Monday, November 25, 2013

Janus Records: Year Of The Cat

It’s not often that I can point to a specific point in time when I first heard a particular song, but I remember when I was introduced to Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat.” It was a Sunday evening in February 1977 and I was driving on WV Route 10 through Salt Rock, WV. I had just purchased a new Chevy Vega and it came equipped with an FM radio – my first car with such a luxury. I was listening that evening to WKEE-FM in nearby Huntington, WV and “Year of the Cat” came across the airwaves. I was so mesmerized by the song that I pulled off the highway to hear it in its entirety.

It took Al Stewart 10 years to make “Year of the Cat,” as he had devised the melody in 1966 for an abandoned song he started called “Foot of the Stage” that he had began writing after seeing a performance by comedian Tony Hancock. The original idea was scrapped and Stewart used the tune for a new song he recorded in early 1976. The title was inspired by the Vietnamese zodiac sign of the cat, which corresponds with the Chinese zodiac sign of the rabbit. Peter Wood, who supplied the piano arrangement, is credited as the song’s coauthor.

Released on Janus Records in late 1976, the song climbed to the #8 position on both the Hot 100 and the AC charts by March 1977. Although it is over 35 years old; the tune, its arrangement, and the suburb production of Alan Parsons is every bit as fresh sounding in 2013 as it was in 1977.

The “Year of the Cat” has three successive leads that featured Peter White on acoustic guitar, Tim Renwick on electric lead guitar, and Phil Kenzie on alto saxophone. In addition to its chart performance, “Year of the Cat” was used in two movies: “Radiofreccia” and “Running with Scissors.” In addition, you have to love a song that references Peter Lorre, Bogart, and patchouli.

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