What does Year of the Cat mean?

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Al Stewart: Year of the Cat Meaning

Tagged: Cats [suggest]

Song Released: 1976

Year of the Cat Lyrics

On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime
She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolor in the rain
Don't bother...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    Jan 25th 2015 report

    One Saturday evening in 1978 whilst studying at Leeds University Al Stewart was due to play in the refectory. It was the Year of the Cat tour. I had never previously heard of Al Stewart. This was to be one of the most memorable concerts I ever attended. During which AL Stewart explained the meaning of the Year of the Cat and indeed many of his other songs. Most importantly the song is about our failure to make decisions. It about a business man/ company executive who is extremely busy and is flying to a destination in the far east ( on business) when his plane has an unscheduled stop. He leaves the plane along with other passengers. He succumbs to this beautiful woman. By the time he wakes up he realizes the plane has gone and will not be back for some considerable time. His life has changed. That time coinciding with the astrological year of the cat. The significant lyric being “you have thrown away your choice and lost your ticket”. It’s not a decision he would have planned but it’s a good turn in his life events. It’s something he would never otherwise have done. Sometimes decisions have to be made for us. It’s therefore also about fate and coincidences .It evokes the fantasy of the perfect person (for that particular moment in your life) just coming up to you (she doesn’t give you time for questions as she locks up your arms in hers and you follow till your sense of which direction completely disappears) and taking control of your life and taking you to a place which your decision making would never take you to.


    #2 top rated interpretation:
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    Sep 30th 2012 report

    "Year of the Cat" is a story song. It's about a Western male who's taking a guided bus tour through the Middle East. During one stop, he and his fellow tourists get to look around at a marketplace or bazaar. The surroundings remind him of scenes he saw in the Humphrey Bogart/Peter Lorre film "Casablanca."

    As he wanders, he sees a beautiful, mysterious girl. He follows her, and she leads him back to her room. He learns that she's not an Arab or a native of the Middle East herself- she came there herself from somewhere far away, in "The Year of the Cat." Eventually, they spend hours making passionate love.

    He wakes up the next morning, and finds that the tour bus is gone, along with all his luggage, his clothes, his money. So, even though he knows he must return home somehow, someday... for now, he's stuck there in this Middle Eastern nation with this mysterious seductress.


    #3 top rated interpretation:
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    Feb 5th 2021 report

    The interpretations that I've read here are much better than mine. I always thought that this song was about a girl in a multicolored silk dress, who owned a cat, but didn't want to change the kitty litter because she was afraid that it would mess up her dress. Instead, she decided to seduce a tourist and make love to him in exchange for him changing the kitty litter. After a night of passion, he realized that the tourist bus left with his passport and all of his money so he had to seek help from the officials at the embassy. They were happy to help him, for a price. So, during the two weeks that it took to recover his money and passport, he had to feed, take care of, play with, and of course, change the kitty litter of all 50 of the embassy employees' cats. Every one of them owned at least one cat, some of them owned several cats. This time in his life left such a poignant memory that he would remember it as 'The Year of the Cat'. After this ordeal, he decided that international travel was off for him during the year of the horse, snake, dragon, ox, and, well, he decided to stay at home from then on. From there he went on to adopt and raise Dachshunds and race them in Octoberfest wiener dog races and lived happily ever after, until he died and discovered that he had to live 8 more lives, cleaning litter boxes.

  4. anonymous
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    Feb 18th report

    I interpret this as a story of a man who falls in love with a woman who is not from his same country but from a
    In a country where they turn back time , like the line says.
    They fall in love but he knows back then in the year of the cat she would not be accepted by his family.
    So for now he will stay in the year of the cat, he knows sometime he is bound to leave her After all , he just lost everything bc of his love for her but will go back to recover it but for now he wants to stay , in the year of the cat memories with her . Years pass and they split up and he sings this song and remembers her.

  5. anonymous
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    Jan 13th report

    It’s a great atmospheric song with a couple of fabulous sax solos which demand volume! I owned the classic album back in the day, and although I don’t know much about the meaning of the lyrics, I do now have a silk dress because of it.

  6. anonymous
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    Oct 25th report

    To me, these events transpired in the souks of Marrakech. But I think the zodiac thing is a red herring, having been there many times, I can tell you the place is crawling with cats. Hence, I met an exotic woman, who, lured me and kept me away from my home for a year. So I spent a year in that city with all those cats. Looking back now, it was the year of the cat.

  7. anonymous
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    Feb 22nd 2022 report

    This is one of my favourites songs ever. I find it goes beyond the concept of music, because (as so few could notice) it depicts (sublimely) the sexual intercourse between the main characters only just with its musical instruments (listen to the instrumental part of the song -the saxophone drives the orgasm-), even at the end when "you throw away your choise and lost your ticket so you have to stay on", finally because of that "for now you gonna stay in the year of the cat", then the main characters end again in sexual intercourse until the end of the song (notice the instrumental ending is very similar the middle instrumental). But beyond of that, in the last part of the song you realize that the female character is nothing less the song it self.
    "So you take her to find what's waiting inside The Year of the Cat (the song itself)"
    "For now you gonna stay in The year of the Cat (again the song itself)".
    IMO this is a "metaphorical" sexual relation between "YOU" (the narrator sings to "you" as the main character all the time) and the song itself (the female character), what makes this utterly genius.

  8. anonymous
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    Aug 4th 2021 report

    Agree with some of the comments about being 'seduced' by the girl and the parallels with Hotel California. It speaks to the beauty in Hedonism, something that our 9-5 rat race lifestyle doesn't afford us. Most of us only visit this life briefly, and then we get back on the 'tourist bus' and go back to reality - but for some of us we stay too long and then society rewards us by taking away our choices. It's like staying too long in the matrix.
    I always imagined Vietnam. The year of the Cat is vietnamese not Chinese. I have an image that silk dresses are popular on Asian ladies but happy to stand corrected.

  9. anonymous
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    Mar 16th 2021 report

    This song reminds me of Hotel California.
    Both are metaphorical stories that take place while traveling through an exotic desert land. A "woman" calls to the traveler and draws him into her secret place of seduction and is able to keep him there longer than he had intended stay. Whether he has agreed to stay-on or is imprisoned is really the main point of both songs. Both stories paint beautiful word pictures that fill the senses with sights, sounds and even smells(incense, Patchoili and "Colitas").
    The Heroine of the story (pun intended)delights the senses and holds the traveler in her clutches ("you know sometime you're bound to leave her, but for now you're gonna stay")and the famous("you can check out any time you like..but you can never leave"). Some experiences are beautiful, exotic and pleasurable for a time but both songs are quite possibly warning us about the hidden cost behind the curtain. ("you've thrown away your choice and lost your ticket, so you have to stay on")

    - right or wrong it's thought

  10. anonymous
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    Feb 20th 2021 report

    I get taken away deep by this song. I think of a man or a woman being distracted by the opposite sex. I see that there’s pain to the two people that fall madly in deep love because I think at the end of their romantic encounter they know that it’s all over. It’s a time of passion the two shared , but it was only for a time that’s only a dream now. They are heartbroken in the end. It means much more , but I can’t write a long interpretation.

  11. anonymous
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    Sep 17th 2020 report

    I always liked it! I was into astrology but never tried to figure it out! Listening to a nice song relaxed me in those days!

  12. Timm6363
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    Sep 14th 2020 report

    It could almost be about the movie. Peter Lorre was a criminal. Having to remain in Casablanca could almost be juxtaposed with the refugees that ended up in Casablanca in the movie. Okay Rick wasn't a refugee,but the girl in this song could almost be his ex who is now married to Victor Laslow. At any rate ,that's just another take on the song .

  13. anonymous
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    Mar 25th 2020 report

    I've always understood the song to be about a man meeting a girl, but not in the Middle East, rather in Morocco. The references to a Bogart movie and Peter Lorre seem to strongly suggest Casablanca (Bogart and Lorre starred in a famous movie of that name, and it was set in the Moroccan city of, you guessed it, Casablanca). This seems to be confirmed by the description of blue-tiled walls near market stalls. I have also seen A.S. describe how the song's name was inspired by a book his then girlfriend owned called, believe it or not, Year of the Cat. He claims he knew a good song title when he saw it.

  14. anonymous
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    Feb 13th 2020 report

    It's obviously a mental combination of the Maltese Falcon and the cat in the hat( Dr. Seuss), and a man who can't decide if he should return home or remain stranded in Casablanca!He meets a strange woman who ignores his every word and further leads him to ruin and bliss all at the same time!

  15. anonymous
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    Dec 24th 2018 report

    It's a story about a musician whose life is always on the road with music drums still beating in his head from the night before. Traveling to different countries and meeting different women. Incense always fill the air.
    He wants to leave the road but for now he is obligated to stay.

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