Rock Magazine article from November 8, 1971
Cat Stevens, poetic
troubador and simple superstar, has reached that stage of life which permits a man and an
artist to look back and reflect on the meaning of what has gone down and contemplate the
prospects of what is yet to be. With the release of his third album, Teaser And The
Firecat following the extraordinarily successful Tea For The Tillerman, Stevens
is riding the crest of good fortune after knowing times filled with disillusionment and
In spite of his stature as
one of the most talented and popular male soloists on both sides of the ocean, Cat is
aware of the unpredictable nature of public taste and creative productivity, and he has
achieved the kind of inner peace that allows him to calmly enjoy the present without
suffering anxiety over the future.
"I really believe that
nobody gets more than their share of anything, and that includes life. You cant say
he died too young - because its ridiculous. He died when he died. I
believe that if I concentrate and keep my mind and energy where It should go I cant
burn out. Ill-retain my velocity. Personally, the answer is to know when your
thingyour Karma or whateveris being influenced by other people
around you. The whole problem with people leading this kind of life is that suddenly they
find they cant guide themselves any longer and get so caught up with other people
they lose their sense of their own destiny.
"In my own case, the
only real problems I have are that in using my energy so much to go further I forget about
now. When youre playing with3,000 people watching, you do get their energy and the
faith to go on and give a good show, and because of that you offer everything you have to
The ability to give of
himself did not come to Stevens overnight. He had to pay some heavy dues in order to
unlock himself and free his music.
"The greatest thing
that happened to me was when I realized I wasnt the only person in the world. The
thing I. really wanted to do was to understand people and to put myself second. Then I
realized that the only way to do that was to understand myself and then other people would
"That was when I went
into the hospital. I was thinking, there must be lots of people in this hospital
worse off than me. Then I didnt want anyone to visit me, which I couldnt
understand, because there I was completely helpless but I didnt see why anybody
should come and see me In that predicament, which really wasnt right because I
really wanted visitors very much."
Cat has since come to
discover that his music provides a very satisfying means of communicating with people,
especially those people he most wants to reach. He speaks with particular fondness about
his relationship with American audiences, established mainly on college campuses and large
tremendously into lyrics. I get these fantastic letters, some of them just say I
dont want any reply to this letter, I just wanted to tell you that what youre
doing is great and I understand it. And thats the greatest because it shows
theres a certain amount of people that understand and agree with me.
"And its funny
because I always used to be very jealous of colleges and students, because I never went to
college and I was always suffering from that complex that I was a stifled and put down
"I think some of the
kids that understand me had a strange upbringing, came from a broken family like I did,
and I must express that in my lyrics.
Also I have a certain
yearning for a life that hasnt been yet experienceda simpler form of
Cats lyrics are
inspired, as he says, by simple, everyday things in life. He feels he is striving to be as
honest as he can without being too open:
"It would really bore
me to tears to talk about myself totally within a song. I have to entertain myself as much
as anyone else. I suppose you could say Im my own favorite artist if you like, and I
have to think like that. I have to listen to a song and gain something more from it than
is originally laid down. My attitude to music is the same as my philosophy to
religionIll listen to all sides before making a judgment, my own personal
viewpoint. And in both I still have the ability to be wrong. Basically, were all
wrong and everyone should realize that."
What then is his judgment
on current musicon the shift away from complication to personal statement. From hard
rock to ecology. From groups to soloists?
" I think music at the
moment is going through a mediocre stage. I dont mean mediocre in the bad sense of
the word but simply that it is no longer confusing. Its now the complete expression
of an artist that is becoming the medium, a period where Carole King emerges because
shes beautiful but very plain and simple lyrically. Where James Taylor becomes huge
even though his voice isnt anything ultra-extraordinary. Where Joni Mitchell and all
these people can simply express themselves. So that instead of the music holding them up, they
hold the music up.
"Yes, I am doing the
same thing myself. But its exactly the way I feel comfortable, its the only
way I can do it at the moment. I mean there was a stage when Id have loved to play
64 semi-demi quavers in one bar on a guitar. At the time when the main feat was to be as
fast, slick and technical as possible. But now Ive found I can create the same
feeling in a song on one chord."
Cat left a big gap between
recording his latest album and Tea For The Tillerman. This was mainly because he
was deciding in which direction he should go, and deciding to incorporate electric bass
rather than string, and even deciding to get more into a rhythmic pattern.
" After Tea For
The Tillerman I started touring and after doing live things I began to appreciate
what the people were actually like, and I realized I needed to get as much expression as
possible into things."
Cat is very pleased with
his new album, for which he did the cover painting. Hell probably continue the theme
of Teaser And The Firecat ("Teaser" refers to himself) as a
childrens book which hes written and illustrated himself.
"Its an amazing
feeling; I dont feel complete in either field, and if your mind is on two separate
things then its not so forceful as if it was solely on one. If I just concentrated
on making shoes then Id be a great shoemaker. You know, sometimes I can see my
success, or whatever you want to call it, growing to the point where perhaps I might
forget exactly where I am and exactly why Im there."