Sunday, December 11, 2016

Contemplating a Crime

Al Stewart : Year of the Cat

On December 11, 1976 Al Stewart's biggest US hit , "Year of the Cat",  entered the US Hot 100 at #98. It wouls peak at #8 in the US. One the most recently released version of Al Stewart's Year of the Cat, there's a terrific track called "Story of the Songs" in which Stewart talks about each of the nine tracks on the album produced by Alan Parsons at Abbey Road Studios. 

Perhaps it makes the most sense if I just let Stewart tell the story of the title track in his own words:

It is a piano piece written by Peter Wood. Now Peter had this riff that he kept playing over and over again all the way through a tour that I was doing in 1975 with Linda Ronstadt. I was the opening act. We went all over the Southern states of America and got to, I think, Cincinnati and I just kept hearing this ( sings piano melody) and eventually I went up to Peter and I said "You know I think this could be a song. Would you like me to put words to it?" And he said "Sure." So he taught me vaguely how to play it and we came off tour and I went back , and I had a piano and I had some idea what the chords were and I started playing this and I could not for the life of me write any words to it. Nothing came. 

I had a girlfriend at the time who had a book on Vietnamese astrology, It was open and there was a chapter called "The Year of the Cat". And so then I had just that: "The Year of the Cat". For a while those were the only words that I had. I tried to write it about the Year of the Cat, got nowhere, gave up, wrote an entire set of lyrics about ( British comic actor) Tony Hancock called "The Foot of the Stage" and they gave that up because no one in America had heard of Tony Hancock, went back to "Year of the Cat" and I think about a year after I began writing the song. I finally nailed down the lyric which is all set in North Africa. It was a very, very long and difficult process of lyric writing. Everything else on this record was easier, but I guess it was good idea

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