Here is an interesting article from a magazine called Rock Magazine.
It is quite interesting in the fact, the writer catches Cat right before a live
performance. This comes courtesy of Linda Crafar.
Rock Magazine January 29,
Success means, it's
time to start all over again.
Theres something a
bit sad and neglected about English seaside towns out of season. Once the buckets and
spades and the few rays of sun have been chastened away by the bite of those northern
winds, they are after alljust towns stripped of their bunting. But then maybe
thats when they settle down.
Once the sightseers and
intruders go back home everything goes back to normal, and the Bed and Breakfast signs
left creaking in the wind are maybe not cleaned up again until early Spring.
along the motorway from Londonhuddles into itself on Wednesday night as high winds
and torrential rain pound at it incessantly. Its raining so fiercely that the
Christmas lights in the town centre are a coloured blur.
Boumemouth is a kind of
middle class seaside town. Not as rich as Brighton, not as overloaded with toffee apples
and candy floss as Blackpool.
The people who pack the
Winter Gardens are very enthusiastic but not overly demonstrative. Theyve come out
to see Cat Stevens on a really filthy night and its enough to prove their devotion
and admiration that they did it. But then thats the kind of artist Stevens
isdrawing people to him like a magnet when hes certainly not a rabid rock and
roller in the true sense of the word, and certainly never comes up with any tricks to get
the audience off on him.
right now is really huge. I know some people who, not being able to get a smell of a
ticket for the Royal Albert Hall, took to their wheels to go to Bournemouth without a
By the end of
Wednesdays showjust 90 minutes after Cat walked on stagethe audience are
up on their feet and down at the front for "Lady DArbanville", singing
along toobut its taken Cat quite a lot of talking to get it:
funnythey were loving it but they seemed scared to move," he says later,
sitting coolly on an amplifier backstage. "I have to do a lot of rambling.
It doesnt matter
what rubbish I say, its just that all that talking makes them realise something.
That youre really human".
These British dates are
the round off of four months on the madCat Stevens World Tour. And everybody
in the Stevens entourage tonight, aside from Alun Davies, Gerry Conway and the others are
wearing T. shirts that give you an indication of just how long theyve all been out
on the road.
Australia and Japan and America before this lot, and yet tonight its very obvious
that somethings up. That instead of an enormous feeling of exhaustion and sheer
ploughing weight of so many live gigs, so many miles, there's an incredibly high energy
level with everyone.
Most of it is emanating
from Stevens himself. Everyone remarks on it backstage, but if you hadnt noticed it
anyway youd be pretty dumb. Hes really exuberant and happyjoking,
laughing, ribbing Conway, and whining "Dat little black dawg" with Jean Rouselle
in a send-up of Aluns song.
With only ten minutes
before hes due on stage, theres none of the tension you normally getnot
just from Stevens, but from any artist that is noticeably jumpy before those first couple
of early numbers are tucked under his belt and hes had time to gauge what the
audience is all about.
But theres just
smiles and kisses and "lets do the interview now", which is really odd
because its the unwritten law of rock and roll that nobody does interviews before
they go onand any journalist who asks is a fool who just doesnt know what
its all about.
But he really does want
to talkurgentlyhe needs to explain this new-found emotional peak hes
going through. Why this inexplicable resurgence of energy should suddenly have hit him,
three years after he came back to grow into the giant stature hes at now.
Success is probably the
most sought after, most prayed for and certainly most admired quality in the twentieth
century. Western life is built, packaged and ribboned around success. Success is not just
the American dream anymoreits everyones dream. To the artist its
his incentive; to the outsider it appears to bring its own rewards.
But like everything
pretty and shiny and smelling good, its something of a tender trap that brings its
own problems. For three years Cat Stevens success growth has been rapid and
sure-footed. There hasnt been a slip on the way, and now with four world-wide smash
albums tucked under his arm and the knowledge of his pulling power (he could have sold the
Albert Hall out twice with no problem at all) he is in an admirably secure
positionsome would say.
But in fact its
this very security that he appears to be fighting with all his new found strength.
In his dressing room he
grins like a non-stop Cheshire cat. There is a friendly confusion in the air. Jean and
bass player Alan James are indulging in some fine souped up Bach/jazz improvisation; Alun
Davies is chatting with friends, Gerry Conway is drifting around as only he
canlooking earnestly as though hes just lost some important train of thought.
The bands soundman,
John, is working out whos tuned what. Onstage, the Sutherland Brothers are three
minutes into the first half and their harmonies can just be heard along the corridor when
someone opens the door.
In the midst of the noise
and rabble rousing Stevens talks with great determinationsometimes having to yell
across the racket. Occasionally, during a conversation about how the four months on the
road have seemed like one year encapsulated, he turns to Gerry to ask how he feels
hes changed. "Not much, not me" mutters Gerry thoughtfully."You just
get much more involved in the musictheres no diversion of energies on the
Stevens enthusiastically "Theres no wastage thats what it is. I think
its become very noticeable to everyone how much Ive changed. My friends really
expected me to be a wreck after the tour. They cant believe that you can do
something you really dig and still come back digging itand I did, I really did. I
feel now I have all the energy in the world. And yet four months ago I felt drained.
"Catch bull was a
determined effort. Now I feel like Im starting all over again with all this
inexhaustible energy coming in. Its so weird and yet so nice. I cant explain
why its happened. Im just thankful it hasbecause theres this awful
fear of getting stale. All artists get it. When something like this happens you just thank
it for happening."
We get on to Catchbull
Cat says he sees it as the end of a four album period, but its probably more
noticeable on that album that he was really trying to break away from a format that
hes accidentally found himself trapped in on the previous three:
"I must admit I
remember reading somewhere how alike the material had become and how only three songs
stood out. I thought at the time that the fact that they didnt even consider the
well it got me a bit wild. So I thought some kind of change was in order.
Im fighting hard now not to be too predictable in my writing and thats a
danger once it becomes easywhich it has for me.
"Now I have to
change something that comes naturally and that forces me to think why Im doing it. I
think thats why I havent started work on a new album yetIve got to
figure out and go back to the roots of just singing and enjoying writing. Success does
effect your music and Id like to come out with something now thats freer and
more natural and I think I will."
Success too has affected
Stevens on a more personal level:
determined not to become an institution. Its very easy to fall into thatput
out a record, promote it, do tours, interviews, all the things that are expected of you
and that everyone else does. Its hard not to and of course I take part in
institutional things like everyone else.
"In the music scene
youre branded once you start. The career tends to rule you. The Albert Hall
frightened me as being an institution. It took me a long time to make up my mind to play
"You see to me I
only have two involvements. One is my music and the other is my family. As my career
develops so my life with my family and friends changes until you get to the point of
saying well theyve accepted me for doing what Im doing and thats
what I didnt want. I wanted to break free of something that was already
organised alwayslike school, art school; work. I think thats why Ive
changed now because Im against that kind of security so much. I just dont
always want to do the accepted thing.
"No not like live
appearances. Theyre very important. I wouldnt stop thosethats how
you keep communication. The only time I did stop I was writing and it was all the same
figures, the same chord structures. Live is the point where all things take place, it is
the one take and you know when youre up there that if it takes off youre going
to finish really well.
"I dont think
that people who withdraw progress fast enough. Neil Young and Van Morrison? Yes
theyre both cases in point. I really like their work but I dont feel
theyve progressed very much musically and that may very well be because they
dont appear live enough.
"I dont think
you can ever rely on success---directly you do, its gone. But you do need a lot of
energy not to fall into that trap. Now, the way I use the success Ive got and the
energy Ive got has to be just right. And I feel that, maybe its a challenge in
a way and perhaps thats why I feel this new enthusiasm so much."
- Bournemouth Winter Gardens. Full house. The
rains stopped just for an hour. Up on stage Cat Stevens is perched over his piano,
his black curls bouncing around and into "Miles From Nowhere,"
"I have my freedom" he rightly pounds into the mike, curling his growl round it.
"I can make my own road".