EntertainmentMusic'Teaser and the Firecat' (Cat Stevens, 1971), music for...

‘Teaser and the Firecat’ (Cat Stevens, 1971), music for a children’s story


Steven Demetre Georgiou was born in 1948, in 1967 he introduced himself as Cat Stevens and in 1978 he changed his name to Yusuf Islam. He is undoubtedly an interesting artist who has left a large number of good songs. On this occasion we are going to focus on his fifth studio album, Teaser and the Firecat , from 1971, which was a success both among the public and critics. Labeled as a folk rock album, in it we find pieces of very different rhythm and tone.

Teaser and the Firecat reached the TOP 3 on the charts in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, a country where in fact it was number one and the best-selling album of the year. The songs ‘Peace Train’ and ‘Morning Has Broken’ were number one on the Billboard chart. It is an album that every lover of good music will be grateful to hear and know.

The character: Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam

From a very young age he began to produce pieces that would later achieve great success, covered by other artists, such as ‘The First Cut Is the Deepest’, written in 1967 (at the age of 19) or ‘Here Comes My Baby’, also in 1967. With His first album placed the curious ‘I Love My Dog’ at number one, and from there he didn’t go down. He released records in 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977 and 1978. He went gold and then disappeared forever. He left the music industry in 1978.

Cat Stevens lived and “died” in the 1970s. From the end of that decade there was a gap that lasted until 2006. After leaving the business and moving away from producers, tours and money, he moved closer to peace and embraced Islam. According to the same account, in 1976 he was about to drown and prayed to God promising that he would work for him if he saved him. In late 1977 he officially converted to Islam and in 1978 he changed his name to Yusuf Islam. For three decades he dedicated himself to prayer and cultivating his spirit. It is estimated that, for the music of Cat Stevens, Yusuf annually earns more than 1.5 million dollars. Like Yusuf Islam, he has released several studio albums (2006, 2009, 2014, 2017) and since the mid-nineties he has returned to public life, performing concerts and touring.

Context of ‘Teaser and the Firecat’ (1971)

We are in the period of greatest creativity for Cat Stevens. After the commercial success of his previous album, Tea for the Tillerman (1970), it was not easy to surpass himself. On that record were number ones like ‘Father and Son’, ‘Where Do The Children Play’ or ‘Wild World’ (perhaps the most popular song by Cat Stevens, despite him). Critics seem to agree that indeed, due to the greater depth of the lyrics,  Tea for the Tillerman is better than Teaser and the Firectat , but at VENTURA we believe that the latter is an album with a greater number of good songs. There are ten songs, and all ten are of quality.

In addition, the history of Teaser and the Firecat  is curious, because it is actually a children’s story written by Cat Stevens in the late sixties. This book, titled like the album, tells the story of a young man in a top hat named Teaser and his faithful pet, Firecat. The two characters try to put the Moon back in its place after it has fallen from the sky.

In the original book, the drawings of Teaser and her cat were created by Cat Stevens himself. Knowing the history songs like ‘Moonshadow’ are better understood. The story was published in 1972, taking advantage of the record, but it stopped printing around the mid-seventies.

Songs list

The album begins with the calm rhythm that Cat Stevens had accustomed us to in his first albums. ‘The Wind’ is a piece of just over 01:40 minutes with a relaxing tone and a simple structure: two acoustic guitars, one voice. The second song, ‘Rubylove’, presents obvious Greek tones, and even a verse sung in the language of the Hellenic country. A small tribute to his origins: the son of a Greek Cypriot and baptized Steven Georgiou.

‘If I laugh’ returns to the soft rhythm and presents rather sad lyrics. The theme of heartbreak is wrapped up again by an accompaniment of two guitars.

We change our rhythm in ‘Changes IV’, a hymn to life and leaving the past behind. The hippie spirit of Cat Stevens sings to make the clouds go away and show the beauty of the world. However, the next song discourages us again. ‘How Can I tell you’ is another hymn to heartbreak.

‘Tuesday is dead’ is the complete opposite. The rhythm is fast and the lyrics are reflective (“What’s my sex, what’s my name, all in all it’s all the same”, “What is my sex? What is my name? In the end it’s all the same”) and claim (“Try to turn the world around one more time”, “Try to change the world once more”).

‘Morning Has Broken’ once again returns to the calm rhythm. This song is actually a version that Cat Stevens makes of a traditional Christian song, written in 1931 and of Scottish origin. The piano is the protagonist this time.

Following the logic of the album, the following song has an up-tempo rhythm. ‘Bitterblue’ is a love song in which despair does not adopt melancholic tones, but rather a fast beat.

‘Moonshadow’ has a clear childish tone, as if it was meant to be sung to children. Cat Stevens himself has said that it is one of his favorite songs, and that he wrote it during a vacation in Spain, when he was able to observe the moon as he had never seen it before, covered by the lights of his native London. 

What was left of the hippie wind of the late sixties moved the hair of Cat Stevens, who launched a cry for peace in his famous ‘Peace Train’, the last track on the album. There were those who criticized this positive vision of the world, which in those years was experiencing the horror of the Vietnam War, but even so it became an anthem of the peace movement. It was played again at the protests against the Iraq War in 2003 and Yusuf Islam played it live at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2006.

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