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Record Mirror
April 6th, 1974
Courtesy of Linda Crafar


I Can't Explain

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By Genevieve Hall

There we all were in Cat Stevens’ house, a little Japan in Fulham, gathered en masse at yet another one of those debacles that masquerade as Press conferences. This time it was in honour of the gorgeous Steve Georgiou, better known as Cat Stevens. The reception room was crammed with people milling about and getting nowhere. As time went by a general feeling of boredom had set in with the non-arrival of Mr. Stevens —our enlightener.

"If worse comes to the worse," a voice was heard to remark, "we can always interview each other!"

The more aggressive strains of Buddha And The Chocolate Box had long since died, to be replaced by a prominent bass tone which was muffled by the sunburnt carpet. Eventually, on Cat’s arrival, we were invited to sit around a well (just one of the many curious features within his abode). Having declared that due to the delay, everyone had forgotten their questions it was a Rolling Stone correspondent who took the incentive with the first and obvious question. What had inspired Cat to call his new album Buddha And The Chocolate Box?

"It happened during a flight from Japan, and I had with me that Buddah," he points at a statuette on his right, "and a chocolate box. I suddenly realised they were the only possessions I had with me at the time. And if I had died or anything had happened, there would have been the Buddah and the box. I was trying to find a significance and I realised that that was the significance — that was all that needed to be known. If you study something for long enough you can be enlightened by it. Just as the boy found enlightenment from a chocolate box, if you screw up a piece of paper, you’ll find all of life in that piece of paper without having to move,"

The new album unlike Foreigner his previous album, suggests a basic simplicity. Would he return much more to this form of music?

"I think it’s the same as going away for a while and people want to hear from you. The thing is I’m not going too far out of reach — I don’t want to ever do that. I want to be here for everyone who wants to relate to me So Foreigner was enough for that time, but I had to come back and say I’m still here you don’t have to worry about it" EXN2A.JPG (7403 bytes)

Nevertheless, how many Cat Stevens loyalists had worried about it? And how many had become confused and bitterly disappointed after having listened again and again in the hope of finding some d the lad’s unique qualities. Foreigner was a disaster.

Question: Was Foreigner a mistake?

"No," he was emphatic. "absolutely not, and the best thing about it was that it was completely unconscious. I don’t think that you have to sit down and listen to it, it’s a great one to have going. It was an important album to me. Before Foreigner I was planning ahead and living almost two months ahead of what I was doing in my head. So Foreigner brought me up to date and enabled me to start again, it was more or less a recycle."

Cat produced that album himself. He explains the circumstances which brought his co-producer Paul Samwell-Smith back for the Buddha album.

"We had reached the stage where we were getting too familiar with each other — he knew how l worked, and I knew how he worked, there was no spark. So it was good to have a break from each other, because when we did get together it created an excitement."

He appears to be turning out albums at a faster rate than he used to, will it continue?

"I think it gets faster, then it gets slower. The whole thing will even itself out to around one a year — that sounds nice to me. It takes a year to understand what you’re doing anyway."

Not very many artistes have the freedom of recording one album a year. Was it important that those terms be in his contract?

‘‘Absolutely’’, he replied. ‘‘I think that accounts for good quality. A load of people bring out two albums, one might be good and one might not be what they want, but they have to bring it out anyway, and that’s terrible for music and for everybody."

Is he able to explain any exterior influences on his music?

"I don’t know how my influences come about. I write Greeky stuff, I didn’t live there yet I feel it. It’s the same as Russian Music which affects me very strongly. I don’t know why, there’s no way of explaining it. They say that it’s going back. It could be a relative lifetime backwards. French music for instance. I had a great affinity with the French Revolution for some reason, I don’t know why — I could have been there. I used to be so infatuated with the French Revolution. Also my nephew’s got exactly the same thing, he can’t say what it is — it’s heredity."

His new single Oh Very Young is a track taken from the new album. Does he concern himself with what comes off his albums as singles?

"I’ve always been a bad picker of singles. I’ve always tried to get the right one, one that I like and also one that would be popular and sell. I picked Oh Very Young, but I used a lot of people for that ‘cos I loved that song, and I wanted the reaction from a lot of people. Most of them went for that one, which was great, ‘cos for me it was the best one."

How does he see singles; as a means of promoting his album, or as an entity in their own right?

"Singles are an art form in themselves. The Beatles proved that, and a lot of people are proving it all the time. To have three minutes of pure — you don’t want to stop, you wanna hear it again — is an art form. An album is another art form, to have the ability to create both is very lucky."EXP3A.JPG (12271 bytes)

As far as touring is concerned, live performances from Cat Stevens are few and far between — especially where Britain is concerned. He explains

"I live here, I don’t necessarily consider it work. I save it. I save it up for myself and for the people who are going to see it."

What tempted his decision to undertake his current British tour?

"It’s necessary. At the moment I’m very happy, ‘cos I think I’ve got something I want to play, like this album. I can almost pick any song from it and see it live, whereas with Catch Bull I found it more difficult, because that was more of a record. The songs as such were really built for that medium, so it was difficult to do them live. With this album they’re songs that get me excited enough to go out sand sing them."

Cat says the hardest thing for him is trying to explain to someone unfamiliar with his work, just what exactly he does do.

"It’s like explaining how your mother feels to you, or how sausages taste!"

Is there a sense of relief to meet someone who has never heard of Cat Stevens?

"Oh yeah, I love it, he says much to our amusement. "It’s great. I’ve always wanted to keep Greece a place where nobody perhaps knew me, but It never happened, because they get so patriotic knowing I’m a bit Greek."

He has already bought some land around Corrin where he intends building himself a house. Does he find Greece more home than London?

"No, London is my home — now. But everybody needs a place in the sun and I wish I could bring some of it back, but there’s no way.

Is music important enough to make his life?

‘‘Music? Yes. Music involves so many things, whatever you are, you are. If I try to hide from myself then one day I might say, I don’t like myself, I don’t like music. But I like myself and I like music, ‘cos music is the expression of man. It’s man’s best side. To me love and music are the two things which stand man apart. I mean the idea of love —not just love, but the idea that you can love someone and not see them.


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