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September 2, 1972
Courtesy of Linda Crafar

Ian Meldrum & Mitch talk with Cat Stevens

Following Cat’s chaotic arrival at Sydney’s Mascot Airport he faced a press almost as hungry for information as his fans. In this article he talks to Ian Meldrum about his songwriting.

I am only writing for now, I don’t get any benefit from writing a song, the instance I write a song I don’t get any benefit from it. How can I get any benefit from it? I can only do it by releasing my song as my benefit.

Are you a fan of Elton John’s?

Yeah. I like Elton.

Are you angry over...

Cat StevensYeah. I was in the beginning. I was watching him and I admired him so much in his music and I saw the way he was being mishandled by management and everything to do around him he was being diverted from his actual musical form which is fantastic. You can see what happened it went bang and it fell down again. Now he is climbing up on his own speed.

What sort of control do you have over your own staff?

Complete. I have read some interviews that have been shown here. They are so old; they’re terrible. They’ve obviously been misled by what I’ve said. So now I am trying to control the medium by which I’m speaking. I do that on records by singing, by writing, by partly producing and I do it with a cover to that extent, but when it comes to other people looking at me I’m lost, and obviously I have to try and regain it.

This only time you are speaking to the press is this by choice?


Is there any possibility that when you get to Brisbane and go down to Melbourne you will speak to the press?

Well I don’t think it’s my duty to just talk about myself. I think it’s my duty to sing. That’s what the kids want. I don’t think they can read anymore than the feeling they get from me, they can’t actually get a feeling from reading a newspaper, but they can get a feeling from hearing it.

Does this make you more nervous than singing?

Yes, of course. I love singing but this makes me scared.

Steve, do you get much time to paint?


Is there any chance of an exhibition of your paintings?

I don’t know about that — I just paint for purely selfish reasons.

Is it true you like painting more than singing?

They combine. I see my songs the same as I see and almost hear my painting.

Do you mistrust the media at all?

Of course I do, because there are so many angles. For a start a paper. Due to an economical thing, a paper has to come out once a day or once a week, or monthly. It keeps up its paper thing. You have to fill it up and so suddenly you just can't print one page and naturally if you do print it, it's going to go up and down. And this is why I don't agree with putting out a record every bla-bla and unless you have got something to show there is no reason showing it.

Are you satisfied with the records you have released so far?

No, I am never completely satisfied, by the time I've finished it I am slightly sick of it and want to start the next one and I forget it.

Are you afraid you are going to run out of material — do you feel you have got much more left in?

I’ve got life, yeah.

How much new material is on the next LP?

I think the whole next album is off hand.

What are you going to do with your spare time while you are in Australia?

Ah. I don’t know. I am just going to enjoy it. I just hope it is like this. I am just going to be in the sun.

For a person who likes to be alone a lot you have a lot of people with you on this tour.

I know.

Could this be a protection for yourself?

I think it might be near that. I think I am watching myself grow. I do surround myself with more and more people, people I pick very carefully.

Is it a Cocker job?

No, No.

Back on the question of media, are you grateful to the media for being the success you are?

Cat Stevens medium is there for a reason to communicate and that’s what I’m there for too.

How has it changed the style, now that your keyboard player has gone?

That hasn’t changed because I’ve always had piano on my records anyway.

How did the rehearsals go in London this week?

They were very good, fine; they really were, because I have been singing the songs for a long time.

What do you like best, the writing, the producing?

It’s the singing. It's the live show that I enjoy. That’s when you actually come in contact with what you are doing.

You have said that by getting tuberculosis was the greatest thing that has ever happened to you, why is this?

I think this has been blown up a lot, it was just a time in my life when I was ill and I had to go away and I did think clearly that time, more than I have ever done. I think it was the start of a new life for me.

Was the first part of your career the reason for your ill health?

Yeah, I think so. .

Was it over-work?

Yeah, the whole thing.

About 'Catchbull At Four"

Well, the album is a great hit for me l feel. The title comes from an idea that comes out. Basically it is this guy who depicted the whole enlightening stages in ten points to do with the bull, Firstly it was realising it was there and secondly finding it and seeing it. The third is actually seeing it and the fourth is catching it.

With the up and down of the music scene, not being dependable, were you surprised at the world’s acceptance of Teaser and the Firecat. Were you surprised it was going to be that big?

No. I don’t think so. I have never been that surprised with myself. Obviously if it happens outside it’s good and I feel something is happening, but it can get out of hand so then I have to come back to point one again and that is why I’m doing it.

Do you worry when you release an album how high it is going to go up on the American charts and the British charts?

Yes I do worry. Not as you can imagine for material things, but so that I can see where I am in relation to America at that particular time.

How do you like American acceptance; do you like working over there?

I like it. I think Americans have a great deal, but I think they slightly misbehave themselves to themselves. I think they don’t have much respect for themselves now. I think that respect will slowly rebuild again.

Do you have a great album collection at home; do you listen to many other albums?

I listen to all of them. I have just thrown away all of them and are going to start a new collection.

What are you collecting now then?

At the moment I have got some Chinese bells and some electronic music. I don’t buy records twice and as they get scratched I throw them away.

Are you into music very deeply?

Deeply. Yes I think that’s on my mind most of the time.

What's your personal reaction to this tour? Are you looking forward to it or is it a joke?

Joke? No, I wish it was a joke. I wish I could take it like a joke but I can't. I take it a little more seriously than that. I enjoy touring.

You have set yourself a really hectic world tour, do you think it will worry you that it is a bit too much to take on, four months of solid touring might weaken you somewhat?


Do you find it stimulating?

Yes, actually. I will most probably write my next album on this tour.

The Jethro Tull tour was here recently and Jethro Tull and the Management had heard a few things back in London about Australian audiences, did you have any ideas about Australian audiences before you came or any thoughts on them?

I spoke to Elton and he said, "Don't go there" and I said I will and I said, "What happens" and he said "Well he found it difficult for some reason but from the reaction I think it’s going to be great as long as people listen.

What reason did he give?

I don't know, he didn’t explain himself at all. That is the reason I didn't go into it further.

Would you prefer your audience to sit around rather then stand around end scream?

Absolutely. I enjoy the actual anticipation moment as much as they do, but I enjoy singing too, so they must listen.

A few minutes ago you said you were going to write your next album here. Will you use this tour as a source of inspiration?

Most probably.

Do you go into a studio with a set plan on how you are going to record a number or does it just evolve in the studio after you have written a song?

Cat Stevens signing autograph for young fan.Both. I try and think of the mood first before I do anything and then work out the arrangement before I go in, and as I go in I let things take shape the way I want to and finally when I am doing the vocal it seems to me to be the most important thing and that needs total concentration and freedom.

You have just produced an album for Alun Davies your guitarist. Were you pleased with it, do you like working as a producer?

I do like working as a producer and AIun is a great musician to me and I loved everything about the album.

Steve are you involved in civil rights causes?

No. I don't think I have found the universal rights movement that I want to get into yet. I don't think it’s existing yet.

Do you ever worry about people using your talent?

No. I just hope that I have enough goodness in the talent that it will rub off onto them.

Your welcome to Sydney is compared with Beatle-mania. Do think you think you enjoy as much popularity as the Beatles once did?

No. I don't think anyone could repeat the BeatIes, they were something in themselves just as I am something as myself.

What sort of class do you put yourself in?

My own. I have never been influenced in the music of the time, which it seems, is the fact in a lot of groups.

Do you enjoy life?

Life? I think I will enjoy death even more.

Why is that?

Because this it too confusing. How most people live has got to such a confused state, that is, unable to see the reality towards life.

Would you be happier if you retired?

No I think life has to do working.

What you are saying Cat, is that fame and fortune hasn't made you happy then?

Absolutely no. I think that can't make anybody happy if that is all they strive for. At the time of striving they feel happiness but at the time of achievement there is nothing there.


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