Tuesday, November 24, 2015

tea for the tillerman

Cat Stevens had to go away and came a long way through a wild world to find his head where the children play.  The singer songwriter had become a sensation as a teenager with two albums released in 1967 (Matthew and Son  and  New Masters); but he had to put his musical career on hold when he spent a year recovering from consumption:   "I caught tuberculosis and suddenly I've got this medieval disease, you know — middle of modern society, and I'm sort of in hospital. And all of the spotlights are switched off. And now I say: 'Well, hey, where is the light?' And that's what got me going, if you like, looking for a different kind of light."

He wrote more than forty songs during that time, and signed a new deal with Island Records, recording his comeback  Mona Bone Jakon in early 1970:    “I had to get everything right before I started again. The situation and the timing was wrong before. There just wasn’t the time to do things and it wasn’t the right time to do the things I set out to do...It seems as if I am making a comeback but I have never really been away. It’s very strange because the whole attitude changes and everything is turned inside out. Now I am seeing the shiny side again...It has made all the difference to me because I had to have that break. If it wasn’t the illness it had to be something else. Before I was almost slaughtering myself working so hard and in no particular direction. Now I feel alive much more than I have ever done...The main thing is to concentrate on LP’s now. I only do record producing when I feel like it and when there are artists I want to work with. In my opinion all the musicians that ever take part in sessions are producers...The album is my first long player on Island records and it has taken two and a half months to do. With Deram, my old label, we got to the point where I was going in one direction and they were going in another. We eventually decided to quit it because nothing was happening. We just split. They were very nice about it  ...  I loved trying out new ideas–thinking and pondering this world from different angles-and I suppose that all began for me back when I had my first crisis in life with getting tuberculosis. After an initial year of success and flashbulbs and adoring fans, my seat was vacant and I was in bed thinking about this world whizzing by me and where I was going. It was my first brush with death. That made me think more seriously...It wouldn’t be difficult to decipher my spiritual ambitions through listening to my lyrics. So therefore, I think people would have already had a premonition that I was on my way somewhere but it wasn’t quite clear where we were going....My first period of success was an inoculation [laughs] towards preparing me for the next phase of exposure to fame and fortune.  I was on a secret mission, perhaps not everybody could see it, but through my words they could kind find my story and my longings and yearnings for peace and enlightenment."

His next album was also recorded with producer Paul Samwell-Smith at Olympic Studios in London;   but also at Morgan Studios and Island Studios.   The sessions featured  Cat Stevens on classical guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards, and lead vocals with Alun Davies on acoustic guitar and backing vocals;  Harvey Burns on drums, congas, and tambourine;  John Ryan on double bass;  Del Newman on string arrangements;  and  Jack Rothstein on violin.   'Tea for the Tillerman' was a major breakthrough for Stevens outside of the UK, going to number twenty-five in Norway, twenty in New Zealand and the UK, eleven in Canada, and eight in the US where it was certified triple platinum.   

"['Tea for the Tillerman'] represented a picture of childhood and childish wonderment–I would say also the spirit of inquiry. I think that was the representative album of those kinds of qualities and sensitivities. To me, the childish picture on the front told the story. The album had the feel of being homemade. It wasn’t overly produced; it was minimalist when that word wasn’t even known at that time. There was a lot of space, which was also kind of the touch of Paul Samwell-Smith, who gave a lovely aesthetic air to the studio and to the productions. So I think that was one of those special milestone albums, which conforms itself out of the blue and suddenly it’s there.”



"Father and Son"

It's not time to make a change
Just relax, take it easy
You're still young, that's your fault
There's so much you have to know
Find a girl, settle down
If you want you can marry
Look at me, I am old, but I'm happy

I was once like you are now, and I know that it's not easy
To be calm when you've found something going on
But take your time, think a lot
Why, think of everything you've got
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not

How can I try to explain, cause when I do he turns away again
It's always been the same, same old story
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen
Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go

It's not time to make a change
Just sit down, take it slowly
You're still young, that's your fault
There's so much you have to go through
Find a girl, settle down
If you want, you can marry
Look at me, I am old, but I'm happy

All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside
It's hard, but it's harder to ignore it
If they were right, I'd agree, but it's them they know not me
Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go

"Wild World" went to number fourteen in Canada and eleven in the US.  
“‘Wild World’  mirrors that kind of paternal advisor that you find in ‘Father And Son,’ giving words of caution to the young hearts going out to grab this world and go and taste the excitement of this world. Maybe it was a reminder to myself about the need to be cautious.”

“On the Road to Find Out”
“It had a driving feel to it and the words were reflecting the drive that I had in my life towards knowledge and towards understanding,” remembers Islam. “And I was talking about all the options I was being offered, like the marketplace of ideas. I was listening to [recites lyrics] ‘Robins telling me not to worry/listening to the wind telling me to hurry.’ So it was that journey and listening to all the voices telling me which way to go.”

'Tea for the Tillerman'
full album:

All songs written and composed by Cat Stevens. 

1. "Where Do the Children Play?" 3:52
2. "Hard Headed Woman"  3:47
3. "Wild World"  3:20
4. "Sad Lisa"  3:45
5. "Miles from Nowhere"  3:37
6. "But I Might Die Tonight"  1:53
7. "Longer Boats"  3:12
8. "Into White"  3:24
9. "On the Road to Find Out"  5:08
10. "Father and Son"  3:41
11. "Tea for the Tillerman"  1:01

live at the BBC 1971

01. Moonshadow

02. Tuesday's Dead
03. Wild World
04. How Can I Tell You
05. Maybe You're Right
06. I Love My Dog
07. Bitter Blue
08. Change IV
09. Into White
10. Father & Son

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