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- CAT STEVENS
- (A Biography)
Once upon a time, in a flat
above a restaurant called Moulin Rouge, in the heart of a magical town called Singlitter
City, there lived a young boy.
He grew up in the city,
amidst the steady rumble of traffic, the rush and bustle that never stopped, the smoke and
dirt, the bright lights and the few patches of grey grass.
And because there was no
real place for him to play in safety, the boy grew up with other interests besides playing
conkers or raiding orchards. He learned for instance, about music and the happiness it can
The boy and his parents
were Greek, so the music that played to him while he was growing up was the music of that
wise and ancient country. Full of richness, emotions, joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure,
it was a good music to have as teacher, and the boy Learned well.
As he grew older, the boy
started to write his own music. He was very good, and before long he came to the attention
of a very important man who knew how to make people famous.
Now, not only was the boy
very talented, he was also very handsome, so before long he and his songs were well known
from one end of the Land to the other.
A lot of people bought his
songs and magazines printed pictures of him which girls stuck on their bedroom walls so as
to have him near them in their dreams.
The boy became very famous,
worked very hard at his new job, traveled a lot, appeared in a lot of shows, and wrote
songs for other people, who in turn became famous.
But all the time the boy
became more and more unhappy. The songs people wanted him to sing were not the songs he
wanted to sing. He was writing songs which were far better than the ones he was famous
for, and try as he would to change their minds, the people who controlled his fame and
fortune did not want him to sing those songs.
The boy became ill. So ill
in fact that when he saw a doctor he was told to spend at least three months in a hospital
or he would die.
So the boy went into the
hospital for three months, and while he was there was able to think seriously about
himself and his life. He did not like what he saw in himself, and so determined to make a
complete break from the past.
For more than a year he did
not work, but concentrated on his new writing. The money he earned from his early fame was
enough to give him complete freedom, and gradually what he felt to be the real him
Eventually he was sure he
was ready. With the help of some friends and sympathetic people, he went into recording
studios for a month and recorded a collection of his new songs.
The change from boy to man
was complete. CAT STEVENS is back, proud and happy. And so are we.
CAT STEVENS ANSWERS
Q. How old are you
Q. We all know
about Matthew and Son, I Love My Dog and...
A. ... Here Comes My
Baby, First Cut Is the Deepest...
Q. Of course,
Id forgotten you wrote that.
A. Oh, a lot of people
didnt know I wrote that.
Q. And then, well
not then, but about that time...
A. ... it started, I
started to drift off.
Q. You went away
for three months, to hospital.
A. Yeah. That was a result
of the pressures of my life then. I was too hung up on what I was doing to worry about my
health, and I just let it get to a head, and it got to the stage where another four weeks
in the state I was in and I would have copped it. I went into hospital in September, 1968
and stayed three months. My lungs were really screwed up, really a mess.
Q. What did you do
while you were away?
A. Oh, I took a load of
records and books, and just got down to sorting myself out. I really got into meditation
there, and that really helped a lot - that and Yoga.
Q. Do you still
A. No, because I cant
get the peace I need in my flat. Thats why Im looking for somewhere to live
away from traffic and all the noise. Id like to live by the Thames.
Q. What was so
dissatisfying about your old way of life that made you want to change it?
A. Everything. The whole
process I went through, being with a big anonymous company like Decca who are very into
the Top 20 thing, very pop conscious. There are a lot of heavy pressures in that kind of
set-up, all in a very fickle direction. In fact no direction at all apart from making
instant large figures on paper.
There were the heavy agency
figures who really didnt know me. Like the minute I said I wanted to develop, that
the stuff I was doing wasnt really me or what I wanted to do, that didnt
interest them. What did interest them was how much I was getting that night and making
sure they got half the bread before. Thats all they were worried about. And I just
wanted a complete break from that because it just wasnt the way I wanted to go. It
was the way I had hoped it would go from the beginning, but it just didnt work out
Q. So how old is
the material on "Mona Bone Jakon"?
A. Oh, very new. All
written in the last three months or so.
whats happened to all the songs youve obviously written in the past 18 months?
A. Ive still got
them, but the new songs are settled. Everything I wrote while I "as away was in a
transitional period and reflects that and the doubts I was having. I wasnt sure
about my music, which was very frightening. You know, not believing in yourself is very
scary. I was listening to too many people and that made me unsure of everything. I had to
be sure about myself first, and I am now. Im absolutely positive. Its what I
want, its what s happened on record, its the way it should be.
Q. The album is
very much on your shoulders too. There are no huge orchestrations to hide away in, just
you, your guitar or piano, and small units of sound.
A. Thats exactly
right. Its something that hasnt come out before. I used to play things like
this to people and theyd ask why I wasnt doing it on record, so I had to do it
this way. Now its all down to me. What we did was to record the songs simply, then
discuss with Del Newman, the arranger, how they could be improved. Not just added to, but
improved, and we were very lucky because he was into what we were doing. That was one of
the things that got out of hand before. Because it was all done on the session with these
clockwork players who just read the music, sat down and played it. They didnt feel
it, or care about it. Sessions in the old days used to scare the hell out of me. I used to
get all knotted up days before, just being scared about it. And you just cant work
in that frame of mind. So we just hit it from the roots with this album. Just me and
guitar and piano. Its the only way really.
Q. So what happens
now, after this album?
A. Well, theres talk
about film music. I was supposed to be writing for a movie last year, but it was one of
the things the studio cancelled when that money panic happened in Hollywood.
Q. Do you have a
set-working pattern, or do you literally get a turn on at odd moments which may result in
A. No. I eat, sleep and
drink my music. It really does take up all my thinking time. It could be titles, anything.
Anytime, anywhere, thats the pattern. And when it happens, you just have to get it
down because it may be important.
I got into electronic music
quite a bit during The Big Rest. Its good because its slightly upside down,
freaky, and is a side of me, which comes out there. Then theres the sweet, classical
side that I occasionally rest on. But electronic music is disturbing. Stockhausen is still
pretty incredible, and there are some people in Norway doing interesting things. Italians
have a great feel for making electronic instruments.
Q. Finally, do you
miss anything at all about the old days?
A. Not one thing. Truly -
not a thing. The whole mess was a REALLY BIG DRAG.
- CAT STEVENS - Vocals, guitar, piano
- ALUN DAVIES - Guitar
- HARVEY BURNS - Percussion
- PETER GABRIEL - Flute
- Arrangenments by DEL NEWMAN
- Front Cover illustration by CAT STEVENS
- Photography by RICHARD STIRLING
- PRODUCED BY PAUL SAMWELL-SMITH
MONA BONE JAKON
LADY DARBANVILLE (3 mins. 40
MAYBE YOURE RIGHT (3.20)
POP STAR (4. 10)
I THINK I SEE THE LIGHT (4. 00)
TROUBLE (2. 30)
MONA BONE JAKON (1 mins. 38 secs.)
I WISH I WISH (3.45)
KATMANDU (3. 17)
FILL MY EYES (2. 58)
LILYWHITE (3. 40)