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.