Cats Man Branches Out
ALUN DAVIES plays
the guitar: one time half of folk duo, street singer, session musician, story teller,
smoker, drinker, realistic romantic, and now Cat Stevens guitar player and friend.
He is soon to be a solo
album maker and leader of group, thinker and act opener when the Cat Stevens family
take to the road next year with Cat as the grand old father looking over a flock of
talented musicians in much the same way as James Taylor does today.
Alun looks back at the old
times when Jon Mark, who now leads his own band with Johnny Almond, and says that it was
so different than, It was still possible, when they set out on the road to Europe eight
years ago, to make a living playing the circuit from Paris, down to Cannes
in the South of France before moving on to Geneva
They used to work in the
dock on one of the luxury yachts during the day, fitting them out for the next Med cruise
and then pack their guitars up and go ashore for an evening of drinking and singing on the
"Music for us then,
was a way into that easy going sort of life really. There was a whole life style,
it wasnt just the music and what it meant to you. It was all dreams of America and
Jack Kerouac books."
Later they drifted back to
England, got themselves an agent went through the old Denmark Street bit. Alun describes
what they went through as "something like a Peter Sellers record, the deals
were so weird." They landed a gig on board a Cunard line boat, sailed the Atlantic 16
times doing from Mardi to October during 64 playing five cabaret shows per trip and
seeing a whole lot of Montreal and Quebec.
"Then we got
married." Jon and ...Alun drifted apart and didnt meet again until they
-started doing sessions during the folk boom. "We.used to do a lot of work for
Fontana, we were virtually the house band with a couple of the guys from Pentangle. As a
group we were on so many records from that period."
From the sessions AIun
found, himself on the road with Marianne Faithful, Spencer Davis and Jeremy Taylor, and
eventually back with Jon Mark. They formed Sweet Thursday with Nicky Hopkins. Had someone
at that time seen the potential Britain would have had a group to match Crosby, Stills and
Nash, but no one saw it at the time.
I think the album we did
was revolutionary coming from the background that we did, we werent really into rock
so we had our own influences. It was very naive really, but that is what made it so
unique, it was like the Bands first album. They went and recorded without paying any
attention to what was going on then," said Alun.
"After our record
company went broke we had to split. We were all session men taking a lot of time to get
our own stuff together. We never made a penny from that album, and Christmas was coming
along and no one had any money to buy presents. You know the scene."
Moving back to sessions and
odd live jobs, Alun first played with Cat when he was recording his first album after his
illness and laid off. He received a call from Paul Samwell Smith who booked Alun for a
couple of sessions which resulted in two finished tracks being laid down at the first
"I was playing with
Spencer at the time, then when we were recording Tea For The Tillerman. we
were two-thirds of the way through the album when Steve (Cat Stevens) asked me if I would
like to go on the road again. I accepted and we played our first gig together at the
Plumpton Festival last year.
I used to write down all
the songs, with those strange time change.. I thought he set about doing that
purposefully, and it was not until I started touring with him and watching him write that
I realized the strange jumps in tempo and weird bar lengths are instinctive.
"For me those changes
come easily now, and its not till I see people from the outside puzzled that I
realize that they are weird. Weve got very close musically.
"I shall be working
with Steve for at least another year, doing all the tours we have lined up, but at the
same time, I will be recording and forming a band as well. But I dont want a back up
band I want a musical unit, with the front shared out.
"I want to work with
another guitarist, a drummer, bass and perhaps keyboards, too. -I think well be on
the road next spring to coincide with the album release. Ill do the first half of
Steves show with my band, and then join him for the second."
Theres a parallel there between James Taylor, Carole King and Danny Kootch.
Theres a nice feeling to a show when a lot of friends are
together on the road."MARK PLUMMER.
Article Courtesy of Keith