Discuss to any nice songwriter and they’ll inform you their songs evolve over time. As they convey their very own life experiences to the songs they hear new issues and study to understand completely different nuances within the songs. So it’s a fascinating venture for Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens to have fun the fiftieth anniversary of his most beloved album, Tea For The Tillerman, by resurrecting the Tillerman and bringing him again to life in 2020.
Islam has rerecorded the seminal album monitor for monitor. The brand new model, Tea For The Tillerman 2, due September 18 finds Yusuf reimagining each beloved tune, together with “The place Do The Youngsters Play,” “Father And Son,” “Wild World” and “Unhappy Lisa,” in new variations.
Some variations, like “Wild World” and “Miles From Nowhere,” are very completely different. Whereas others, as he defined after I spoke to him from his residence in Dubai this week, are left largely unchanged.
In one of many album’s coolest moments he duets with himself on “Father And Son,” enjoying each components, by way of a recording of a landmark 1970 present from L.A.’s Troubadour. And he reveals he does have that entire present recorded within the archives.
Within the gorgeous new stop-motion animation video for the album’s seminal opening monitor, “The place Do The Youngsters Play,” directed by Chris Hopewell (Radiohead, the Killers), Islam actually brings the Tillerman again as he explains in our dialog.
I spoke with the genial, joyful Islam about how these songs have modified for him over time, his sensible final tour, future dwell plans, together with a doable “Peace Practice Pageant” in honor of the 1971 hit, different songs from his catalogue he’d wish to revisit and way more.
Steve Baltin: How have these songs modified for you in revisiting them 50 years later?
Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens: These songs stand very tall by themselves. They do not appear to develop outdated. That is the wonderful thing about these songs notably on this album. It is nonetheless extremely related. And from no matter angle you need to strategy songs you’ll be able to relate to it in someway very simply. Once we’re speaking now about ecology and saving this planet “The place Do The Youngsters Play” was a flagship for that, for me anyway, simply to get that message out. And that each one grew out, unusually, of a easy factor, which is after I was a child I used to be locked into the cement world. There was no place close by I might go and revel in somewhat little bit of greenery. All of the playgrounds have been like concrete and particularly my faculty. My faculty my playground was within the basement. They stored the boys down there. That was how that tune grew. In fact it is acquired immense that means at this time now particularly. And different songs too. It is only a treasure, for me, of nice songs. I’ve loved reimagining them.
Baltin: “The place Do The Youngsters Play” is a tune that has grown in stature. I bear in mind discussing it with the band Rubbish once they did their cowl a couple of years in the past. Discuss what that tune particularly means to you at this time.
Islam: I do get pleasure from sitting again and listening to somebody take over the tune and information it in their very own form of movement. It is nice. So “The place Do The Youngsters Play,” the final verse begins speaking about the way forward for the medical career and the way in which during which science is interfering with our humanity not directly. So once you get to that verse the place it says, “Will you inform us when to dwell/Will you inform us when to die,” these sorts of sentiments aren’t that far-off. You possibly can see already how individuals are vulnerable to being manipulated. However there is a huge rebellion, which is occurring proper now. I believe that is very wholesome. Which means you are not going into that nice darkish mild but.
Baltin: I like the video and the animation particularly, which seems like a throwback to the animation of the ’70s. So it has an amazing nostalgic vibe.
Islam: The video, we love this man’s work, Chris Hopewell, And when he heard the tune he fell in love with too. And he is very happy with the consequence. He stated it is among the finest movies he has executed. And also you’re proper, it is acquired that form of feeling of nostalgia. Nevertheless it’s quite simple, it is speaking about youngsters and this terrible ocean of garbage, which we’re creating and we’re dwelling in. And so it’s totally poignant. However the ending is de facto uplifting, which I am very pleased the way in which it fell to a really constructive finish.
Baltin: How did you come along with Chris?
Islam: My son found him. I believe it was Radiohead, he had executed one thing with them [“Burn The Witch”]. So he knew about that and he launched me to him. I stated, “Properly, that is incredible, I might like to get entangled with this man.” We began exchanging concepts and storyboards and he beloved bringing in Tillerman and I stated, “You gotta deliver Tillerman in within the spacesuit. He is form of observing what is going on on down right here on earth.” And he actually beloved that. So it was only a nice artistic collaboration.
Baltin: When did you determine to revisit these songs? And in desirous about the right way to re-imagine them how a lot did you take into consideration the numerous meanings folks place on these songs in any case this time?
Islam: Yeah, and for me too. It may well’t be extra near the vein than for me with these songs. I do know what these songs imply, why I wrote them. A few of them, like “Longer Boats,” it was all the time enigmatic. I wasn’t actually certain what it was about, however I attempted to elucidate it, unsuccessfully some instances. However then now what I’ve executed with that tune is I’ve put within the verse which was by no means included within the authentic. And it form of explains effectively this might be about aliens. However now for those who think about these aliens wanting down at this earth and saying, “Who’re these creatures? How are they behaving like this?” It form of places our humanity beneath the highlight. So I’ve taken that tune in a totally course. I see a sense of a James Brown vibe to the center of it and it explodes into a cool second, which is totally sudden. So I’ve loved enjoying round with some songs. Some songs I did not mess around an excessive amount of with as a result of they’re so good as they’re they usually arise. Like “Into White” is only a pretty tune, only a stunning fairly tune. And “Unhappy Lisa,” issues like that. I’ve gone somewhat bit rocky, extra heavy on “Miles From Nowhere” as a result of that is a really highly effective tune, a robust message. It was after I was looking out ardently for some form of signal of which approach I ought to go. Whenever you’re all the things and there are such a lot of voices telling you their opinions. However you have to discover that one which fits you and so it is a very highly effective tune. I nonetheless relate to it trigger there are nonetheless folks making an attempt to inform me which option to go (laughs).
Baltin: I acquired to see you do “Wild World” with Chris Cornell on the Pantages in L.A. and that tune has been lined so many instances in so many kinds.
Islam: Maxi Priest did it. And I initially produced the primary semi-reggae model of it with Jimmy Cliff. So after I’d accomplished the album Chris Blackwell beloved that tune and he thought it needs to be a single. However I believed it was somewhat bit too overly industrial. Had a verse, refrain, verse, refrain and I believed, “No, I do not need to try this.” I considered myself as pioneering into completely different areas and I did not need to come out with simply one other verse, refrain. So subsequently we gave it to Jimmy Cliff and I produced it for him. That was an enormous hit for him as effectively, first time we did it. However then I noticed, “No, I higher launch this as a single myself” (laughs). Everybody was barking at me and telling me to do it, so I did it will definitely. However that tune, after all it has so many meanings anyway. The world — once you go away the nest, when a baby a leaves the nest, or chook leaves a nest — then you definately get to essentially check what this world is and the way harmful it may be. However but there’s love in it. The theme is definitely love and love continues and you take care of somebody whether or not they’re there or not.
Baltin: Did these variations affect this one, which is so completely different?
Islam: I simply wished to be somewhat bit irreverent you may say. And it is as a result of it is such an iconic tune and I did not need to go to it with child gloves. I wished to get one thing else out of it. And I fell upon the style for those who like by urgent a button on my Yamaha and out got here ragtime. I began enjoying these chords after which I began singing “Wild World” to it. I went, “Wow, this sounds nice. And if I believe it sounds nice in all probability is nice.” Then I recorded that and that grew to become the association. I like enjoying round typically. “Wild World” I went to city.
Baltin: I might think about lyrically essentially the most attention-grabbing tune on this could be “Father And Son,” which you sang as a son all these years in the past and now you are singing as a father.
Islam: In a approach I nonetheless relate extra to the son than the daddy despite the fact that I am sitting within the position of the daddy proper now on the rocking chair. However on the identical time I can not get that son out of me. And he is nonetheless there. Nevertheless, I gotta say this, once you take heed to that monitor now, you have to keep in mind that’s not me now. The son is a recording of mine in 1970 from the Troubadour in L.A. So we have form of with digital magic introduced me and him collectively once more. And so that is what you are listening to now, which is nice. And it is sensible.
Baltin: The Troubadour remains to be such an iconic place partly due to the historical past.
Islam: Yeah it is unimaginable and for those who do effectively it takes off, it explodes, and it is stunning. And we had such an amazing reception there after we got here again in 1970. After which we got here again once more in ’71. It was a launch pad actually for me and so many acts, so many musicians and teams. For those who made it there that is the place you broke it.
Baltin: I noticed James Taylor and Carole King once they carried out collectively on the Troubadour a couple of years in the past. And what they did was return to that period, performing solely 1971 and earlier than songs. Would you ever do one thing like that?
Islam: Yeah, that was the plan I take into consideration two years in the past (laughs). We have had these concepts and a few of them grow to be actual and a few of them simply keep as an concept. That was one thing we wished to do. Within the meantime I believe you may hear a style of what that was on this file now. However we have a complete album of the Troubadour as effectively within the archives.
Baltin: How will you deal with doing these songs dwell throughout this time? Or will you anticipate a correct tour?
Islam: I am undecided I’ve acquired a solution for that now. However what I do know is after we tour subsequent my plan is to do the entire Tea For The Tillerman. And naturally now the truth that I’ve up to date it, re-imagined it in at this time’s atmosphere and know-how and emotion, I believe that might be a pure factor for me to do. So I am wanting ahead to clearly getting again on stage. However I actually loved my final tour. It was very private. I took all people into my attic and made it very homey and spoke lots, advised quite a lot of tales. I loved that tour in all probability greater than every other tour I’ve executed.
Baltin: How necessary is it for you to have the ability to do new issues dwell and proceed to search out methods to be artistic simply to maintain you interested by touring?
Islam: Precisely. We have additionally acquired one other idea, which we’re desirous about and that’s to placed on form of a “Peace Practice” competition, so I haven’t got to hold the entire present. I is usually a form of a bunch additionally. I believe that is nice as a result of there’s a lot expertise on the market. It is nice to share a stage with different proficient musicians, all with the identical spirit. And proper now if we take a look at what is going on on, simply this concept of bringing peace again to the nation, “Wow, if that ain’t the primary subject.” And usually whoever believes in these ideas is welcome.
Baltin: Songs like “Peace Practice” nonetheless maintain a lot that means and relevance to folks at this time preventing for rights. What does it imply to know your music performs a component on this battle after 50 years?
Islam: I might say I am honored to have been given the items of those songs and these themes, that are extraordinarily necessary to our humanity, to the continuation of the event of our humanity. I simply do not assume know-how helps that a lot trigger despite the fact that we’re progressing on one hand with so many extra devices and the talents to speak and journey and style this and expertise that and who is aware of what subsequent, that does not make higher human beings. So I all the time like to return to the bottom zero for those who like. And floor zero is that place the place folks may be collectively and in their very own house. It is to do with regulation. I am a insurgent, however on the identical time I do know that finally regulation is one thing which is important to human life and prosperity. So anyone who rebels they’re solely asking for the proper of legal guidelines to be put into place, that is all. It does not imply that all of us need chaos. It signifies that the legal guidelines that are there aren’t serving their objective or someway they have been misused or mishandled. So subsequently I might say after I come to a lot of the themes of my songs finally behind all of it is a craving for peace. So there’s a lot that must be acquired proper. God bless those that are attempting.
Baltin: How does all of this encourage you new music going ahead?
Islam: To be sincere I have been writing quite a lot of songs, however this concept got here form of in the course of all the things and it stopped my circulate as a result of we have to honor this second, the fiftieth birthday of the red-bearded Tillerman and his cup of tea. And we have to simply cease and honor this. However on the identical time I am just about on form of a cruise in the meanwhile with my artistic concepts and my music. We simply needed to put all the things on maintain trigger this was an necessary second. We wished to acknowledge it. So preserve watching this house, that is all I am saying.
Baltin: Is there one other tune out of your catalogue you’ll need to revisit after doing this venture?
Islam: I’ve acquired such a broad repertoire and when it comes right down to it there are some ridiculously attention-grabbing songs that I’ve written. I used to be desirous about one the opposite day. It truly talks in regards to the nice financial downturn of 2008. And it was written in 1968. And it is referred to as “It is A Tremendous (Dupa) Life.” And in it the lyrics say, “Nevertheless it’s getting fairly close to the top/Trigger with a brilliant life you win and borrow all the things you lend/So there’s by no means something to spend/You are broke, you dope,” I like that (laughs). There are some nice phrases and messages. And it is so pertinent to what is going on on on the earth of Wall Road and locations like that. For those who ask me what I might need to do once more in all probability there is a tune referred to as “Lilywhite.” I’ve added a refrain. However this one I did and it is acquired a good looking refrain, which I might like to do and file it. It form of talks about one of many largest moments of my life. It talks a couple of wave that saved me within the Pacific Ocean. So yeah that is in all probability the tune I might do.