Al Stewart, Music and Morocco: Time Passages & Year of the Cat

Whilst travelling around Morocco, I kept hearing the music of 1970s British singer-songwriter Al Stewart, known for his thought-provoking lyrics that often weave together historical and literary references with personal experiences.

Two of his most popular songs, “Year of the Cat” and “Time Passages,” have become classics of the era and remain popular to this day. Both songs showcase Stewart’s ability to craft intricate, poetic lyrics that tell compelling stories and offer insights into the human experience.

“Year of the Cat” is perhaps Stewart’s most famous song. Released in 1976, the song tells the story of a chance encounter between two people on a moonlit night in a foreign land, probably Morocco and possibly in Casablanca: “

On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time

The lyrics are filled with vivid imagery and metaphors, painting a picture of a mysterious, exotic world full of danger and intrigue. The title of the song refers to the Chinese zodiac and the year of the cat, which occurs once every 12 years. In Chinese astrology, the cat is associated with independence, curiosity, and intelligence.

At its core, “Year of the Cat” is a song about the fleeting nature of life and the power of the present moment. The chorus encourages the listener to “make the best of the situation before I finally go insane” and to “let the music play on, play on” – a reminder that we should savour every moment of life and not take anything for granted.

The music echoed in my head as I wandered around Casablnca!

“Time Passages,” is the song I associated with the twisting, turning ancient passages of the old city (Medina) of the beachside hippy-like town of Essaouira. The song is filled with nostalgic references to the past, from the “crackling speakers” of old radios to the “fading smiles” of childhood friends. The chorus repeats the phrase “time passages” over and over again, emphasizing the idea that time is constantly moving forward and that we can never go back to relive the past.

I used the music for my slide show video of Essouria found at my Tiktok account:

One of the most poignant lyrics in the song is the following: “Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight” This line speaks to the universal desire to return to a simpler time and place, to relive happy memories and escape the pressures of the present. However, as the song reminds us, this is impossible – all we can do is hold onto our memories and cherish them as they fade further into the past.

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