Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Cat Stevens and Me – 1970

In 1971, Cat Stevens was at the height of his popularity. Mona Bone Jakon was a success in 1969, the first release after a struggle with Tuberculosis that was nearly fatal. The single, “Lady D’Arbanville,” made it the No. 8 on the UK charts selling over a million copies (the song was not the only one dedicated to Patti D’Arbanville, his American girlfriend). From there came the stellar Tea for the Tillerman, a seven-month sojourn called the Wild World Tour, and the release of Teaser and the Firecat which had hits in “Moonshadow,” “Peace Train,” and “Morning Has Broken” featuring Rick Wakeman on piano. In my novel Miles From Nowhere, Cat performs at the club in Santa Cruz where Miles works. Here’s an excerpt:

I saw her again last night. She came to the club to see a singer who is hard to describe, the name of Cat Stevens. It wasn’t folk and it wasn’t rock, but the lyrics were poignant and beautiful. His voice was frightening, filled with a deep vibrato, and he pounded away on the guitar like his hands would bleed.

He did a song called “Katmandu.” It was mystical. A song from the woods, like a madrigal. A girl played the flute. I loved it. It was distracting. I found frivolous jobs to do so that I could listen.

He played a song about a father and a son; a conversation on a million levels. It was about how relationships are difficult and often impossible. Chadwick caught me watching. He knew my story. He said, “I’m gonna dock your pay, man, but you go watch.” He didn’t dock my pay.

Riley came in the back after the show. She wanted to meet Cat. I didn’t know him, but I said I’d introduce her. It was odd, he had an entourage around him and an odd celebrity pervaded the room. We waited in line to meet him as if he were holy or something, but he was gracious and met us with intent, like he wanted to meet us. He gripped our hands and looked into our eyes for what seemed an eternity. I think it scored some major brownie points on my behalf.

At the end of the evening, it was the same tête-à-tête. She said, “I gotta go.” She looked lovely, all fresh-faced with pink lipstick; she wasn’t a folkie in the typical sense, she was girlie and pretty and although she was a radical woman, her femininity was her superpower; Wonder Woman-strong, but soft, smelling of talc and patchouli.

On my walk home that night, all I could think of was that song about father and son. I could hear Cat’s impossible voice in my head, so stark and beautiful. I kept thinking about the dialogue. I had a knack for remembering lyrics and these just kept repeating in my head. “Find a girl, settle down.” I think my father said the same to me, I was young; he said: “Someday you’ll find a girl.”

“Like Mommy,” I said, that’s how young I was.

“And you’ll get married and buy a house.” A car passed with its brights on, then turned them down. I walked along the camp road. All the families were asleep. The father in the song carried on in my head. It was heartbreaking.

From the novel Calif. - Available now on Amazon (see the link in the sidebar) OR get your signed, personalized copy by sending an email to rjsomeone@gmail.com. $15 incl. shipping.

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