Yusef/Cat Stevens reimagines Tea For The Tillerman for 50th Anniversary
August 16, 2020 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Yusuf/Cat Stevens Re-Records ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ for 50th Anniversary “We knew we were coming up to the 50th birthday of the friendly face, Tillerman,” says Yusuf, “and we wanted to do something special for him” Preview track: Where Do The Children Play
posted by hippybear (27 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Was one of the first albums I ever owned when I was probably 11.
posted by octothorpe at 12:36 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


I was 18 when I bought and loved Tea For The Tillerman. I guess I'm not really old, I'm really most sincerely old.
posted by Sassenach at 12:43 PM on August 16 [5 favorites]


Maybe I'm just in a grumpy mood this morning but it seems over-instrumented, I am not wowed by the cover art, and I disliked the background vocals. I'm sure I'll check out the completed project at some point but I won't be eagerly awaiting it based on this sample.

On the other hand, if he's making music again and it makes people happy that's a good thing. But this is probably not for me.

Oh, and the original "Tea for the Tillerman" was one of the first albums I owned, also. In my case it was a birthday gift from my older sisters. It wasn't newly released when I received it but it wasn't that old, either. Hard to believe it's 50 at this point. Why that would make me.. [falls silent]
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:02 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


My name is Tilman. in 1970 I was 11 years old. Imagine the unending amounts of tea my Gleeful Glee Mc Gleerton classmates, bless their hearts, threatened me with during my remaining high school years.

(I guess I've moved on. Sorry Yusuf/Cat)
posted by Namlit at 2:00 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


Perhaps you'll like his 2017 album The Laughing Apple, which is a mix of tunes old and new. It is a real call-back to his earlier style, and I found it to be delightful.
posted by hippybear at 2:21 PM on August 16


Well, I quite liked that. Cheers!
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:57 PM on August 16


You know, it occurs to me that, after all these years, I have no idea what a Tillerman is
posted by thelonius at 4:11 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


A tillerman is someone who steers a boat, who operates the tiller. Also apparently the person who steers the rear wheels of a dual-steering firetruck.
posted by hippybear at 4:21 PM on August 16 [5 favorites]


So Namlit, you might like this one from Father John Misty: Mr. Tillman
posted by carmicha at 4:35 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


I find I can't listed to Wild World at all thanks to the misogynistic lyrics, specifically "I'll always remember you like a child, girl" and "I never want to see you sad, girl. Don't be a bad girl." That--plus the singer's overarching assumption that he alone knows what's best for her and in his wisdom warns that she probably can't manage by herself-- really grates.
posted by carmicha at 4:42 PM on August 16 [11 favorites]


Huh. And just earlier today (pinky swear), I heard a Cat single on the radio (one of the Harold and Maude songs left out of the soundtrack album) and thought 'His music stands up really well after 50 years.' It's a gift.

Tea was a strong album from a fine and sincere songwriter. Mama had 'Morning' sung at her funeral. I was super sorry to see him go, and now he's back, like the first bird.
posted by Twang at 4:47 PM on August 16 [2 favorites]


There was a decent interview with him on this album on CBC radio recently... its on YouTube here..
posted by Ashwagandha at 4:54 PM on August 16


A tillerman is someone who steers a boat, who operates the tiller. Also apparently the person who steers the rear wheels of a dual-steering firetruck.

Is that why he can't get his own tea?
posted by thelonius at 5:45 PM on August 16 [2 favorites]


Perhaps the tea is simply a kindness.
posted by hippybear at 6:17 PM on August 16 [4 favorites]


Every time I hear Cat/Yusef Stevens, I'm stuck by what singular songwriter he is.

My introduction was via Harold and Maude - and the song "Trouble" echoed in my ears for weeks afterwards. (Okay, it also was very appropriate for an angsty 15-year old).
posted by jb at 8:04 PM on August 16 [2 favorites]


I was introduced to Cat Stevens in 78 or 79 when I was a very small child at summer day camp and loved loved loved the songs, but I didn't know who I was listening to until years later, when I was able to put together my memories of those songs with a name. Tea for the Tillerman is still one of my favorite albums.
posted by desuetude at 8:33 PM on August 16


I was done with Yusuf when he went public on All The Medias insisting that Salman Rushdie should be executed for committing sacrilege.

There’s really no reconciling that with his happy, carefree songs, and no walking it back.
posted by panglos at 9:21 PM on August 16 [10 favorites]


Kristen Hersh doing Trouble might be the palette cleaner you need.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:39 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


I was so into that album when it came out. But I washed my hands of that guy years and years ago and I can't remember exactly why. What panglos said could be it, but I think it was much earlier than that the Rushdie thing. Did Stevens do something in the mid 70's that really pissed people off, especially women? Besides converting to Islam. I can't think of anything that stands out, but at that time I was busy being in college.
posted by james33 at 1:24 AM on August 17 [1 favorite]


We didn't bring very many albums with us in the first year at University but one of the big albums in my clique was Teaser and the Firecat, so that is the Big Cat Stevens record for me.
posted by epo at 5:20 AM on August 17


I washed my hands of that guy years and years ago and I can't remember exactly why.

Well in addition to calling for Salmon Rushdie's murder, he's also known for his homophobic bigotry. When Britain was repealing its homophobic Section 28 law, which banned students from being taught in school about same-sex relationships and same-sex families, he said at a news conference that the law's repeal was "part of the deterioration of the moral statutes that we are witnessing day by day" and warned that it was a threat to "great moral principles."

He also later reportedly said that those who supported educating children about sexual diversity wanted to "feast off the innocence of our children for their own abominable sexual appetites."
posted by Umami Dearest at 10:13 AM on August 17 [5 favorites]


Neat! I think of myself as a fan. But, what does, "the friendly face, Tillerman" mean? Is it just the guy on the album cover? Or some random phrase that means something only to Yusuf? I never really understood why it was a tillerman in the first place. Or what any of the rest of the song means. I remain surprised it was the title song, given the other fantastic songs on the album.

I'm looking forward to the new Longer Boats. I've been trying to convince every musician I know to record a cover since I was a teenager, without success. It's not only a fun song, but the weird dissonance I feel between the two interpretations I've heard - colonial conquest on Earth, and UFOs - is really interesting. (My knee-jerk response is "fuck empire. . . but, also. . . please beam me up.")
posted by eotvos at 11:10 AM on August 17


Well in addition to calling for Salmon Rushdie's murder. . .
Fuck. Really? Having known nothing about the guy except his music, that makes me sad. I guess I'd rather know about it than not. Looks like I'm gonna pirate this album instead of buying it.
posted by eotvos at 11:14 AM on August 17




This record was originally released in November 1970, in many countries (though not the US) the copyright expires after 50 years.

I was thinking it seems strange that someone who previously disowned all his early records would suddenly feel an overwhelming need to re-record them all, with exactly the same lyrics. As always, follow the money.
posted by Lanark at 6:35 AM on August 18 [2 favorites]


Harold & Maude was one of my dad’s favorite movies—a fact I learned when I saw it for the first time the Christmas after he died—and I will always feel a little gross about having purchased the Criterion edition because of this fucker. I can watch the film as a time capsule and maintain the appropriate mental distance from Yusuf’s faith, but I’m guessing Criterion paid him well for his participation.
posted by pxe2000 at 9:20 AM on August 18


A few years ago I ripped my original copy of "Tea for the Tillerman" and uploaded it to my Google Play cloud account. A few months later, when I listened to it there, I was horrified and furious that Google had unilaterally replaced some of the tracks with later versions, not from the original album, which had been re-engineered with sappy new background tracks. Multiple layers of horror: discovering that Google was replacing my own rips with what I assume the record labels were defining as "definitive" versions, and hearing those spare original classics in what Nerd of the North so astutely calls "over-instrumented" versions.
posted by PhineasGage at 8:49 AM on August 20


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