Monday, March 5, 2012

Peace Train - Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens
(C. Stevens)


Chart Entry: 13th November, 1971
Highest Position: #2
Points: 103, 624
From the album "Teaser & the Firecat".


With two successful albums under his belt, Cat Stevens had established a sound all his own, Mona Bone Jackson and Tea For The Tillerman providing him with plenty of early hits and both accredited Gold status in America for sales over 500,000 copies. So with album #3 in the pipeline, Cat re-visited a "Greek Island sound" to produce what would become his most important song, and most successful in Australia. "Peace Train" was quite simply a peace anthem, starting Cat Stevens off on his biggest goal in life - world peace!

Hanging over from the peace movement of the late 60's, the early years of the 70's produced two of the most famous peace anthems ever. John Lennon's "Imagine" will probably never be surpassed as the most famous of these, but Cat Stevens' "Peace Train" is definitely a close second, many regarding it as a simpler and more uplifting vehicle to carry the message of peace throughout the world. John Lennon had "Imagine", but Cat Stevens had, err...Cat Stevens, and the man himself would receive several awards for the promotion of peace, including the 2004 Man For Peace award and the 2007 Mediterranean Prize for Peace.

Teaser And The Firecat was an interesting release as it contained three of Cat Stevens' biggest hits, but all appearing towards the end of the album. It became the biggest album of his career, spending 15 weeks at the top of the Australian albums chart, a shoo-in for highest selling album of 1972. There was also an accompanying children's book written by Cat and published a year after the album was released. It spent a few years in circulation before ceasing publication, making it quite a collector's item these days.

Australia gave "Peace Train" it's biggest chart success by hitting #2 in 1972, two places higher than the follow-up single, "Morning Has Broken" which rounded out Cat Stevens' most successful year of his career. The single also gave Cat his first American top ten hit when it reached #7 on the Billboard charts, but that achievement was surpassed when both "Morning Has Broken" and 1974's "Another Saturday Night" peaked at #6. Interestingly, the UK had seemingly lost interest in Cat after giving him two top ten hits in 1967, way before the rest of the world caught on to Cat's talents. "Peace Train" was rarely released outside of the US to encourage album sales, but the UK charts put both "Morning Has Broken" and "Another Saturday Night" at #9 at their peaks, quite a downturn from the #2 position he had achieved back in 1967 with "Matthew & Son".

Just like "Imagine", "Peace Train" has been covered numerously by such artists as Jann Arden and Tony Melendez. American band, 10,000 Maniacs included a version on their 1987 In My Tribe album, but singer Natalie Merchant ordered the track to be deleted from the album after comments made by Cat, then known as Yusuf after converting to Islam, were interpreted by some as a call for death to controversial author, Salman Rushdie.

In 1996, Dolly Parton recorded a version of "Peace Train" for her covers album, Treasures, with a dance version rotating in the gay clubs for awhile, a testament to how far and wide such a powerful song could reach. Dolly recorded a CBS television special to promote the album, citing "Peace Train" as a personal favourite. The special included a brief interview with Yusuf describing the composition process of the song. He later joined Dolly to accompany her on guitar for the track, "Where Do The Children Play", the b-side of the American release of "Peace Train". Dolly's version of "Peace Train" was eventually released as a single in 1997, the video directed by Christopher Ciccone, the brother of one Madonna.

Cat Stevens' conversion to Islam in 1977 saw him abandon his music career permanently, concentrating his life to the plight of a peaceful world. But no amount of devotion to his faith could turn him away from the talent that made him one of the most successful artists of the early 70's. Yusuf gradually integrated himself back into the music community during the 90's, although his releases were as far from commercial as anyone could get. He wrote and produced a children's album in 2000, A Is For Allah, but his real return came that same year through the re-release of his back catalogue as Cat Stevens. "Peace Train" was re-recorded in 2003 for a benefit album for the children of Iraq called Hope.

Yusuf was back to full pop music capacity in 2006 with An Other Cup, forty years after his first offering, Matthew And Son. Confirming he was back for good, Yusuf delivered Roadsinger in 2009, prompting numerous appearances on stage, talk shows and benefits. He took on a major world tour in 2010 that saw him reach Australian shores for the first time in 36 years. But we are not done with Cat Stevens just yet with a new musical written by Yusuf called Moonshadow about to open in Melbourne during 2012. Featuring music from throughout his career, Moonshadow will tell the tale of a young man and his moonshadow's battle against darkness, and the search for everlasting happiness. Expect yet another revival of Cat Stevens to once again invade our charts.


Chart Run:
(22 weeks in Top 100) (Go-Set Top 40)

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