“Got Tarkus bak” / “FOUND HISTORY BOOK (This’ll go down in ‘istory)” / “Went up Nigs, Mal there – listened to ELP (grate) + Cat Stevens (ugh)”
Uppercase for FOUND HISTORY BOOK eh? That means it was a MUCH bigger deal than earlier posts about its loss may have suggested.
Oh, and a ‘joke’ about the discovery. I’ll bet Tommy Cooper was quaking in his boots.
The final part of this entry has me slapping my head with a certain amount of shame.
Naturally I would have said ELP were grate – in fact it may have been the case that I forced Nig & Mal to listen to them? – but to castigate the (IMHO) mighty Cat Stevens with a lousy ugh is deeply embarrassing to me now.
If I was a betting man – which, it has to be said, I am sometimes – I’ll lay odds that the Cat Stevens album we listened to that night was “Catch Bull at Four”
Cat Stevens was born Steven Demetre Georgiou in 1948 and spent his early life living above the restaurant his family owned just off London’s Piccadilly Circus. He learned to play the piano in his early teens, extending his skills to the guitar at 15 years old, when he also started writing his own songs.
He started playing them in pubs and coffee houses in and around London, changing his name to “Cat Stevens” when he realised that he couldn’t imagine anyone going into a record shop and asking for an album by “that Steven Demetre Georgiou” (He was right)
He recorded a few demos for Deram Records, which led to a contract. He then had three hit singles in a row. “I Love My Dog“, “Matthew & Son” and “I’m Gonna Get Me a Gun“, of which only the first would come to represent the eventual ‘Cat Stevens sound’. (The other two, however, are MAGNIFICENT slices of 60’s orchestral beat, loved by aficionados like myself)
On the strength of his hits, he toured with the (somewhat varied) likes of Jimi Hendrix and Englebert Humperdinck, and was marketed very much as a ‘pop star’.
Things changed drastically in the late 60’s for Cat. His album “New Masters“* inexplicably flopped and in 1968 he became very ill with both tuberculosis and a collapsed lung.
His approach to life altered during his convalescence. He became a vegetarian, took up meditation and generally became more spiritual. It is said that during this period of ‘self-awakening’ he wrote the vast majority of all his subsequent recorded songs.
Unhappy with his ‘pop star’ status and wanting to work on a more folksier sound, he swapped record labels, signing for Chris Blackwell‘s influential Island Records. (Licensed to A&M in the USA)
The move was a resounding success. His first album for Island, “Mona Bone Jakon“, yielded the hit single “Lady D’Arbanville”, whilst the follow-up “Tea for the Tillerman” sent his signature sounds into the international stratosphere, selling ‘gold’ in both the USA and the UK, helped along by more hit singles like “Wild World”
A brief romance with Carly Simon preceeded the release of the “Teaser & the Firecat” album in 1971. This was very much a tour de force which yielded a trio of massive hit singles in the shape of “Peace Train“, “Morning has Broken” and “Moon Shadow”
Which brings us to “Catch Bull at Four“, a release that reached Number 1 in the USA, number 2 in the UK, eventually sold almost 3 million copies, yielded a couple of hit singles (in “Can’t Keep It In” and “Sitting“)….. but was reviewed as “ugh” by first-time listener TRO!
Cat: Then & Now
Stevens converted to the Islamic faith in 1977, his pop career faltered and he changed his name to Yusuf Islam. He stayed out of the headlines until 1989 when he made an unfortunate and ill-advised statement in support of the Islamic fatwa on author Salmon Rushdie. Needless to say his prior protestations of ‘peace’ on so many beautiful songs were undermined and he became somewhat ‘hated’ by the press and certain ignorant elements of society.
More recently he has gently nudged his way back into public consciousness and returned to the studio to record “An Other Cup“, an album which is ‘classic’ Cat Stevens in sound, but feels a little laboured and ‘old fashioned’ in construction. He’s returned to live performances too, including turning up at the “Peace One Day” concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 2007.
Like I’ve said, I feel embarrassed about my review of “Catch Bull at Four“. I adore almost the entire Cat Stevens output up to (but not including all of) “Izitso” in 1977. To have castigated him so readily in 1973 is an insult to both Cat Stevens and my own pair of ears! Maybe proof that “first listens” don’t always count (as I tend to otherwise believe)
* Trivia Corner:- The”New Masters” album included the song “The First Cut is the Deepest” which Stevens sold to PP Arnold. Arnold had a massive hit with her version, and it was later also covered with *ahem* considerable international success by Rod Stewart, James Morrison, Sheryl Crow and others. However, Cat sold the song for…… £30! *oops!*