article by Roy Carr appeared in two different Hit Parade magazines
issues, July 1972 and the Spring 1973 issue. As you may have noticed in previous articles
on Majicat, many articles seem to be very similar. This is one particular incidence, when
these two Hit Parade issues published the exact same article under two differnt names.
- In An Atmosphere of Motion
- Hit Parade July 1972
- Hit Parade Yearbook
- Spring 1973
Written by ROY
Putting an artist on a
pedestal has always been a common practice and the worship of the graven star image a much
exploited cult. Once it was the magnified animated reflection on the silver screen,
today it is the contemporary singer-songwriter whose every word and gesture is taken as
gospel by those seeking some kind of substitute spiritual fulfillment. Such is the frailty
of the human ego that many of those directly subjected to this phenomena allow their
life-style to be moulded beyond recognition by the lip-service bestowed upon them.
Not Cat Stevens. For he
states with down-to-death directness "I find that its all really nothing more
than a great joke. "As far as anything is concerned, be it politics, generals.
. .whatever, its all a great big game and you play it the best that you can.
Thats as far as it goes."
He stresses: "The
important thing is not to take anything seriously. Like the general who thinks that he is
the Father of the Army has got to be crazy, because most of them hate his guts
and youve really got to look at it with a sense of humor.
However, Stevens admits
that when he doesnt think along this line, it brings him down. "My most
depressing time is when I start getting serious with myself," he states with complete
honesty. "I find that it comes through in my music. Ill get all wound up in a
particular line and Ill start thinking about it while Im putting it down on
tape. Then when I listen to it a couple of days later, I say, Forget it. . .
thats not what Im thinking about, thats hitting stone! You go as far
down as you can possibly go and then inevitably you hit stone."
Despite his success, which
is still a source of amazement to him, Cat Stevens has remained level-headed. The paradox
is that he is almost the antithesis of his vocation. This trait is revealed in- the
simplicity of his domestic life, for Stevens has just bought himself a new home. Its
not the expected sprawling multi-roomed
mansion complete with a
swimming pool hidden away in the green and pleasant heart of the English countryside.
Its a converted split-level terraced dwelling, a mere stall holders cry from
the busy North End Road street market down at Walham Green, London. Outside, kids kick a
football at the silent crocodile of parked cars a queue of old ladies with bursting
shopping bags form outside the brightly lit Top Rank Bingo Palacethe aroma of
freshly baked bread that emits from the corner shop tempers the chillness of the air.
When I arrived at Chateau
Cat, a gang of workmen were busy bashing, plastering and hammering everything in sight
with a maximum of noise. Surely this was not a conducive atmosphere for a prolific
songwriter, I commented when I initially came across Stevens seated cross-legged on the
floor amongst a heap of books, paints and guitar cases busily cooking scrambled eggs and
burning toast on a small electric ring plonked, for the time being, in the stone fireplace
on the first floor.
"Ahhhh well, being a
city lad," Steve chortled in mock tones, as he looked up from his culinary duties,
"I enjoy living in London. . . in actual fact, I like all cities. Apart from London,
the only other city that Id like to live in though is Toronto. Now thats a
really fantastic place.
"I would never live in
New York," he commented, while continuing his whistle-stop appraisal of the capitals
of the world. The reason for this statement was "New York finally eats yàu
up.". No.matter how long a stretch you have there, you always get eaten up. Strange
as it may seem, this urban atmosphere of almost perpetual motion in which Stevens exists,
nay positively thrives in, acts as a stimulus fQr his numerous creative outlets. "I
like to be as close to the city as possible," says Stevens, "having all these
workmen around me is creating a constant stream of movement. . . only in that way is my
mind free to move.
"For me, its
great to write in a car.
cause if Im being driven somewhere in a taxi, I find that my mind is being
constantly taken over by new sights. Therefore I havent got the time to concentrate
on any one thing and get lost in it, so I have to think and consequently my ideas are
constantly changing. "A car is a great place to write in," he concluded. Totally
aware that the contents of his music reflects the inverse of his turbulent environment,
Stevens who until recently lived above his parents restaurant on Shaftesbury Avenue,
London feels that subconsciously its his natural reaction against this background of
"Ive had lorries
outside my window for the last ten years," he recalls. "I guess its that
which I am combating." However, Stevens still finds time to allow for everyday
idiosyncrasies, his most recent being his beard, which he is hurriedly regrowing after
taken razor firmly in hand
and succumbed to the overwhelming compulsion to see what lay underneath. "Before I
shaved it off, I found that my beard was almost ruling me," confessed the demon
barber. "I was almost frightened to see what was underneath, if got so much that I
thought Ive got to beat it."
"Well I eventually did
it," he continued, "and I felt so clean, it was the first time that I have
actually felt rain on my chin for I dont know how many years. . . it was fantastic.
But then I realized I didnt want it like that so Ive started to regrow it
again. You find that you can conceal things, not internally, but when you have an open jaw
you automatically find that you conceal things within yourself. . . mainly in your head.
"Now normally, youd take it inside of yourself when reacting to something, with
a beard you can react quite openly and as you have a covering it doesnt affect it
too much. . . its not so internal, its an outgoing reaction."
Success has turned more
heads than a good looking woman, but again Cat Stevens is adamant in his determination to
retain a sense of priorities and avoid being sucked up by the destructive superstar
syndrome. Even the immediacy of his Stateside acclaim being one of the few artists
to actually show a profit on an initial expeditionary trip to the New
Worldhasnt clouded his personal credo.
"The trouble is, that
many artists become performing puppets, but they dont know it. They still think they
are in control which can be very dangerous because theyll suddenly blow up and they
wont know why.
"The thing I found is
trying to get as much control over my life as possible, Its lust a question of you
working and struggling for that moment when youre on top so that you can then do
what you want. It doesnt matter what thing youre into, its just that
youre constantly working to reach that peak. "There are those people who give
up at a certain point and thats something I havent done yet. In fact I
dont feel that Im going to do it for a long time because I have so much energy
to give myself that actually works. I dont know what it is," then with a hearty
laugh suggests, "probably its lust sexual frustration.
Conscious of his audience,
Stevens is forever striving to present a good
concert in the best
possible surroundings. To this end, he still avoids performing in those vast American
stadiums, where the name of the game is: See How Many People We Can Pull In.
"I dont go in
for all that," says Stevens taking a stand. "Theyre only in it for the
bread, its definitely a bread thing. The only thing is that you do get heard by a
lot more people, but then you dont really because you sacrifice the quality of your
performance. They only see the event, thats all. Now thats what I call a drag.
Thats not what its about.
"Records are private
things, personal things and it doesnt always mean the same.thing to everyone who is
listening, yet it has to be heard.
"You see, in America a
large proportion of the audience comes for the event instead of the artist. Elton John got
caught up in this trap and he didnt know it at the time.
"I guess thats
what festivals were really all about. It didnt matter who was on, it was a nice
summer and youd go along to dig it because you knew other people would be there.
didnt expect things to happen in the States like they did. But when I got there
everything just felt right. Though I was angry at the time that Mona Bone
Jakon didnt get off the ground, but then it didnt get off here or
anywhere for that matter except in France.
"I was really upset
about that, so when I went over I was really determined to make it on my first trip. I
wasnt into like doing three trips and like they say earn money gradually. I earned
money on the first tour, even though it was only $250 it was enough to come out and say,
Ive done it. You dont have to do loads of tours and like you
dont have to go through all that hassle. Not if you really mean what you say.
Stevens yet again admits as
an afterthought that he still is very much surprised by the reaction. "And
thats why I dont want to get too hung-up on it, and lets face it so many
With astute know how
Stevens is instigating his own demand by only doing four week Stateside tours of selected
dates at any one time. "I dont want to play before 40,000 people in a football
stadium, because thats it. . .whats the next thing?
"The only alternative
then is to do jingles."
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