We’re still mooning around here at WMMCM — in spite of work- and travel-related delays –so here’s a bit of fake folk from Cat Stevens, who was a bigger star in the ’70s than most people seem to remember. Something that may very well have to do with the way he left the music business, but we won’t get into that here, since it’s been gotten into quite a bit already over over the years.
So anyway, here’s “Moonshadow.”
I don’t know the provenance of the video, or whether it’s contemporary with the song. But it’s quite charming, based on the title and cover art of the Teaser and the Firecat album — it may be a better video than this rather vapid song deserves.
I have no problem at all with fake folk, which is to say songs that adapt the musical and lyrical styles of traditional music. I grew up on this stuff — I knew who Buffye Ste. Marie, Ed McCurdy, and the Clancy Brothers were long before I had any notion of rock ‘n’ roll — but I’m no kind of purist at all, and traditional-music Cuisinart Steeleye Span is one of my favorite things. But fake folk is very hard to do well, by which I mean plausibly, even Span failed dismally when they stopped adapting and started trying to write it from scratch.
Stevens gave pretend folk respectable try with “Lady D’Arbanville,” but “Moonshadow” doesn’t come off quite as well. The simple lyrics are sort of Zenny reflection on cheerful, or at least philosophical, acceptance of one’s fate. This acceptance is presumably made possible by the conviction that one is being followed by a moonshadow. OK.
I’m being followed by a moonshadow
Leapin’ and hoppin’ on a moonshadow
Which is nice, I guess. A shadow cast by the moon is an elusive, momentary thing, and could be evocative in its way. But in this song, it is something of an answer to everything.
And if I ever lose my hands
Lose my plough
Lose my land
Oh if I ever lose my hands
Oh if, I won’t have to work no more
And if I ever lose my eyes
If my colours all run dry
Yes if I ever lose my eyes
Oh if, I won’t have to cry no more
And we go on like that, as he anticipatorily makes the best of losing other faculties, then sings a couple of lines, addressed to the moon itself, in a different, shouty melody that really adds nothing at all to this slight song. (“Moonshadow” has such a lovely, inviting guitar accompaniment that a lot of people, professionals and not, play and sing this song, and I bet every single one of them wishes Cat hadn’t included that clumsy interruption.)
Overall, well, eh. I don’t know. One can try too hard on these things, or perhaps it’s that all the damage this guy sees himself shrugging off is hypothetical, and that the imagined bright sides to each potential disaster seem forced and not terribly persuasive. It’s pretty, but I think Cat was trying for something more meaningful — he generally was — but didn’t get there with this one.
Meanwhile, and off topic, here is some first-rate fake folk.