I hardly ever think of Cat Stevens – but when I do, I instantly think of one thing. And it is not a particular album or song. It is not any one greatest hits compilation. It is not the fact that it was the soundtrack to any drive along the Napier-Taupo road for my high school years. And it is not even the university chum who was convinced that Cat Stevens was a paedophile because of his penchant for writing songs like (Remember The Days Of The) Old School Yard and Where Do The Children Play.
Those are not the things I instantly think of. I instantly think of one situation whenever Cat Stevens plays.
The thing I think of is when my father used to play this version of the Greatest Hits album in the car, relentlessly, and in an effort to engage with him on this subject, 13-year-old-Me said to the him-from-then: “this is a good CD, I particularly like the song Father And Son” (this would later turn up on the university chum’s list of suspect-songs too).
The car arrived home with us in it. The way it usually did. But 13-year-old-Me figured the conversation was over with the him-from-then. So I got out of the car and went inside. He stayed in the car.
I was in my room later that night doing homework. And my father arrived saying, “that song you mentioned early…I think you were trying to tell me something”.
“Yeah I was”, I said, “I was trying to say that I liked that song, it’s probably my favourite on the album. And so that’s why I said that to you”.
But my father looked at me as if I had said:
“How can I try to explain, when I do you turn away again. It’s always been the same, same old story. From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen. Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away. I know I have to go”.
I was actually about to ask him what year Norman Kirk died in office. But he was busy preparing his look, adjusting his head as if he was about to reply:
“It’s not time to make a change, just sit down, take it slowly. You’re still young, that’s your fault, There’s so much you have to go through. Find a girl; settle down, if you want you can marry. Look at me I am old, but I’m happy”.
The 13-year-old-Me struggled to convince the him-from-then that it was just a good song. And in the process of doing that I fell instantly out of love with the song. Never to have any interest in it ever again. The curse being I would play in a covers band on and off for about three years where that song was part of the nightly repertoire.
My mum told me that the reason I got out of the car and dad stayed in the car that night was because he sat and listened to the song three times to try to understand what he thought was being said to him.
And even now, a quarter of a century on, and then some, from that very awkward few moments that the 13-year-old-Me encountered I still think about it when Father And Son plays.
I don’t even know what it means. But if that has stayed with me I figure I can’t be the only one that has put their foot in it with a song. So I want you to admit to when you misinterpreted a song’s meaning – either because it was on a mix-tape for you, or because you were sharing a moment with someone and that song was the soundtrack. Or were you not the one that misinterpreted it but someone close to you was? What songs/artists are ruined for you because of something that happened that was out of your control? Did you get the meaning of the song wrong or did someone you know misinterpret what was being said because of your enthusiasm for the song?