During the first phase of the Iraq War when tensions were really high, we all remember the news media having a field day when Mr. “Peace Train” himself, the former Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam), was discovered to be on the US government’s no-fly list and considered to have “possible terror ties.” Islam’s flight from London to Washington, DC ended up being diverted to Bangor, Maine, where he was interviewed by federal agents, and then placed on a plane back to London.
At the height of the hullabaloo, I waited with nervous anticipation for certain media figures – Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham – to pounce on one particular song from Cat Stevens’ 1967 debut album Matthew & Son that could easily have taken the sensationalism to a whole new level … and yet no one ever did, to my knowledge:
“I’m Gonna Get Me a Gun” Cat Stevens 1967
For example, in this October 7, 2004 interview with Larry King, right away it becomes obvious that neither King nor his staff did any research into Stevens’ past work when he asks Islam, “Did you write your own material?”
Of course, you can find message board and news story comments from around that period of time that point out the “irony” of a prominent pacifist threatening to get a gun so he can exact revenge on his transgressors – seemingly oblivious to the fact that Stevens had written the song in character as a commentary on the danger of a disgruntled person with access to firearms. But overall, amazingly, shout-y media were asleep at the switch, or so it would seem, on this one detail.
Adding a slight bit of absurdism to this story is the comic abundance of evidence linking Cat Stevens with the potentially inflammatory song title, “I’m Gonna Get Me a Gun” – no fewer than 10 different 45 picture sleeves, in fact.
Vic Smith (subject of future Zero to 180 piece) audio engineered Matthew and Son.