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The Decision That Saved Cat’s Life


Jackie Magazine
January 4, 1969
No. 261

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CAT STEVEN’S first record in nine months "Here Comes My Wife" proved that his enforced absence from the pop world was not wasted. Apart from writing thirty songs, some of which will make singles for himself and other artists. His illness has given him time for thought. He has learnt a lot about himself.

He told me how he discovered his illness. "I was very, very thin and I was coughing a lot and everybody was telling me I ought to do something about it, so I thought, why not go and make sure? So I went and had an X-ray." The same evening I was sitting at home watching T.V. when the phone rang and  the doctor said; ‘I’ve booked you into a Harley Street nursing hours this evening’ They discovered later that it wasn’t pneumonia, as they thought, but a bit more serious—TB.

"I moved into the country for more treatment and good air—to Midhurst, and stayed there for three months. The last two and a half months were very frustrating, just lying there.

"I spent the time reading, writing and trying to learn how to read music. I could follow it before, but now I really know what’s going on In a recording studio.

"In the beginning, in hospital, I was really depressed. That was when I thought I was going to die. I thought—they’re not telling me everything. It’s more serious than they say.

"Mind you, if I’d left it another three weeks I’d have been gone." But luckily he did go to the doctor in time, and after the initial weeks of depression, his mood lifted, and towards the end of his stay in Midhurst he was allowed to get up, play snooker and mix with the other patients —and even cadge cigarettes from them; although the hospital staff disapproved, they didn’t forbid it.

"It was a beautiful place, and the grounds and the countryside around catered for three different temperaments— there were three forests. The first one was thousands of tall trees, and there was one with short stubbly trees where you could see the sky, and one in between the two.

"They had a games room and I got quite friendly with some of the people. There was this Indian guy who wore white silk robes—we played cards and by the third deal he would always know who was going to win. He was about sixty, and very, very clever.

"I still write to one-girl I met there she has to stay in for a few years." But a lot of the time he was alone. He found It frightening at first, and then he began to get used to himself. "You begin to develop a certain side of yourself, the human side, a feeling for other people. You start realizing you are really alone, and the only way you can get over this is to make lots of friends, real friends.

"It also showed me you can only think so much about this business, it isn’t every thing. And another thing, I’ve really got a taste for the country now, it’s just great; all those green trees. I used to talk a lot to the birds, and they don’t have to talk to you. They can fly away, and they don’t get embarrassed.

‘Being alone for so long, It teaches you a lot about people—you have to watch them from afar, and you get to appreciate the simple things."

He appreciated the staff of the hospital at Midhurst, and a nurse from the Harley Street who brought him a bottle of wine, and who made a special detour to Midhurst to take him home.

But although Cat recovered quickly and was allowed home after three months, he still had to rest for six months after that. But he was content to stay home, do his exercises, relax and watch television, he had no desire to start living it up and over-exerting himself—although he’s not sure that he kept strictly to his doctor’s orders.

Once home he went back to his old interests and started a few new ones. He wrote songs, drew, took up mathematics and made new friends. "I made very good friends of Paul and Barry Ryan. I met them in Belgium ages ago, and Harold Davison is married to their mother, and he’s my agent, too, so it just worked out fine. Paul is writing a lot now.

"I’ve got on to this cartoon thing in drawing, but it restricts you to laces and I’m more interested in the use of space. A bloke called Jeff who teaches in Pentonville prison four days a week got me interested in this; he’s shown me some photographs of his paintings.

"And I’m scratching up on my mathematics. It started when I was bored. I hate to be ignorant, so I started reading simple books on technical knowledge, electricity, the simple basic rudiments of math, to refresh my memory—algebra, sound waves and vibrations,"

The purpose of these particular studies is ultimately to invent something, which is one of Cat’s main ambitions now; his dream is to invents new musical instrument.

"It would be a machine you can sing into, and the note will be changed into musical form, and come out sounding like violins, say—it would work through vibrations, and five people could use these instruments together. When I’ve made it, I’d like to get the instrument manufactured."

So now Cat is reading all the books he can find, though he has less time now that he is back working again. "I went on holiday to Venice and my doctor phoned up to say my X-rays were OK, and I could start work again."

He rushed back to London to arrange meetings with publishers, arrangers and producers so that he could start on his new single." It was a bit like it was with the first record, a nice feeling of embarking on something new. I appreciate a lot of the things people are doing for me now.

"And I’m anxious to try different things, too—I’m going to do some modeling, and I may do a film commercial. Right now, though, it’s a question of waiting to see what will happen."

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