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Thursday, September 30, 2010

196. "The First Cut Is The Deepest" by Cat Stevens

Requested by Glen Uber.

And see, here's where things get kind of crazy. Glen requested this one as somewhat of a joke, on the occasion of the anniversary of his vasectomy. And look what I ended up going through to pull it off!

Stevens is somewhat of a blind spot for me, possibly owing to some of what I discussed earlier this week with regards to my musical upbringing, and possibly owing to the fact that the first thing I really ever heard about him was that he was supporting the good ol' fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie. I was less than charmed at the time. That probably has been a barrier, really, since I've embraced plenty of artists cut from a similar cloth during the same era, but then again I did hear some of those guys at the time (Croce was big in our household). I had to scare up a whole new compilation in order to listen to the original... looking at the titles, I suspect I have heard more of his songs than I think. A few times over the decades, artists I like have introduced his songs to me as covers, and every once in a while I discover that something I have heard before but not known the artist, like that "Wild Life" song, is in fact by Stevens.

Looking at the list of people who have covered this song, I was little daunted by the fact that many of them seem rather, erm, more "singerly" than I usually think of myself, but it wasn't so bad. What is kind of weird is that I was almost done with this rather elaborate track before I remembered that the last time I'd given a song the de-luxe shoegazer treatment, it was a Carole King piece. So apparently there's part of me that wants to hear '70s singer-songwriters as imagined by the early Boo Radleys. All part of being me, I guess.

Personnel: Rex


  1. "the first thing I really ever heard about him was that he was supporting the good ol' fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie": If it makes you feel any better (and it certainly should), that turns out to be a media-sensationalized version of what he actually said. More like: you ask a first-year seminarian what the Bible says about, say, a stranger entering a temple (Numbers 1:51), and he says, well it says he should be put to death - and basically, Stevens (or Yusuf Islam as he's calling himself) was basically asked if there were grounds in the Qu'ran to support the fatwa. In any event, Stevens/Islam has repeatedly clarified his view on the matter over the years. But you know: trust the press to report accurately on anything concerning Islam...

  2. I probably should have clarified that I was really making fun of myself by mentioning that, rather than addressing anything about the fatwa qua fatwa... it was probably around 1987 or so, and I think I heard about it partly in relation to 10,000 Maniacs dropping "Peace Train" off their album in reaction to Yusuf's statements, so... I was young and dumb, and it was the heyday of political correctness, and it's all quite embarrassing. Although it does give me the opportunity to make one of my pet points, which is that basically nobody has used the term "politically correct" to describe their own actions since just about that time, and in fact the term and the practice have been so demonized that many people go out of their way to try not to even appear slightly "PC" even when they have a valid point. The fact is that the practice was totally neutered by around 1991 at the very latest, and yet right wing talk radio bloviationists, Teabaggers and even far more mainstream factions who should know better continue to act like it's common policy among liberals to act as "thought police". It's possible that, in modern political "debate", more time and words are wasted combatting these kinds of spurious accusations than, like, anything else evar.

  3. ...and looking over your comments and mine, I'm also struck by the fact that being "PC" in 1987 meant self-censoring your record to avoid appearing to support Islamic extremism; apparently in 2010 it means desperately trying to avoid saying anything *bad* about Islamic extremism. Boy, this here thought-policing is harder work than it looks!