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Year Of The Cat

by

Al Stewart



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Stewart is Scottish born, and has been recording since 1967. His songs have lots of very catchy tunes, many historical and political themes, and lots of clever lyrics that seem to paint pictures in your mind. He was once described as the chief scribe of English music. (thanks, steve - worcester, England)
Many of the lyrics were inspired by the 1942 Humphrey Bogart movie Casablanca.
The title comes from Vietnamese astrology. The Year of the Cat is also called the Year of the Rabbit... It comes every 12 Years and it is supposed to be a stress free year. The Last Year of the Cat was 1999. It was also the Year of the Cat in 1975, the year before this came out. But, there is no guarantee that the Year of the Cat that Stewart sang about was 1975, since it could have been 1963, 1951,1939, 1927 and so forth. We'll look forward to the next one in 2011. (thanks, Brian - Grand Forks, ND)
Alan Parsons produced the album. Parsons was a prominent recording engineer long before going on to his own solo success. He had previously worked on the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon.
This started off as a completely different song. Al Stewart originally wrote the lyrics after seeing the British comedian Tony Hancock in Bournemouth, England in 1966. Hancock was very depressed, and the show was a disaster, with the comedian going to the front of the stage and addressing the audience directly and pouring out his soul. In Al Stewart: The True Life Adventures of a Folk Rock Troubadour, Stewart is quoted: "He came on stage and he said 'I don't want to be here. I'm just totally pissed off with my life. I'm a complete loser, this is stupid. I don't know why I don't just end it all right here.' And they all laughed, because is was the character he played... this sort of down-and-out character. And I looked at him and I thought, Oh my god, He means it. This is for real." Hancock killed himself in 1968 with a drug overdose. Stewart's song was originally titled "Foot Of The Stage," with the chorus, "Your tears fall down like rain at the foot of the stage.
Many of Stewart's songs have alternate lyrics, and he wasn't happy with the Hancock-inspired words, as he didn't want to take advantage of the man's tragedy and besides, no one in America knew who Hancock was. Al re-wrote the lyrics as "Year Of The Cat," which he delivered to Parsons. (thanks, mike - Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
Al Stewart
Al Stewart Artistfacts
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Comments (107):

*** 'On a morning from a Bogart movie' ***
On February 27th 1977, "The Year of the Cat" by Al Stewart peaked at #8 (for 2 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on December 4th, 1976 at position #98 and spent 17 weeks on the Top 100...
It also reached #8 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart...
The same week it entered the Top 100 another 'Stewart' held down the top spot, Rod's "Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright)" was in its fifth week at being #1...
Mr. Stewart, born Alastair Ian Stewart, will celebrate his 69th birthday this coming September 5th, and Rod turn 69 one month ago on January 10th.
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
A magnificent song..it has everything- compelling narrative, infectious melody, wonderful instrumentation (particularly when the strings come in after the bridge). I love the way the song takes its time..the intro is long, and that is by no means a bad thing. Al Stewart in one of the smartest and most literate songwriters of modern times. This is a gem..it sure stirs up ghosts for me.
- Hugh, Phoenix, AZ
This web site is amazing. I don't want to think about how much time I have spent here. This song has more comments than anything I have seen. I have seen many explanations here, some are conjecture, but most seem plausible, I don't care, it is great reading. This whole album brings me back to my sophomore year in college 76-77 and my apartment mates, massive speakers (Micro Acoustics FRM1A and JBL Century 100s), my Onkyo preamp and my Yamaha 300 watt amp. We had studio quality sound and would listen intently for hours. We had help heheh
- j, duxbury, MA
Few songs bring back the 70s like this one.
- esskayess, Dallas, TX
I first heard Year of the Cat in the 70's and it became one of my best songs. I later joined the Army and was given orders to serve for one year in South Korea. I swear to God that I actually experienced most of what happens in the song when I visited a South Korean market on night. A beautiful looking Korean prostitute suddenly ran toward me and grabbed me by the arm and led me to her hidden room in the market. As a young, horny, and lonely G.I., it was one of my first (and greatest) sexual encounter that lasted for an entire day and night. Throughout this experience, I couldn't help but notice the similarities to the song and my own experience. The song played in my mind throughout the experience. Even today, whenever I hear this wonderful song, I am carried back to that time and can re-experience this event in my mind. Year of the Cat (along with On The Border and Time Passages) is the soundtrack of my life in South Korea. I came to this website thinking I can find that the meaning of the lyrics to YOTC was about Al Stewart having a similar experience in Asia. After learning the song is about a similar encounter with a mysterious women in Northern Africa, I believe YOTC is an"anthem" for all young men who have had such an encounter with a wonderful and mysterious woman. And what a wonderful song to go with it. Thank you Al for providing this soundtrack. - KRW, Sacamento, CA
- Kevin, Carmichael, CA
This song absolutely nothing to do with any drugs.
I have the version referenced above from 7/11/76, where Al gives a lengthy intro all about the inspiration for the song. He talks about a movie with Karen Black, I believe, or someone like her, and here is what he said:
They crowd about 25 people in the back of this bus for about 6 dollars each, and one of the guys gets off in this little medium sized North African town and decides that he's going to leave the rest of the party and walk around the bazaar, because he might see more that way. And he's walking around the bazaar when this girl comes up to him in this long, flowing robe with sunlight bouncing off it in all directions. She walks up to him and says, "Hey man. You know what year it is?" He says, "No, I don't know. I just don't know. What year is it?" She says, "Come back with me and I'll tell you all about it." So she takes him back to her bivouac, and they bivouac down together for the night, and when he wakes up in the morning, it's already afternoon. And the bus is gone and all the other 24 people have gone with it. And he's stranded here in this small North African town with just this strange girl, who's all into astrology and one thing or another, and she lights a couple of joss sticks and makes him some tea, and eventually he gets used to the idea that he's got to stay there for a while, because he's got no money, he's only got a change of underpants and socks. That's all he's got. And so he sits down and he thinks, Well, if God intended me to be here, there's nothing I can do about it, I've got to make the most of it, I won't attempt to get away, and just for this year, I'll stay with this girl and see what we can do. See how we can work it out. So this is a North African love song, and the year that she told him it was, was The Year of The Cat.
- J, London, United Kingdom
I have always appreciated how Al Stewart leaves his accent fully in evidence, and his gentle tenor fits perfectly.
Beautiful song.
- oldpink, Farmland, IN
Sometimes a song is just a song, a story set to music. I can't find any deep hidden meanings to it. Perhaps it is a master story teller only telling a story. I always listen to it with headphones turned up high in a dark room and images, like a movie, go through my mind. Funny ... but I always imagined this song taking place in Spanish Morroco.
- dalan, notacityyet, MT
I was also a senior in high school, growing up in Venezuela when I first heard this song. Though, we did not understand the words, it was the melody, the sax part, the piano and the lovely voice that made it so magical....I remember dancing with my date to the tune of YOTC. We did not know the metaphoric images or how Al Stewart came to write this song....Still, the magic is there. And still is.
- Frank, Venezuela, Venezuela
Producer Alan Parsons DID NOT play the famous sax solo in Al Stewart's "Year Of The Cat" - that distinction belongs to sax player Phil Kenzie.
- Wayne, Ottawa, ON
One of my favorite tunes off all time...so reminds me of being a freshman in high school, March 1977...
- Larry, Detroit, MI
This is a wonderful song and it seems to be a soft-jazz type ballad because of the various instrumental pieces. It's true that the bass guitar and other guitars are significant contributors that don't get as much recognition as the sax and piano. Each instrument's riff adds to the depth of this song to make it a 'large' song. If you view a video of a TRUE live performance you will notice that the synthesizer keyboardist and sax player are both contributing to percussion rhythm by playing the tambourine when not playing their instruments. The synthesizer adds to the mystique of this song and sounds similar to the electric violin found in Peter Murphy's Cuts You Up, release 4 years after Year of the Cat. There is a great deal of texture to Year of the Cat because of the number of musicians, the variety of instruments, the musicians' skill and the fantastic arrangement. Clearly this song is not about heroin. You can watch and hear the words in an interview as Al Stewart explains that he found a book lying around the house called "The Year of the Cat" and yes, the book did pertain to Vietnamese astrology. Al says the song is about a love affair taking place in North Africa and the movie Casa Blanca inspired him write the song. He calls it an updated North African love song that is set in 1975, which happens to be the year of the cat in Vietnamese astrology. You can see Al's quick discussion here, but the music isn't live: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-GMX2m8TUY&feature=related The sax in this song is fabulous and the whole song has a breezy air about it that just makes your mind flow with it. It's seems true that Al first wrote the melody and then originally had lyrics for the sad death of a comedian but changed all that to a more up-beat and appealing topic... a love affair. Ironic that millions of people know this song based on the title of a little known book, not to slam that book. But a great song transcends its origins, just as Beethoven's Egmont is so much better known than the play it originally came from, not to slam Goethe. ;-)
You can see a live performance here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QM7LR46zrQU&feature=related
- Dean Hough, Yorba Linda, CA
I truly think this is a brillant song also. Such talent in all of the musicans. I don't think there's another quite like it. Such beautiful lyrics and images. I'd like to know...who is that very handsome gentleman on the piano at the begining of the song...anyone know?? Thank you Al Stewart for this most excellent song. Carol
- Carol, Clovis, CA
@Tom, Nashville, TN: I knew there was someone in the world (maybe more than one) for whom this is a biographical song. I have to confess I wish one of those people were me! I am glad this song played out for you so well though. And I am sorry your romance with her did not last. But while it did I am sure it was glorious!
- Matt, Rochester, NY
This is an epic achievement of a song. As a musician and songwriter I want to vomit from jealousy.
- Jack, Mesa, AZ
First heard this song going to Navy "A" School at Mare Island, Ca. in '77. Would wake up to it on the radio alarm. A perfect song to pull you out of dreamland. I loved it from the very first listen. First song I puchased off of iTunes. I can't believe how fresh it still sounds. You can play it for someone who's never heard it before and they think they're listening to something brand new. Almost never hear the full 7 minute version on the radio anymore. That's probably a good thing. It should belong only to the people who appreciate it.
- Mark, Lunenburg, MA
What a fantastic song. Still. Strong chills every time. It connects me with memories, different each time; makes me feel, means something. Haunting. Bittersweet. Broken hearts and sad eyes that can't cry anymore. Love the arrangement, impactful, intertwined and so interesting. Why is it the best always exudes brevity? Great lyrics, musicianship, great technical recording, not all dynamically compressed into noise. That late 70s were, in my opinion, the best years for recording and sound quality. I wish we could all go back, for these and many other reasons.
- MichaelBrenden, DC, MD
Saw Al Stewart at the Cincinnati Music Hall in "78" with some friends and we still call it our best concert ever! Year of the Cat is my favorite song. As I said before the intro the sax solo the haunting melody and man oh man those lyrics!

And I totally agree with Mike from Oklahoma.
- Rob, Lexington, KY
Ahh... The Year of the Cat. Everytime I hear that amazing song with the unmatched piano intro and the saxophone solo I am transported back in time to my senior year of college dating a girl who had her own apartment in a college town. It was a sensual and passionate relationship that she ended the following year. She did me a favor ultimately because I am happily married and the father of a beautiful daughter but man for over a year I might as well have been in a coma
- Rob, Lexington, KY
This song could have double and probably triple meanings. On the highest level is taking the song at surface value. Just a story of a romantic liason while on Vacation in a part of the mediterreanean that is not fully modern. Now, consider that the Year of the Cat is a metaphor for part of the Women's anatomy that is often referred to using other metaphors relating to cats.

Suddenly a lot of things make sense. The tourist has met up with a loose women, or a women who is living rather loseloy at the moment (these days, she says, I feel my life is like a river running through, the year of the cat). It's been known to happen.

Now, go back and re-read the lyrics with this metaphore in mind. That's the double meaning. Now for the triple meaning; the liason with the women being a metaphore for liason with a drug, as previously described here. It's all fine.
- Tim, Mesa, AZ
Actually, there IS a year of the cat, in the Vietnamese Zodiac! Which is where Al got the idea from according to what little he had to say about this song in "The Story of the songs" to be found on the UK remastered issue of the album released in 2001. The song is placed in Africa and the original lyrics were about a man who killed himself but not about drug use.

That said, despite getting to hear this song for the first time quite late in my life (compared to most here) it immediately became on of my alltime favourites despite having no nostalgic memories about it like with other songs.
- Marvin, Berlin, Germany
I remember this song so well, good memories, I was at school 13 years old at the time, strange as this obviously hippie song came out at the height of Punk in 1977.
- Brian Foley, Auckland, New Zealand
Thanks Al for making 1976/77 a fun time and I love your singing/atristic talent and that guitar solo. You must have remembered Island Studios and Nick (Drake) and Spooky Tooth etc. I love Scottish folklore and Irish folklore. Your #1 Italian/American friend.
- Belinda, Cresskill, NJ
This song is a page in my life. I was in Bangkok, Thailand when I met her. She came out of the sun in a silk dress running towards me. She was cute and very petite. Typical Thai girl. Very sweet. I stayed with her for two years. I'll never forget her. I was born in the Year of the Cat or Tiger (1950). She was born in the Year of the Dog. We were totally compatible. We still see each other. I got her off the street by helping her get a good education. I have never felt better about helping someone. I love her dearly. I'll never NEVER forget her. The lyrics of this song play the movie of the most wonderful time of my life. I have never had so much fun with someone. We were lovers, but also best friends. You would have had to be there to understand. Thank You Al Stewart!
- Tom, Nashville, TN
~I have enjoyed many AL Stewart concerts. On two occasions Al explained that YOTC is about a drummer he lost in northern Africa in early 1975. The drummer had been seduced by a mysterious woman. The drummer was delerious to stay with this muse, and refused to tour on. Al wrote to the drummer an understanding poetic letter that later turned into YOTC~~
- Tom, Portland, OR
I'm 13 and this is my favorite freakin' song ever. My dad used to listen to this in the car with me on rides home at night, I just love it!
- Carli Martinez, Pheonix, AZ
I love this song. It is not an overplayed song like many oldies tunes so whenever I hear it on the radio I feel like its a treat.This song has a great melody [todays music needs more]. You know it is funny too regardless of what kind of music someone may be into I don't know anyone that doesn't like this song
- brian, boston, MA
I am a big snowmobile enthusiast. Living in Minnesota, where Arctic Cat snowmobiles are made, I have heard from more than one source, that "the year of the cat" refrences a year, 1975 when Arctic Enterprises, intro'd a popular snowmobile.
Maybe my sources are wrong. But the timeline does fit.
- Chad, Farimmont, MN
Hilarious that for every deeply metaphoric song there's a hard core set claiming its all about heroin! As if lyricists with a literary gift for crafting unforgettable lines that infuse the mind with sensuous and exotic images that can last a lifetime necessarily need a drug. Was everyone who got the song when they first heard it done up on hammer?
- Helian, perth, Australia
My favourite interpretation of this song (one I heard many years ago) is that it's about the early days of WW2 in the southeast asia region. A down-and-out mercenary pilot gets lured into an adventure with a mysterious woman and throws caution to the wind. In the process he finds redemption and a new purpose in life, even though the romantic relationship that ensues is doomed (thus the reference to Casablanca in the song).
- mike, lexington, KY
A haunting melody sung by Al Stewart's amazingly easy-to-listen-to voice; the way he sings make you feel as tho your feet have left the ground and you are on a flight to the unknown. This song was popular when I was making the transition in my life from teenage-dom to adulthood; it captures how it felt to start breaking away from the security of living at home to making my own choices and accepting responsibility for whatever those choices brought my way.
- Camille, Toronto, OH
my two cents....the song being about the brothel visit by a bus traveling tourist seems way to superficial. I agree with Dan from NH, the song is about a man experiencing heroin for the first time in a drug den in some exotic place. The morning after, he has come down, but is now on the path to addiction. He's not so far gone that he cant see whats happening to him, but the allure is too much to resist.
- Nate, Kalamazoo, MI
I had no idea that this tune was so widely appreciated! It's been on my top 10 list forever. The arrangement is fabulous; especially as the acoustic guitar solo leads to the electric--then that strong tenor sax solo. The mystery of the lyrics is magic. I suggest that 1975 is the significant stress reduction year. Afterall, 1975 is when the U.S. finally left Vietnam.
Ed, Alabama "Ed from Motown"
- Edward, Birmingham, AL
Divorced about the time this song came out and it was the beginning of a great new life. Interestingly it is my sons favorite song and he was 8 at the time of the divorce.

Jim, Rochester, NY
- james, haverhill, ma, FL
this song should,in and of itself,get al stewart into the r@r hof! not to mention "time passages".
have loved it since 1976 when i bought the album! never gets old...the true sign of a classic.12-09.
- lee, huntsville, AL
Phil Kenzie played sax. He also played on "The Long Run" on the Eagles live album and "Heart of the Night" by Poco.
- jon, Morris, NY
The part about ".....running like a watercolor in the rain" does not ring true for anyone who has painted with watercolors. When they dry, they are very stable and do not "run" with the application of more water!
- Bob, Ellicott City, MD
In 1976 I had joined the Navy. I arrived at Naval Air Station Oceana in the town of Virginia Beach, Virginia in October of that year. My squadron was out to sea at the time, so I had to wait till they returned. I was spent my evenings hopping on the base bus into town. The town was eerily quiet now, with just the sailors and the locals hanging around. All the tourists had gone. I would frequent the local bars and in pretty much every bar I would hear the song "Year of the Cat". The song has stayed with me all these years. So when I recently returned to Virginia Beach, the song once again played in my head. I returned, just for a moment, back to my youth and those incredible times. It's always amazing how a song can carry you back. Thanks, Al.
- steve, menasha, WI
It's one of the best songs in my life,but why digital recording not used in 1976? Only crazy and deaf people can to hate brilliant production and perfectly playing of all musicians. A masterpiece!
- ZORAN, KRAGUJEVAC, Yugoslavia
Its a song that I've liked for years... I think the lyrics are quite intresting. I love the piano, guitar and sax interplay. A masterful song, and it evokes the feeling of what happens when a woman lures you to love them... and you know you should walk away, but you can't. Fantastic song.
- Christopher, Ashford, Kent, United Kingdom
Fantastic show in Dallas at the "Fast & Cool Club" a small bar/club the mid-eighties. Also saw him in Phoenix in a large setting - theater in the round - both phenominal shows - haunting sax
- Raymond, DALLAS, TX
I'm 60 years old and have loved popular music since I was old enough to appreciate it. This is my favourite all time song. I never get tired of listening to it and each time it feels as fresh as when I first heard it. Wonderful!

Peter
- Peter, Billericay, United Kingdom
There seems to be some confusion about this famous song. Ken of L.A.: Alan Parsons may be many things and certainly a very talented producer, but the sax solo is courtesy of Phil Kenzie. Parsons is a multi-instrumentalist, but the saxophone is not one of them. The confusion might have come from a Wikipedia entry, where it says Parsons "added the saxophone part" - which he did, as the producer, but it does not mean that he played it. As for RLKESQ's suggestion that YOTC means the twelfth of never, that's a stretch. The explanation offered by Doreen of New Brunswick, NJ, based on an interview, takes care of the cat very adequately. In any case, there IS a year of the cat in the Vietnamese calendar. It is the equivalent of rabbit, and you know what rabbits connote, don't you?
- Paul, Longwood, FL
In 1977 I was in my first year in the University in Chile. The Year of the Cat was the tune in every radio, every day. I was 17 years old, living for the first time in a big city and I met this girl, she was 21... She was very lively and beautiful. One summer night walking around in the city, we found this place, a blue tiled wall in the entrance of the closed local market. Believe it or not, there was a cat behind the bars. We called him to scracth his back. Then she kissed me by the first time. ¿How could I forget this song?
- Mario, Chillan, Chile
Under Chinese astrology, there was NO "Year of the Cat." The Cat did not cooperate with the other animals of the Chinese zodiac and thus was deprived of his "Year." Thus, "The Year of the Cat" is kind of like "The Twelfth of Never"--an undefined and impossible time that does not truly exist. The kind of time in which Peter Lorre contemplates a crime while a beautiful woman seduces a stranger off of a tourist bus. (Yeah, like that ever happens--kind of like Monopoly's 'Bank Error In Your Favor').
- RLKESQ, Detroit, MI
As the editors pointed out, Al Stewart's music paints pictures thru his lyrics which cover a range of topics. As Tom Petty says, 'I won't back down', from my previous comment. And yes, I'd rather stay in conservative Oklahoma than visit any liberal, permissive area in the USA.
- mike, okc, OK
My favorite song, produced by one of the best in the business --- Alan Parsons, who also wrote and produced my other all-time favorites --- "Sirius/Eye In the Sky" and "Prime Time." "YOTC" sparks memories of a mellow Sunday morning I spent in a record store when the song was first released in 1976. I remember feeling almost mesmerized by the rhythmic strains of "The Year of the Cat" and the scene in the store of a young mother gently bouncing her baby to the song's lilting beat. I guess you had to be there (and to be honest, my senses were enhanced by some very fine weed that morning). Stoned or straight, Stewart's song is always the best.
- Tom, Memphis, TN
- Tom Duncan, Memphis, TN
Mike - I really doubt that the song is specifically about smack, but do us all a favor - stay in Oklahoma. (regrets to other Sooners)
- Jeremy, Arkham, MA
I realize that personal opinions are like a-sholes...everybody's got one, but when some drug-addled mind can think of nothing but heavy drug use in every song the comment ruins it for the rest of us 'normal' individuals that see the obvious romantic/sexual lyrics relating to a man/woman relationship. Apparently, heavy drug use is the # 1 priority of Dan in New Hampshire.
- mike, okc, OK
I absolutely love this song. The piano intro is amazing. So are the sax and keyboard and Al Stewart has an amazing voice and such a sense of poetry. I honestly believe this either has to do with the movie "Casablanca" or it's just simply about drugs which is what I think it means the most out of the two. But, regardless of what this song stands for, it reminds me so much of this past summer and my boyfriend in a very big sense because its called "Year of the Cat" and I always tell him how he looks exactly like a cat and that he's like, the reincarnated, human version of a cat. Also, Vietnamese astrology says the year of the cat is a year without stress. This, I believe is completely ironic do to the kind of s--t I've been putting up with this year and the massive amount of stress, but when I hear this song play in my head when I'm resting my head on my boyfriend's chest, the year suddenly becomes a "year of the cat" and I forget stress.
- fran, my foot, NY
Driving up some road in La Jolla, California in 1985/86 I saw some cheapo sign in front of a very basic looking bar/restaurant saying 'Al Stewart Tonite'. Being from Ohio, I imagined some tacky piano bar musician named Al Stewart and thought nothing. But when we passed by going back to the motel that afternoon and seeing the same sign got me wondering..

Well, we went back and it was indeed THE Al Stewart and playing in some hole-in-the-wall joint live. It was great, small crowd of about 100 people, sitting on high bar stools at the tables. I remember he was very friendly with the crowd, played with about 4-5 band mates, and even strolled around the crowd while singing and playing.

My friends are sick of hearing this story, but I thought it was amazing to happen to drive by that joint while he was playing. Of course it is my favorite song of all time.
- michael, modesto, CA
I think this song is about one of the most written about songs in rock history... Heroin.

My explanations are between the lyrics.


On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time

Heroin often comes from countries where they definitely (not by choice) turn back time.

You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime

The crime is that he is buying Heroin

She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolour in the rain

Ever seen a Poppy flower? Grown by the Sun, the silk dress is the petals and the colors can look like they are running on the petals as well as the possible reference to the opium oozing out from the flower.

Don't bother asking for explanations
She'll just tell you that she came
In the year of the cat.

The year of the cat is also called the year of the rabbit which is the year right before the year of the dragon. The year of the cat is a reference to "chasing the dragon" which is slang for being addicted to Heroin.


She doesn't give you time for questions
As she locks up your arm in hers
And you follow 'till your sense of which direction
Completely disappears

Locking up arms, is the binding for the needle. No time for questions is referring to how fast it works. Following till your sense of which direction disappears is self explanatory.

By the blue tiled walls near the market stalls
There's a hidden door she leads you to
These days, she says, I feel my life
Just like a river running through
The year of the cat

Descriptions of market alleys and dirty places where the Heroin is sold and comments on the river explaining the rush and possibly the swept up feeling of helplessness.


She looks at you so coolly
And her eyes shine like the moon in the sea
She comes in incense and patchouli
So you take her, to find what's waiting inside
The year of the cat.

She (Heroin) is seductive and the flowers are fragrant. Incense and Patchouli could also refer to the smoking of opium in which flavors are mixed.


Well morning comes and you're still with her
And the bus and the tourists are gone
And you've thrown away the choice and lost your ticket

You're stuck with her (Heroin) with not way out and no choices as well.

So you have to stay on
But the drum-beat strains of the night remain
In the rhythm of the new-born day

Yup, he's stuck there. The rythym of the new-born day is not a pleasant picture in this case.

You know sometime you're bound to leave her
BUt for now you're going to stay
In the year of the cat.

Bound to stay... Chasing the Dragon
- Dan, Concord, NH
"She comes out of the sun..." a reference to ariel combat - to take the enemy by surprise. Yeah love is like that eh? "You know someday you're bound to leave her..." Brilliant!
- 5Cats, Winnipeg, MB
I decided to get a copy of the chords to muck about with this song and have found every version available to be absolute PAP. So I've just been up al night orhcestrating the separate parts for my own amusement. While everyone going on about the Piano and Sax, the Bass playing on this song is incredible and the full impact of just how good the Bassist is has been lost in a fluffy mix. The subtle interplay between that and the Kick Drum are what gives this song most of it's foot tapping appeal. Also, if it wasn't for the string section that plays the start of the solo and then creates lovely harmonic extension to the chords the guitar and sax parts really wouldn't be so evocative. So I say give the Rhythm section and the String Arranger their due too:) [17/06/2008]
- Liam, Leeds, United Kingdom
I agree that the piano & sax are awesome as is the acoustic guitars. However, the production is far better than some of his earlier works. Anyway you look at it, it's a great song each time I listen to it. Michael, OKC, OK,4-30-08.
- michael, okla. city, OK
I was just out of university when I first heard this song, and it is my absolute favorite song of all time.When I listen to it , it is almost like movie is playing in my mind and I can picture everything so clearly.Everytime I hear this song , it takes me way back to a place in time where I want to stay forever.The solos are just brilliant and fit the mood of the song perfectly. I have been trying for years to find out who played the guitar solos. Can anyone out there help..???
-Mickey,Toronto,Canada
- Mickey, Micssissauga, ON
i saw al stewart tonight at an outdoor concert, on the water at vinoy park. my 18 year old daughter went with me. the music, particularly the acoustic guitars played by al and john mcnamara, were fabulous and they were charming people. 'year of the cat' has always been one of my all-time favorite songs, very beautiful. what a nice man, very talented. and he told the audience that the song was written by him about a man he knew who was manic-depressive and comitted suicide. kind of a bummer to know that but it remains a favorite song of myself and my daughter. also, there was a young girl about 12 named ashley at the concert who made a poster of her favorite al stewart song 'katharine of oregon' and he performed the song and dedicated it to her. what a lovely day.
- dianne, pinellas park, florida, FL
this is a mysterious and remakable song that never grows old
- doug, wpg, MB
Hello to all,

Does anyone know how I can get a copy of the voice-intro version of Year of the Cat? A local radio station where I live, used to play this special version on the radio as a "tease", I guess. I have been trying for many, many years to get a copy of that. Please Help!
Thanks, Bobby Lockhart, Carrollton, VA, USA.
Email: b.lockhart@charter.net
- Bobby, Carrollton, VA
KUDOS TO CHRIS FROM KENTUCKY! This song is the most sensual and erotic song of all! AND, for those who don't get it, then they must not be into romanticism. This song tells a story, and it is one of love. A love of not only a woman but a place, and maybe a time. I first heard the song when it became a hit, so, yea, I was in high school and the sensuality of it hit me right away. The song is very atmospheric and the piano and sax solos are divine! I picture this song taking place in Paris for some reason. I see the guy walking along the streets, part of a tour bus group and he's thinking about how anonymous he is. He sees this beautiful girl in a silk dress, and she is very mysterious, which captures his eye even more. Her eyes meets his, and there is a kind of recognition. So, she takes his arm and they walk to the market. While there, she takes him to a door off the main street. He talks about his experience with her in an exotic and erotic way, describing how uninhibited she is, and the smell of incense and patchouli as they make love. The next morning he over-sleeps and misses the tour bus. He lost his ticke anyway, so he decides to stay with her, knowing that someday he's bound to leave, but for now he's a happy guy! From the name of the song, I get that either this event occured in the Year of the Cat, or the girl was born in the Year of the Cat. Whatever it means, it's a great romantic, fantasy type of song, and it unreels in my mind like a film everytime I hear it. LOVELY!
- Kate, Marietta, GA
I've always felt the song had something to do with the movie Casablanca. He does mention two of the actors in the song. Bogart and Lorre.
- Scott, Lewisville, TX
When the saxophone solo begins, I remember walking in front of the "Government Center" in Boston, right outside the subway station, early December 1977. Full moon, light snowfall. I was coming to the end of a 5-month imposed stay away from home in the midwest for the first time in my life (long story), and had lost 35 pounds. Magic. A turning point in my life. Someday I'll include it my biography. This song will always invoke this intoxicating memory for me, whenever I hear it on the radio. I wonder where all those girls are now . . . .
- John, Kansas City, MO
Are you all kidding? This song is drug induced babble. I do not wish to be contrary but - there are 945,234 song better than this. Carry on.

Water color in the rain my foot...
- billy, Louisvlle, KY
All:

The song is about a real incident that happened to either Al Stewart OR Peter Wood ( I was there at his interview in 1976 or so - yeah, I'm too old! And I don't remember which of the authors was talking. )

He was a bus tour in Africa - trying to "find himself" He met a "free spirit" who had a shop - one of the market stalls. She had a cat - that is why it was called "The year of the cat" - it was the year he spent with her in Africa.
- Doreen, New Brunswick, NJ
this song brings back memories of old days with my aunt libby, this is her era. i would hang out with her and listen to great tunes like this one.
- Big Ed, Pulaski, TN
I LOVE this song! It is so mellow and so musically complex. Try following the rhythm, not necessarily easy. Love the instrumental too! I was 8 years old when the song was released and heard it for the first time while visiting my cousin Jose in Peru and he asked me to translate the lyrics - I had a hard time convincing him that I couldn't understand what they even were in English! That's how I came to this site so many years later - I had to get the lyrics! Keep rockin' everybody!
- Jocelyn, New York, NY
I really can't remember the first time I heard this song...I just remember I didn't like it; too young to appreciate it. But I had a buddy with a great sound system who played it one when I was visiting...I loved it. It is not contrived or petty...a song of substance. The thing I like the best about it is that is is not rushed. The lengthy piano intro and beautiful break are from days long ago. Reminds me of the acoustic/electric transition in Rod Stewart's I Was Only Joking...smooth building crescendo. Wonderful event to listen to.
- Duane, Oak Harbor, WA
I never get tired of listening to this song. If I was on an island with only one song to listen to, this would be the one.
- Chris, Albuquerque, NM
This song is one of my favorites, of all times. I was a boy when I heard it for the first time, in 1976. It's incredible how it sounds, today, so modern! Year of the cat, more than a music, it's a gift forever!
Marcelo Fernandes, Petropolis, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
- Marcelo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This is my all time favorite song. I play it often. "Play" as in on an instrument. I am a classical concert organist,now working in Penna. I am originally from NYC (by way of the UK). I first heard this song when I was completing my undergraduate degree in music performance. Today, I have a masters in the same genre. The first time I saw Al Stewart perform this, was on a Talk Show that was doing a salute to "Arista" records. When I saw that the really cool string instrumental was actually being played by one bloke on a bloody keyboard instrument, I was totally hooked! I went to a "Sam Ash" store, found the synth that was used and played the break as much as I could figure out by ear. I now own a Triton Pro X. I play "YOTC" often in performance with different groups or just solo. The "Triton's" samples really do sound like
the original synth! I really was pleased to know that I learned "ALL" of the lyrics correctly, just from listening to the bloody piece. I'll play & sing this really cool tune forever! Cheers!
HL, NYC,NY
- H L, NEW YORK CITY, NY
Yet another reason I wish I was born twenty years earlier. Artists in the seventies were so much more skilled singer/songwriters then todays's.
- Nathan, Defiance, OH
There is a DVD called "Have a Nice Day: the sevenites" that has a 8:30 version of the song.
The DVD is put out by Rhino (Live version from the German show "Musicladen")
- Kevin, Memphis , TN
this song is my favorite of all times, i was 10 years old and living at the time in chicago, 34 years have passed by, but every time i hear it i transfer to those beautiful years when i was young living in chicago, boy in 34 years no other song has made me change my mind....THAT´S MY FAVORITE!!!!!!!MALENA. MONTERREY., MEXICO
- malena, monterrey, Mexico
This song has so many bitter-sweet memories for me, 30 years down the line, it's just not funny. It's not just that Al Stewart's "Year Of The Cat" is such a perfectly scripted, sung, accompanied, orchestrated and arranged masterpiece piece of music. It also has lingering associations with a sad time of my life the memories of which never quite goes away.

I guess that's something we all have to bear - a piece of music that for whatever reason, reminds us somehow of our past. We couldn't select that music at the time, so it's slotted away in our memories for good.

In the case of "Year Of The Cat", I can only thank Al Stewart for writing and producing such a brilliant piece of music back then. If he had come up with sort of similar crap like "Achey-Breakey Heart", maybe that would have been all I needed to drive off the nearest bridge in a mad fit of depression. I'm still here, so thanks, Al ........
- Pete, Perth, Australia
I LOVE THIS SONG, WHICH BY THE WAY DEBUTED ON THE BILLBOARD TOP 40 ON MY 8TH BIRTHDAY, JAN 22 1977.
YOU DON'T NEED A MUSIC VIDEO FOR THIS CLASSIC, YOU CAN MENTALLY SEE THE BLUE TILED WALLS AND ALL THE IMAGES IN YOUR MIND'S EYE. GIVE ME THIS OVER BUBBLE GUM POP AND HIP-HOP ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.
- Kevin, Memphis , TN
I fell in love with this song in my teens and I still feel the same about it, decades later. It's the most enchanting thing I ever heard, never tire of it. Sounds corny, but they don't make music like this anymore.
- Jim19, London, England
I see a man completing a typical 70s air/bus tour. Going back to the bus, bored, it was what it was. didn't meet his expectations, and this girl runs from an alley, probably escaping her pimp, grabs his arm, pulls him out of the crowd. He (he was bored remember and heading back to the hotel/bus) is enchanted. She's foreign, lovely and encased in a fountain of silk. Morning comes and the bus and the tourists (he was one of them) are gone. He's lost his passage on the bus, so he'll stay for now with her. Catch a later plane. Spend his tourist dollars, grab a coffee when she's gone, move on and grab a cab. Threw away his choice of leaving, lost his ticket in the confusion. The story to me is enchanting, fascinating and about a lonely man on a bus tour who spent a day and night with a geisha type girl, by chance. He protected her and gave her anonymity, she basically gave him a great night of sex. In the morning he lit a cig and caught a cab back to his ship.
- patty, New York City, NY
I first heard this song at 13, at 14 I bought it (on cassette!), and it became part of the soundtrack of my adolescent romances for the next year or so. Then I lost the tape. I haven't owned a copy since - in fact I haven't even heard the song for 26 years or so!! Yet it remains one of the two pieces, along with Beethoven's violin concerto, that I know completely by heart. I agree so much with Scott, Columbus, OH, that it's a song that can come and go within our memories. Every now and then I just close my eyes and from somewhere far away in my mind a piano starts a familiar refrain that washes over me and transports me to a country where they turn back time. This song is magic. I just wish people would stop trying to analyse it and simply feel it...
- Christo, Broome, Australia
I remember listeing to this song when I was about 8 or 9, and thinking what a neat adventure he had in China. So when I could I flew off to China by myself and had a great time. So I lived his adventure and when I hear this song, it takes me back there.
- Dave, Portland, OR
- Dave, Portland, OR
I have very good memories of this song because I used to listen it four years ago.In 2003 I felt happy because I was going to travel to Wales to study at Cardiff university and I can remember listening this song over and over again because it is so beautiful and the instrumental break is wonderful,it reminds me love and rain at the same time.
- EVA, BADAJOZ, Spain
Year of the Cat is the soundtrack of my life. Everytime I listen to it (and I listen to it almost on daily basis) it feels like I can see my past present and future life. Every word in this song seems to explain my life. When I meet somebody new and they want to know what I am about, I always give them the lyrics to this song. I never explain myself and the relevant people in my life usually get my meaning.
- Marina, Manchester, England
I agree with everything "Scott, Columbus, OH" said that sums it up for me.
- John, Glasgow, Scotland
I think where you talk about "year of the cat" it some way to say "never!" some sort of "pigs flying", "hell breezing" and such.
- Magallanes, Santiago, Chile
This is one of those songs that hits me every few years and then forget it exists (for whatever reason)for awhile.

It's strange how it happens because it always hits me like a ton of bricks when I realize (once again) how beautiful it is.

I mean... whats not to love? Mystical writing, a beautiful and flowing voice, tremendous instrumental transitions and one of the greatest intro's to any song.

What a great discovery. Over and over and over again.
- Scott, Columbus, OH
I first heard this song as a little girl, too young to understand it but loving the instrumentals. It had been in the back of my mind until hearing it at a funeral for a dear friend this weekend. He was a healthy man who died suddenly. A memorial video was put together and this song accompanied the photos from his time spent in Australia. He went to Oz on a backpacking trip and met a beautiful woman on the train. He followed her persistently and even was deported twice when his visa expired, but he eventually convinced her to marry him. Theirs is one of the most romantic love stories I know - he will be missed.
- Monique, Seattle, WA
"Year of the Cat" is featured prominently in the film "Running with Scissors."
- Guy, Woodinville, WA
I suffering from OA (old age.....) being over 40 now....couldnt find these lyrics by Cat Stevens, I have obviously wrongly attributed them to him a long time, but once I found out the right name went...DUHHHHHO! Now I remember that name!
Altho I remembered most of the words, I wanted them all, and I am glad this place exists, its great, i like the comment section! PEACE, LOVE, Joy to all!
- BillysRedHead, upstate, NY
I really "feel" the song, Year of the Cat, while experiencing a champagne buzz (beer doesn't do it). Sit back and let the song get into your heart and soul.
- Fran, Stockton, CA
Al Stewart stated that the first version he wrote this was called it "At The Foot Of The Stage". Might have been about groupies or playnig in concert.
- Dave, Scottsdale, AZ
I have been on board for submitting this song as sthe "Most Sensual and Erotic" song of the 20th century to whatever organization determines such things. I have had a Zen like relationship with this thing for, what, almost 30 years. And no, I don't need to get over it. I simply love this song, and proud of it. Chris, Louisville, Ky.
- chris myers, Louisville, KY
There are different versions to the song. the shortened version excludes the lyrics- "Well, she looks at you so cooly, And her eyes shine like the moon in the sea, She comes in incense and patchouli, So you take her, to find what's waiting inside, The year of the cat"... interestingly the mention of incense and patchouli places the time in the late 60s and early 70s when patchouli fragrance was popular in the free love hippie culture. the line "So you take her, to find what's waiting inside" is the sexual encounter... this is why i love this song, it's such a wonderful romantic fantasy about meeting a magical enigmatic person while on a vacation. i dream of this happening to me sometime :P where it's taking place is anyones guess...
- Ghi ~, Vancouver, Canada
As has already been stated, it's great to know other appreciate this song as much as I do. I first heard it in '76 or '77 as a high school student in New Orleans. I remember waiting in anticipation each time it came on, hoping that THIS time I'd hear the long version. More often than not, I was listening to the pop station (WTIX) and had to settle for the short cut. I love the instrumental break, mainly because I'm a guitar lover ("Sand in your Shoes" is pretty easy to play) and I love the way the acoustic fades so seamlessly into the electric and then on to the sax...all the while carried by that great string arrangement (thanks Alan Parsons?)
Oh well, thanks for letting me ramble.
- Scotty, Cheyenne, WY
Even though this GREAT song is relatively long, I wish the instrumental break would go much longer. Does anyone know if Al did a longer version of the instrumental section and if so, where I can find it? Pleased to know so many others really like this classic, emotive song.
- Roger, Melbourne, Australia
This song reminds me of an exotic and exciting time in my life. It reminds me of this guy called Brian who was too dangerous to spend my life with. Every time I listen to it sends shivers down my spine!
-Kira, Manchester, England
- kira, Manchester, England
I was born in the year of the cat in 1975. This song will always remind me of listening to music with my dad.
- Gary, Saint Louis, MO
I didn't know about the year of the cat, in my heart it will always be about the first year I sailed a catameran, it makes me think of leaving my mad technological life, for a slower more peaceful existance.
- mark, brighton, England
Did not realize that people felt about this song like I do.Brilliant... the piano,the lyrics figuring out the meaning.
- Ahmed, Durban, South Africa
I have so far 15 different versions of YOTC, performed by AL at different concerts. My 8 year old daughter Indiana sings it and knows the words by heart. I finally came across nevilleJudd website and requested all of Al's music from various concerts totalling 85 cds!!Can't wait. My wife puts up with it and can't understand my obsession. I have a highly stressful job and Al's music I feel makes it all fun.
- Sushoban, Sydney, Australia
For the person who wonders about a Year of the cat live version there s one in the "Indian Summer " release. This version starts with Al talking about a funny story called: "Clarence Frogman Henry" then they start to play the song and it s longer than the one we both know. This is the live version.
- Homero, Monterrey , Mexico
"strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime" is certainly an allusion to the 1931 Fritz Lang movie "M", in which Peter Lorre plays a man who sexually abuses and then kills children.
"a silk dress running Like a watercolour in the rain" definitely reminds me of a Vietnamese Ao Dai suit.
My guess is that the year of the cat is 1963, since 1975 and 1951 were years of heavy warfare, and there were certainly no tourists in Vietnam.
- Oliver, Bad Homburg, Germany
Whether intentional or not, the lyrics could describe a typical film noir, minus a central crime. In that light, the phrase "Year of the Cat" could describe something feline/female/femme fatale. I've always liked the instrumental break; coming before "in the morning you're still with her" suggests a sex scene.
- Wes, Springfield, VA
One of my favorite "late night" tunes. Very bittersweet.
- Sam, Chicago, IL
Al recorded a narrative that lasted as long as the musical intro on the song at the studios of WPLJ-FM in New York in the summer of 1976. If anyone has that version, I would love to hear it again. - P Spring Hill, Fl
- P, Spring Hill, FL
there is a live version on the 1981 album Live at the roxy los angeles,there are also various other live recordings which can be obtained from long time freind of Al stewart (Neville Judd)@
Nevillejudd.com these are mostly recordings taken from the mixer desk at Al concerts, some are very good others not so good, but if you are an Al fan they are well worth having.
- steve, worcester, England
Is this the only version of this song? Is there a live version?
- Ben, San Antonio, TX
Al as a new album released later this year, no title as yet, but it is rumoured to be his best since year of the cat.
- steve, worcester, England
I was a senior in high school when I first heard this little tune. I had just dropped off my prom date and was on my way home on the other side of town. It was five in the morning. It was cold and raining. I was driving my uncle's very cherry '68 Camaro SS. I was tired. I can still remember every piano lick at the begining.
- Ben, San Antonio, TX
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