Al Stewart is best known for his 1976 album “Year Of The Cat”, and the hit song of the same name but before that he had already released six studio albums with varying degrees of success and had performed at the first ever Glastonbury Festival in 1970.
Starting with the album “Bedsitter Images” in 1967, Stewart became a doyen of the English folk scene. He knew Yoko Ono before she met John Lennon, and shared a London flat with a young Paul Simon. The poster of the cover image for his fourth album “Orange” adorned many a student’s bedroom wall, and with the next album “Past, Present And Future” he moved away from folk to what became his trademark historical folk-rock songs such as Nostradamus and Roads To Moscow. Too long for mainstream radio airplay they became popular on many US college radio stations, which were flexible about running times.
Stewart was well-regarded but had yet to break in to the mainstream. “Year Of The Cat” changed all that bringing him success beyond all expectations at the time. The title track in particular reached the top 5 in the US and became a worldwide hit. It is one of those songs where the title has become so synonymous with the tune that it is hard to imagine how it could ever have been called something else. But that is indeed how it started out with the title "Foot Of The Stage" derived from a prescient song Stewart wrote in 1966 about Tony Hancock, one of Britain's favourite comedians who died by suicide two years later. It was only when it was pointed out that no-one had heard of Tony Hancock in the US that he switched to Year Of The Cat.
The follow up album “Time Passages” made the top 10 in the US and the title track, a co-write with Peter White who had played guitar on “Year Of The Cat” reached number 7 on the Billboard charts.
Stewart has since released eight studio and three live albums, and though less commercially successful his popularity has endured. He continues to tour extensively in the US, Canada, Europe, and the UK.
And so, whilst the year in which the song Year Of The Cat was written, 1975 may have been the year of the Cat in Vietnamese astrology, the following year, 1976 was certainly the “Year Of Al”.