Being a a talented psychedelic, hipster singer-songwriter in 1970 might have been a ticket to fame and fortune, or at least allow you a significant cult following – unless you were Welsh. Not that being Welsh was a problem in itself, but singing in Welsh was always going to be tricky. A single arranged by future Led Zep man John Paul Jones performed badly and despite the setback of a nervous breakdown in 1967, he recovered and released a series of Welsh language singles between 1967-1969. He was responsible for one of the great lost Psych Folk albums of the era – Outlander. His only English language album of the period was released in 1970 with one imagines, an air of expectation on a major label (Warner Brothers) and lands somewhere between Bob Dylan and The Incredible String Band mixed with Roy Harper and Michael Chapman.
After Outlander he released a Welsh language album, Gwymon (Seaweed) on the local Welsh label Wren in 1972 and after a 5 year gap he released Gog (Cuckoo) in 1977. By then Punk had hit and he wasn’t able to establish himself and remains largely unknown, whereas throughout the seventies, Harper, Chapman and others such as John Martyn and Richard Thompson built up a following that continues to this day. Although Stevens had the words, the voice, the sound, the image – it just didn’t happen, and of course singing mostly in Welsh made it difficult outside his native Wales. Some of Stevens English contemporaries like namesake Cat Stevens and Year Of The Cat’s singer Al Stewart went onto have major hits and move to America – Stevens stayed in Wales where he still performs and plays songs from his massive Welsh language discography (he has at least 20 albums). He is popular in Brittany and has been an inspiration for other Welsh creative types such as Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals and Euros Childs from Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.
You simply have to have it.
This is a TV appearance from 1970 performing Roedd Gennyf I Gariad (I Had A Love).
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