. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "When The Cat's Away discography". Charts.org.nz. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  10. ^ "1988 Winners - Listener Television Awards". Kiwi TV. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  11. ^ a b "1989 Winners". NZ Music Awards. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 

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