- Rolling Stone
- May 9, 1974
- By Paul Gambaccini
- Photo: Annie Leibovitz
- Cat Stevens Return:
- Pop Goes the Poof
LONDON Two children,
one black and one white, played on the doorstep of Cat Stevenss terraced house.
"Are you here for the interview?" asked one. Hes in there,"
pointed the other, as professionally as a tour guide, even though the occasion was a rare
entertaining a group of reporters on the eve of a tour that would take him to the U.S. for
24 dates, beginning April 22nd in Detroit and ending May 20th in Los Angeles. He would
conclude the tour with concerts in Australia and Japan. And he had just released a new
album, Buddha and the Chocolate Box, and the initial impression was that Cat was
back to his pre-Foreigner ways, with shorter, poppier tunes, sweets but no
Stevens eased himself into
a cross-legged position on the floor of his living room and explained the title of the new
album: He was on a plane to Florida a year ago, he said, and he was carrying a small
porcelain Buddha figure and a box of chocolates with him.
"I suddenly realized
that was all I had. Whether I died or not, it would just be the Buddha and the
chocolate box. I was trying to find the significance in that when I realized that was the
significance. Thats all that had to be known."
Cat dispensed more
philosophical bonbons: "One cannot discount any moment in ones life. There is
no moment that is not important. Just like the boy on the back of the album finds
enlightenment from a chocolate box [in a cartoon strip conceived and drawn by Stevens. You
can find it from anything. Its like meditation, you can look at a piece of paper and
find anything you want in the piece of paper."
Cats cloudy ways of
expression follow him onto the stage. At the Theatre Royal in London in late March, he
castigated himself for moving across the stage with "the walk of a poof. Im
just a poof. Well, maybe not. Whats the opposite of poof? Heterosexual? Well, then,
I guess Im just a heto. Well, I dont really know."
Shortly after that
interlude, Stevens told the house that Foreigner hadnt sold too well, but
that didnt mean much, since chart positions werent important to him. Then he
went on to exclaim: "The new one went in at number 16!" However puffy, Stevens
seemed sincere at his home, trying to explain his albums, the ambitious Foreigner and
the new one, on which hes reunited with producer Paul Samwell-Smith.
"Paul and I were
getting too familiar before Foreigner," said Cat. "Being away got us
excited about going into the studio again." Samwe1l~-Smith had teamed with Stevens to
produce Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat.
like going away for a while," said Stevens. "People want to hear from you.
Im not going too far, I never want to be out of reach, I want to be here for anybody
who wants to relate to me. So after Foreigner I wanted to say, ~ Im
still here, you dont have to worry d about it."
The single from Foreigner.
"The Hurt," failed to make the British charts and barely reached the Top 20
in America. "Ive always been a bad picker of singles," said Cat. He chose
the new single, too, he said, "but I got a lot of I other people to give reactions
because I love it so much." Its called "Oh Very Young."
"Ive seen youth
lost," Stevens reasoned. "Ive watched myself grow, and seen my attitude to
children change. One must always change, thats what children I do. I find a lot of
people take their kids for granted, even people who were in the hippie thing. I
havent broken the line yet. I still enjoy the kids on the street, and theres a
school across the back that Im looking forward to visiting."
Stevens drew puzzled stares
from several of the reporters at his house when he began drawing a connection between
Buddha and Jesus Christ, who both rate a verse in the song, "Jesus."
"I see no difference
in what they were doing," he said. "Jesus died, really. .not violently, but on a
cross which became the symbol of Jesus . . . whereas Buddha didnt even die as we
"They were both saying
exactly the same thing, which is why I think of them both."
As if to match the
spiritual mood of Cat Stevens, the stage design for the American portion of his tour is
all in white. A white nylon band shell was built in Los Angeles. Described by one crew
member as "kind of floating, like half a flower," it will serve as background
for two grand pianos white, of course and an expected company of ten musicians and singers
It appeared from his London
performances, however, that Stevens was not yet comfortable onstage. After a generally
uninspired performance, he said goodnight to the opening-night capacity crowd at the
Theatre Royal: "Well, thats all for another year." He told the audience
they had been "nice, but cool - but then, I was cool, wasnt I?"