CAT STEVENSÂ “The Hurt”Â b/w “Silent Sunlight”Â (A&M Records 1418-S, 1973)
There’s a scene in the 1976 Bill Cosby/Harvey Keitel classic Mother, Jugs & Speed where Larry Hagman tries to seduce Raquel Welch with a pair of Cat Stevens tickets.Â She resists, of course,Â but only because that’s the way the script was written.Â In real life, no intelligent female of the 1970’s, no matter how liberated, would’ve passed up a chance to see one of the hottest singer-songwriters of the era.Â Even if it meantÂ having to sitÂ next to J. R. Ewing.Â For Stevens himself, however, matters were completely different.
This is one of those places where we find an artist at a turning point.Â In Stevens’ case, it was ultimately one of many, but after years of chart success in Europe, and finally cracking the U.S. market wide open with Tea For The Tillerman and Teaser & The Firecat,Â Stevens embarked upon a great musical and spiritual journey.Â Starting with 1972’s Catch Bull At Four,Â he scrapped the wistful English chamber-folk balladry, allowingÂ his music toÂ evolve into somethingÂ more complex, and the songs to express more of the emotional tug-of-war eating away at him.Â By 1973’s Foreigner, he had abandoned all pretenses, composing long, difficult, complex passages of music, often bordering on European jazz and borrowing from ethnic rhythms, to accompany his tales of longing, yearning, sinÂ and redemption.Â His records still went platinum, but even the most devout fans had a hard time keeping pace.
The staff at A&M Records must’ve shit a collective brick when Stevens turned in the tapes for Foreigner.Â Â Â The album consists of only 5 tracks, one of which clocks in at nearly 20 minutes, the remainder grazing the 5-minute mark, aÂ serious no-no in the pop singles world.Â Today,Â it seems like a miracle that the label extracted a single at all, but I suppose that in the summer of ’73 they figured there was no knocking Maureen McGovern off the top of the charts, so what the hell.Â And thus we have this lovely little souvenir, and one of my favorite Cat Stevens singles, “The Hurt.”
Yes, the truth is hard to find, alright, especially as tied down to material goods as we are, and as stuck in routine as we get.Â Until you get hurt, until your heart gets truly broken and your ass handed to you on a platter, you can’t appreciate what you’ve got.Â All to a sweet, funky, jazzy bass-drums-piano arrangement with lovely female backing vocals.Â Ahh, the earnest, soul-searching ’70’s.Â You were so brief…
Making a B-side from one of the lengthy tracks on Foreigner might not have been a possibility (though “100 I Dream” was extracted the following year as the flip to Buddha & The Chocolate Box‘s “Oh Very Young”), so Catch Bull At Four‘s “Silent Sunlight” slips right in place here.Â A short, lullaby-like elegyÂ for the start of the working day, “Sunlight” presents itself like an elegant moment of meditation, which it was probably meant to be.Â Pure loveliness.
“The Hurt” spent 5 weeks on the U.S. singles charts in ’73, peaking at #31.Â Stevens was back in the Top 10 the following year with “Oh Very Young” and a cover of Sam Cooke’s “Another Saturday Night.”Â Ever the reluctant pop star, Stevens himself went through many phases and changes over the ensuing years, which I’m sure you all know about, and which, if interested,Â you can read about here.Â Â HisÂ classic compositions from the 1970’s still continue to influenceÂ young songwriters to this day, and inspire them to takeÂ the journey into their hearts in search of the truth, regardless of what their record companies, or even their fans,Â might say.
NEXT WEEK:Â A super-group from the super-’80’s covers a super-rock super-classic from the super-’60’s.