Year of the Cat (song)

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"Year of the Cat"
Year of the Cat - Al Stewart.jpg
Single by Al Stewart
from the album Year of the Cat
B-side "Broadway Hotel"
Released July 1976 (1976-07) (UK)
October 1976 (US)
Recorded Abbey Road Studios, London, England, January 1976
  • 6:40 (album)
  • 4:38 (single)
Producer(s) Alan Parsons
Al Stewart singles chronology
"Year of the Cat"
"On the Border"

"Year of the Cat"
"On the Border"
Audio sample

"Year of the Cat" is a single by Scottish singer-songwriter Al Stewart, released in July 1976. The song is the title track of his 1976 album Year of the Cat, and was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London in January 1976 by engineer Alan Parsons. The song reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1977. Although Stewart's highest charting single on that chart was 1978's "Time Passages",[3] "Year of the Cat" has remained Stewart's signature recording, receiving regular airplay on both classic rock and folk rock stations.


The track is noted for its lengthy instrumental sections— over four minutes of the 6:40 album version is instrumental, including a long, melodic series of solos that encompass cello, violin, piano, acoustic guitar, distorted electric guitar, synthesizer and saxophone. The transition from acoustic guitar to electric to saxophone was initiated by Tim Renwick. The acoustic lead is played by Peter White with Tim Renwick then taking the electric lead. Parsons had Phil Kenzie add the saxophone part of the song — and by doing so transformed the original folk concept into the jazz-influenced ballad that put Al Stewart onto the charts.

According to Stewart on an episode of In the Studio with Redbeard (which devoted an episode to the making of the Year of the Cat album), Phil Kenzie was watching a movie and didn't want to be bothered with going to do session work; but as a favour to Alan Parsons he went to Abbey Road, and the sax solos were recorded in one or two takes, after which Kenzie left the studio to go back home and watch the rest of his movie. Stewart also told Redbeard that he didn't like the sax solos at first but grew to like them.

Shorter versions of the track can be found on some European 7" single formats. Though both of the discs carry the same label and catalogue number (RCA PB 5007), the French single features the A-side track clocking in at 4:30, while the Italian one features an even shorter mix of just 3:30 so that the lengthy instrumental intro is completely missing.

Co-written by Peter Wood, "Year of the Cat" is a narrative song written in the second person whose protagonist, a tourist, is visiting an exotic market when a mysterious silk-clad woman appears and takes him away for a gauzy romantic adventure. On wakening the next day beside her, the tourist realizes, with equanimity, that his tour bus has left without him and he has lost his ticket.

The Cat is one of the twelve signs of the Vietnamese zodiac. It corresponds to that of the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac. At the time of the song's release, the most recent Year of the Rabbit had been 11 February 1975 to 30 January 1976; thus, the song was recorded in the Vietnamese Year of the Cat.

The song "Year of the Cat" began as "Foot of the Stage", a song written by Stewart in 1966 after seeing a performance by comedian Tony Hancock whose patter about "being a complete loser" who might as well "end it all right here" drew laughs from the audience: Stewart's intuitive response that Hancock was in genuine despair led to the writing of "Foot of the Stage".[4] It was the melody for this never-recorded song which Stewart set the lyrics of "Year of the Cat" to in 1975: pianist Peter Wood was given a co-writing credit on the song in recognition of his piano riff on the recorded track.

Subsequent to the entry of the single on the US charts, the track afforded Stewart a major hit in Australia (#13), Belgium/Flemish Region (#7), Canada (#3), Italy (#5), the Netherlands (#6) and New Zealand (#15). In the UK, where the single had been overlooked on its original July 1976 release, it gained renewed interest which was evident in a Top 40 chart entry although interest levelled off outside the Top 30 with a #31 peak in January 1977. "Year of the Cat" would remain Stewart's sole chart single in his native UK.


The song is mainly written in E minor / G major, with the electric guitar solo in the bridge in D major.

Chart performance[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

Hector recorded the song with his own Finnish lyrics as "Kissojen Yö" on his 1978 album Kadonneet Lapset. The Spanish rendering "El Año Del Gato" was recorded by Érica García for her 2001 album release El Cerebro.

A cover version by F. R. David appeared on the 1999 album Words – '99 Version.

The experimental band Psapp recorded a version for the compilation Take It Easy: 15 Soft Rock Anthems in 2006, which contained cat sound effects.

In 2012, Washington DC based trio Volta Bureau released a remixed instrumental version entitled "Alley Cat".[10]

Appearances in media[edit]

Another version of the song, also performed by Stewart, appears on Volume 1 of the Cities 97 Sampler.

The song appears in the film version of Running with Scissors (2006) and in the film Radiofreccia (1998), the directorial debut of Italian rock star Luciano Ligabue.

In 2013, the song was used during the credits of "The Dinner" episode of HBO show Hello Ladies.

The song is used frequently as bumper music on the late-night radio talk show Coast to Coast AM.

The song also appears in the German film Die Katze.[11]


  1. ^ "Year Of The Cat - Record Collector Magazine".
  2. ^ Breithaupt, Don; Breithaupt, Jeff (2000). Night Moves: Pop Music in the Late '70s. St. Martin's Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-312-19821-3.
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 603.
  4. ^ Dave Thompson, 1000 Songs that Rock Your World, p. 142, Krause Publications, Iola, WI (2011). ISBN 978-1-4402-1422-6.
  5. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly - Library and Archives Canada". March 5, 1977. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  6. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 24 April 1977
  7. ^ "Australian Chart Book". Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  8. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  9. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1977/Top 100 Songs of 1977". Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  10. ^ Schweitzer, Ally (2012-04-17). "Defected Label To Release Volta Bureau's "Alley Cat" - Arts Desk". Retrieved 2013-07-30.
  11. ^ "The Cat". 21 January 1988 – via

External links[edit]