Monday, August 13, 2007

The Year of the Cat

If my calculations are right, the next Year of the Cat--based on Vietnamese astrology--will not occur until 2011, but that seems a bit long to wait to make these comments on the identically named song.

Although I have heard and thought about the song over many years, I was never really able to understand much more than the title and the admonition "Don't bother asking for explanations." It was only recently that I got to look up the lyrics. At first the lyrics seemed quite revolting to me. Now I am at a point where I can't even say if I am really sickened. I simply do not understand the supposed logic (if one is even intended) of the song. How do the facts and events revealed lead to the outcomes described? Do the lyrics at http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=3526 many any more sense to you?

According to SongFacts.com--a great source of information about the background behind many songs--the song was inspired by the film Casablanca. Although I know that this film is supposed to be a classic and one that should be experienced by a "sophisticated" individual, I was never able to sit through it. Maybe enduring the film once and for all might help me understand the song better.

By the way, SongFacts also reports that the studio asked Al Stewart to make another song similar to "The Year of the Cat." The result was the song "Time Passages" which Al Stewart has since admitted to not liking. SongFacts quotes Stewart: "I didn't realize truly how bad a song it was until one day I was in an elevator and I was listening to what I thought was Muzak. About 30 seconds went by, and I finally began to recognize it and said to myself, 'This sounds pretty horrible.' Then, horror of horrors, I heard my voice come on, it actually was the record. So I'm thinking, 'Oh my God what have I done, this is terrible!' Hopefully in the last 25 years I've redeemed myself with other things, but "Time Passages" has just never thrilled me." I, on the other hand, actually like the lyrics to this song. They seem rather elegant to me. Are the words " Well, I'm not the kind to live in the past/ The years run too short and the days too fast/ The things you lean on/ Are the things that don't last" really entirely without artistic and philosophical merit? It looks like I was fooled. Again, I do agree that these words and the remaining lyrics do not appear to support a conclusion of a desire to have someone "buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight," but not all aspects of songs with merit necessarily develop the logic behind each conclusion.

1 comment:

ravelgrane said...

I really didn't like Casablanca or this song, though I like the way the song sounds without regard to the words. The thing that bothers me about it also bothers me about Casablanca: the impermanence. In my view, a gentleman makes a commitment to a woman and violating that is cause for shame. In the song, he says, "you know someday you're going to leave her, but for now you're going to stay." And the movie, Bogart basically kicks the woman out of his life. The feeling I am left with is, "well then what was the point? What was it all leading up to?" Maybe this is an Aspergian way of looking at things. Like you said about following the rules, how could people not do that? But this same quality of impermanence is often cited as something that makes art superior. American movies usually have happy endings, not ambiguous ones, and for that reason they are often looked askance at by foreign critics. Living in the moment like the existentialists or Buddhist monks is held with higher esteem. But I can't reconcile my feelings that anything impermanent is not worth doing.