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Moving From Inward To Outward

Hit Parade March 1972
Written by Roy Carr


Recording, said Cat Stevens, has "become something of a fixation with me. I want to fulfill my communication thing."

So there’s no relaxing for Mr. Stevens who already has three albums finished and his head full of songs for a fourth album. (Actually there is a fourth album out already, a bootleg, something that Cot considers a drag because he wanted Album No.4 to be live. "I’d perform some unrecorded material but a bootleg could spoil that for me," he said).

I queried how long an official Cat Stevens album takes to put together. "Usually about two months on and off, then another month for mixing, reducing and other little touches. I never have an abundance of material, usually about 15 songs in all, in my head. When I go into the studio I lust see what’s nice for that particular day," he replied.

"I find this is the best way because if you’re using session men you’re pretty well tied down and it can be a hang up If you don’t fancy doing a particular song on that particular day. You know, the best laid plans.. .This way we can stay pretty loose."

Revealing the benefits of the Stevens Recording Plan, Cat took one particular track, "Peacetrain."

Said he: "We found that song hard to record. In fact we tried without any success to record it on three different occasions. In the end we did a track-by-track and by some freak we got a live feel to it. It shouldn’t have happened but somehow it did."

Cat, without any conceit, admits that he can listen to his current records and gain a great deal of happiness from them. But the old Cat Stevens -- Pop Star, that’s an old wrapped up box pushed away in the corner, although he still has fond associations for "I Love My Dog" performing it when the spirit moves him.

"I can’t make out like the other never happened, because it did. But it’s more like an old jacket which you thought was great at the time and today it’s lust a memory."

Of his records, "Mona Bone Jakon" and "Tea For The Tillerman" were to use Cat’s term--- "inward" with "Teaser And The Fire Cat" he has reversed the role: "Now I’m thinking outward I feel like I want to help more, simply because people are helping me. I want to help others by my own experiences. I don’t want to lay any heavy idea on anyone. No matter how much good advice I get I still have to go through it myself.

"For me there are no short cuts.

"That’s why I couldn’t sing other people’s songs. I had to write my own."

There is also -- apart from the writer/performer -- Cat Stevens the accomplished artist, his artwork having graced the covers of his three albums. The central character of his new album, "Teaser And The Fire Cat" will possibly emerge as animated cartoon personalities. "Though I don’t make money from it, I nevertheless take art quite seriously," admitted Cat. "It helps to extend my ideas a step further, which I hope is going to lead me into films."

Despite the fact that several film people are bidding for Cat Stevens in his first acting role, he’s keeping them at arm’s length.

He explained: "Your timing is always right and you’ve got to follow your instincts. When you are doing things right you are aware of it and this gives you the confidence you need. You must always remember this -- whereas other people’s timing can be wrong. I’m not letting my common sense be blinded by the film opportunities."Hitp372b.jpg (5979 bytes)

Or by over-exposure which can turn into overkill. Or by the superstar tag. He does admit that he is genuinely frightened of becoming an unwilling victim of the superficial, superstar syndrome.

Says he: "The secret is to keep away, well away, from the larger venues because in these places it is so very easy to lose contact with your audience. I insist on playing halls that hold no more than 5000 people. Frankly I’d rather do two shows a night in a smaller hall than one a night In a larger venue.

"If you play Madison Square Garden as a soloist then you’ve had it." (Stephen Stills and James Taylor please note!) Continued Cat: "I suppose the trouble with America is that you’re either a superstar or you’re nothing and you’re expected to play the large auditoriums. But it can easily get out of hand and become quite frightening."

Cat rejects, totally rejects, the term Superstar, considering it destructive: "There are people all around making good music who aren’t what people insist on calling a superstar."


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