From the moment I was born, I was ordered to listen

Take your time, think a lot; why, think of everything you’ve got for you will be still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.

Of all the stage names you could pick for yourself, Cat has to be the most stupid. I mean really. Dogs are much cooler than cats for a start, but you wouldn’t call yourself Dog Stevens would you? (I hope.)
There’s no accounting for taste though, we’re told, and in the end it doesn’t really matter in the slightest. Call him what you like, Stephen Dimitriou, Cat Stevens or Yusuf Islam, is some sort of a genius. He’s one of those songwriters that often gets overlooked in favour of more apparently cerebral artists, yet he can sing far better than Bob Dylan, he can construct a pop song every bit as well as Paul Simon (and that’s saying something), he can incorporate English folk and madrigals into actual songs that have something to say. More than anything though, he sings with guts, with feeling.

It must be really hideous to create a work of art like ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest’ then hear all vestiges of emotion stripped from it by Rod Stewart and Sheryl Crow in turn. I have to confess to not being aware that the song was a Stevens original until investigating further – it’s one of those songs that you really, really hope had no creative contribution from Rod Stewart at all (like ‘Handbags and Gladrags’). The man’s a national disgrace.

But anyway. My real purpose in posting was to pay tribute to one song in particular. Given the day off work, very kindly, something prompted me to go and find the guitar chords for ‘Father And Son’ – the internet is the fat man’s best friend, after all, and I wouldn’t want to actually put any effort into working it out. Considering the song though, I discovered that it’s a wonderful thing indeed: so unassuming, and another one to have had the life drained from it by that well-known covers band, Boyzone, yet an understated work of art, so delicate, so poignant and touching, so perfectly crafted.

It has a great guitar part – it can be played simply enough, but add in the subtleties and it lifts it inordinately. But more than that: slap me dead with a soft fish but it has some actual meaning behind it. Call me stupid (you’d probably be justified), but I’d never noticed the story going on behind the song; I can listen to it and adjudge it great based on the depth of emotion in the voice and the wonderful melody, which is impressive in itself. But dissect it and you discover the conversation between father and son (I really should’ve guessed…) and now every time I listen to it I pay more and more attention and try to work out just how deep it goes – is the father being fatherly and wise? Patronising and inconsiderate? Cautioning and wistful? Is the son being adolescent and insensitive, or is he genuinely frustrated and crying out for sorely-craved affection? It’s a really passionate piece, yet I’ve no idea how autobiographical it is – surely much of it rings true for every teenager and every father.

All the times that I’ve cried, keeping all the things I knew inside, it’s hard – but it’s harder to ignore it.

Cat Stevens - Father And Son


Deek Deekster said...

this comment is living proof that myspace gets your blog readers... oh all right, one single extra reader.. actually, even worse, another blogger...

nice writing chum ! i shall link from mine own place in funk

kitten said...

You're right, of course, Cat Stevens is largely overlooked and it makes me sad because (as you well know) I think he's awesome. When I first heard the boyzone cover of father and son I went into a sulk for days. I debated hunting them like the dogs they are for turning such a beautifully balanced emotional song into a souless parrot like dirge.

I still regret not doing the hunting.

Did I tell you my aunt knew him and his wife?

Oh Simone said...

You did not tell me that. I feel there is explaining to be done.

Deek, thanks for dropping by. And I thought MySpace was creepy...
I heard your track on the contrast podcast - coolio.