‘Friends’: Rock Star Behind ‘Smelly Cat’ Wasn’t ‘Very Comfortable’ With It

Many Friends fans remember the series’ glorious song “Smelly Cat” — but not everyone knows it was co-written by a rock star. The rock star in question had some issues with the song. However, a pair of famous musicians have no problem singing it in concert with Lisa Kudrow herself. 

The cast of Friends | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

The dog who inspired ‘Smelly Cat’ from ‘Friends’

Within the universe of Friends, “Smelly Cat” is a song Kudrow’s character Phoebe Buffay wrote based on a lullaby she heard as a child. It appears in several early episodes of the show as a running gag. She performs a number of different versions of the track.

According to the book Friends: A Cultural History, television writer Betsy Borns wrote the lyrics to the song, which were based on her smelly dog Gouda. She decided to make the song about a cat because she thought it would be funnier than a song about a dog. Who knows if a song called “Smelly Dog” would have been as popular?

One of the writers of ‘Smelly Cat’ wasn’t very familiar with ‘Friends’

According to The Austin Chronicle, Kudrow crafted the melody of “Smelly Cat” with Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. The Pretenders are a rock band most known for hits like “Brass in Pocket,” “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” and “I’ll Stand by You.” “Smelly Cat” is certainly one of Hynde’s most well-known works that doesn’t involve the Pretenders.

“I’ll Stand by You”

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Hynde hadn’t even heard of Friends before her involvement with “Smelly Cat.” She helped write the melody because she thought it would be fun. After all, she wasn’t busy at the time.

“And when I got [to Los Angeles], I saw how high profile it was,” Hynde recalled. “It was like the biggest show in America. Even at that point I thought, ‘Well, no one in England’s going to see it.’ I didn’t really like being on television, or being very recognized.” “Smelly Cat” — like Friends as a whole — became very popular, and Hynde wasn’t happy about that development.

“Smelly Cat”

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How Chrissie Hynde and other musicians feel about ‘Smelly Cat’

“I’ve never been very comfortable with that, but it’s probably my biggest legacy now, doing that show,” Hynde admitted. “And doing that song, too. People used to shout out for it onstage. It used to annoy me, but I’m used to it now. All the people that were actually on the show, Lisa and them, were fantastic, very fun people. So I liked them all, I just didn’t like the high profile-ness of it all.”

Since the release of “Smelly Cat,” both Colbie Caillat and Taylor Swift covered it live with Kudrow herself. At this point, “Smelly Cat” is one of the most famous songs from Friends, alongside the Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There for You” — the show’s theme song. “Smelly Cat” clearly resonated with people — even if Hynde has mixed feelings about her experience with Friends.