Tea with the
- Cat Stevens and his guitarist
Alun Davies spend an afternoon with Michelle O'Driscoll
sitting in a dismal hotel room in Munich, Germany, last year, pondering over Cat
Stevens sudden refusal to talk to the Press and wondering what I was doing there in
A few moments
meditation on that positive piece of wisdom soon had me seated in an equally dismal hall,
but my mood had changed to elation in the knowledge that I was once more to sense and
respond to a high-energy performance of Cat Stevens and friends.
After all, more than the
inspired lyrics, the intriguing structure of his songs or his striking appearance, it has
been Cat Stevens energy that has retained my interest over the years.
Even in 1967, when Cat
Stevens made his solo debut at Londons Savile Theatre as "opener" to
Georgie Fame, the spark of magic was evident and a pop star was born. A few hits and a
series of nerve-wrecking experiences later, the pop star was put to rest; Steven Georgiou,
alias Cat Stevens, had a collapsed lung and tuberculosis.
1970 and he re-emerges on
the music scene, a healthier person in many ways from the experience, and heads straight
up the charts with a plaintive love song called "Lady DArbanville." While
this song mourned love lost, it heralded the re-birth of Cat Stevens, the total musician
and a truly great songwriter.
Finally, Im standing
on the doorstep of his house, wondering whether the same affinity I feel for Cat
Stevens a man it has taken me five years, untold thousands of miles and a lot of
magic to meetwill extend to Steven Georgiou.
Above all else, I recall
the vision I had in Australia, early 71, of going to Australia on a Cat
Stevens tour and I almost have to pinch myself to ensure Im not dreaming now
hes welcomed me into his home to discuss the forthcoming world tour, part of which I
am, thanks to Paul Dainty, the promoter of the Australian and Japanese legs.
"Im the most unquotable person in the world." So began our talk.
He is wearing a 22-carat
sun-tan and hes the healthiest-looking specimen in the entire rock culture. He
explains the tan: "Ive just come back from holiday on Corfu. I choose to live
right among the people in London, because I can switch off mentally when I want to or, if
I need a break, I just leave it all behind and go somewhere peaceful and quiet, preferably
"Its a good way
of rebuilding my energy and Im only away for a short time before I want to get back
to work again.
looking forward to the whole world tour. For a while now, Ive been taking it easy.
Ive been recording my new album and helping Alun (Davies) with his; so it will be
stimulating to get back on stage, performing."
The tour opens in Brisbane,
Australia on August 25, and it will be Cat Stevens first time "Down
Under." While he may have little conception of how he has become a pop Messiah in
Australia (21 gold records await him in that country), he has formulated a fairly accurate
idea of the countrys personality: "I imagine it to be a vast country and I
cant see the cities having much historical value. I think of it as a country of
people rather than places."
And of his songs he says:
"Ive never been to Katmandu, but its irrelevant. The lyric is only
symbolic of our search for freedom and purity.
"Its the same
with On The Road To Find Out, Lilywhite and Into
Just as these songs reflect
the universal need for freedom, so "Father And Son"perhaps one of the
finest of Cat Stevens songs to dateIs written in the general sense.
really understood my father," hell tell you, "but he always let me do
whatever I wantedhe let me go. Father And Son is for those people who
cant break loose."
Steve obviously finds his
own freedom through his music. A close friend of his once told me Steve would be alone
without it. He agrees: "I would die mentally without it. Thats why I wont
get married. Im already married to my music."
The writer, Henry Miller,
once observed that "When a man embarks on a great adventure he must cut all
ties." I can appreciate that remark when I consider the majority of highly-successful
people Ive met have been strangely alone, even when theyve married.
In the musicians
case, its as though all his energy must be conserved for his musical expression and
he is more often than not restricted by the responsibilities that come with a marriage
This in no way hints at a
lack of sexuality, especially in Cat Stevens case. Even the seemingly-innocent
lyrics of "Peace Train." he describes as being "very phallic."
I cant help
writing like that," he says with a sparkle in his eyes. "Sex brings its own kind
of peacefor a time. It makes you oblivious of your surroundings."
The graffiti on the fence
of the "Teaser And The Firecat" album includes a
69-er (if he says its
the symbol of his birth sign, Cancer, I wont believe him) and "Mona Bone
Jakon"the title Steve chose for his album prior to "Tillerman"
is Steves personal name for "penis"! Probably there are more instances,
equally amusing, which throw some light on Steves fine sense of humour.
"When I was ill, I had
the knowledge of death," said Steve, "and it made me realize that living is a
"At the same time, I
was determined not to let my body dieI wasnt going to give up the fight.
" I know possessions
can bring back the fear of death and lately I feel Ive let myself become a bit
possessive again, so I must find a way to avoid it."
Possessive or not, Steve
has fostered the harmonious and creative musical unit of Paul Samwell-Smith, Alun Davies
and Del Newman over the past three years. Together, they have been largely responsible for
the beauty that is Cat Stevens.
"I love beauty around
me, Steve admits, "but not surface beauty. Someone could be a 23-stone albino negro
and I might still find him beautiful. Del and Alun are very beautiful men.
I mention Nina Simone, a
lady I think is very beautiful. And I tell Steve how Ive long considered Cat Stevens
to be her male counterpart. Hes pleased.
"If you really think
that, its a great compliment. I like her very much and I can understand your
Jeremy Taylor, a musician
friend who has written some Latin lyrics for a track on Cat Stevens new album,
"Catch Bull At Four," which will be released by Island in September, drops in
with his children and we take time out to listen to a couple of tracks from the LP.
Although the record-player could have come out of Noahs Ark, what little we hear is
exciting. Steve can only describe the album as a natural broadening from what
Ive done so far."
Steve: "My only aim,
ever, has been to developto improveto write better songs. First time around, I
did partly want to be a pop starthis time I want to he a songwriter.
"Its going to be
so stimulating playing to thousands of people in countries Ive never been to and
Ill more than likely write the songs for the next album while Im on
strongest link between Cat Stevens and Steven Georgiou is "now." That is why a
Cat concert is so devastating. Into each song hes pouring his whole being at that
particular timehis mentality, sensuality, spirituality and so on. You can be assured
youre getting his best, for hes giving his all.
Our afternoon slipped by,
but it had been a promising first meeting, with the kind of hot-and-cold moments you
expect when two people born on the cusp of Fire and Water signs get together.
Cat Stevens? Hes an
old friendmy love for him and the music he creates grows deeper with every passing
Steve Georgiou? Thats
who I was meeting for the first time. Weve only begun to know and understand each
other. However, I appreciate more than ever his reluctance to talk to the Press because,
to learn about Cat Stevens, all you need do is listen to his music.
Alun Davies never let a Dayo By - Disc July 1972
Alun Davies Interview