I was listening to “Father And Son” the other day before Cat Stevens decided to become Yusuf Islam and thought what a perfectly crafted- and creative- song it remains.
What made the young singer-songwriter tackle such a mature and deep subject in such an outwardly innocent way where he played the sagely father and the frustrated son, the former advising the latter that “it’s not time to make a change” and to “take your time, think a lot, think of everything you’ve got, you’ll still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not”?
For that time, those lyrics rang so true. And when, after all this time, hearing him sing about finding a girl, settling down, and maybe even marrying, it made me realise that the Cat Stevens I had heard two years earlier singing how he loved his dog as much as he loved his girlfriend at the time, had some helluva great songs in him that only surfaced after he managed to get out of his recording contract with Deram and sign with Chris Blackwell’s Island Records.
What I’ll always remember is a dinner with the legendary music extensive where he told us how he advised Cat Stevens to get out of the Deram contract so he could sign with Island:”I told him not to shave, bathe or comb his hair for a week and then tell the head of the label that he wanted a 22-piece orchestra to record a concept album. It worked. They let him out of his contract”.
It was almost a different kind of Father And Son Moment.
At Island, either he evolved as a songwriter or the real Cat Stevens emerged.
His songs were deceptively simple though tackling a number of deep subjects- his painful love for Lady D’Urbanville- model Patti D’Urbanville who dated many a Rock star, his warning to another girlfriend heading for a fall in “Wild World”, the social commentary of “Where Do The Children Play”, the hugely underrated “Foreigner” album, and “Peace Train”.
All was travelling well until the release of “Catchbull At Four” showed signs of a man coming apart at the seams- a man who had done it all, been with every good looking socialite in London, had even Carly Simons write a song for him (“Anticipation” where she was quivering waiting for him to take her out on a date), was hugely successful, but that something was missing from his life.
Today, there’s a lot of that going around- questioning who and what matters, deleting the past from your life, and even realising that what is passed off as “family” can become an albatross around your neck you don’t need, and, well, like falling out of lust you had mistaken for love, there simply exists a void because like a U2 song, you still haven’t found what you’re looking for as your rebellious past becomes your rebellious future and, like Howard Beale in “Network”, you’re as mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore.
A mid-life crisis? Nah. A mid-life new emotional and creative lifeline where you decide that listening to some voice whispering, “Build it and they will come” doesn’t mean you’re going mad.
It might actually mean that the future is behind you as that’s where it all went wrong and now, like Sliding Doors, it’s time to boldly go where you have never gone before and how “father” was wrong.
You were never meant to conform and “find a girl, settle down, and marry” as there is a cut-off point.
Try and make, or force things to work and you waste invaluable time becoming an apologetic mess walking on eggshells and living a lie with all the other conformists living a lie as one big Stepford family in that building where Rosemary’s Baby was born.
With “Father And Son”, Cat Stevens seemed to be a young Yusuf Islam with Child Being Father To The Man, and eerily knowing that he couldn’t- and would not- conform to what society expected.
Even at that young age, he was an old enlightened soul, who seemed to have decided how long one of life’s journeys he was prepared to take before divorcing it completely, leaving Cat Stevens in a past he deleted and starting from a new beginning and seeing if the journey is worth continuing until one reaches another turning point that leads to another life.
Music is a fascinating catalyst for change that makes all this chatter clutter about Spotify, the iPhone 6 and what’s “trending”, or flim flam social media gurus peddling the obvious sound like naive soundbites.
Songs like “Father And Son”, James Taylor’s “Fire And Rain”, the simple but honest Carole King song, “You’ve Got A Friend”, Stephen Bishop’s “Separate Lives”, Clapton’s “Tears From Heaven”, the words and music of Lennon, Leon Russell, Jimmy Webb..
All this truth in music is here and there for us to take and learn something from which, at least for me, has worked better than therapy and counsellors, sharing, making amends and taking steps to find that the Higher Power you’re so desperately seeking as another crutch is actually you- and how honest you need to be with yourself.
The rest is all tiresome, draining bullshit passed on over the years to try and have one conform to what society wants you to be- whatever and whoever this “high society” might be.
Life’s way too short for any of that.
Chairman and CEO
We-Enhance and Fast Track Global