She'd come from England on some sort of foreign exchange program. Her name was Carol Charlton. She was a lithe brunette with a sharp sense of humor. No one in my circle could touch her.

In that day and time, there was a world of losers trying to act "British" in order to get laid. You couldn't walk across the street without hearing another bad English accent out of a hillbilly with a Union Jack tee-shirt and a stupid hat. The sad, sad truth is that some never grew out of it. DJ's on the radio were feigning the accent. Local bands were growing their hair over their brows and playing those chords while they tried to save up enough money to buy a decent light show.

One afternoon the English bird (see how infectious it is?) and my two girl friends, (her two friends, too, now), dragged me into a photo booth with them and took a snapshot. Have you ever seen a picture of a stolen moment in time that it would almost make you want to kill yourself right then and there, knowing it would never get any better? My heart was bursting. Words swelled up into my throat when this photo came firing out of the little dispenser. I melted into my own personal puddle of realizations. I hold that little 1½ x 2 inch black and white photo in my hand right now and have the same realization I had then.

One tangible thing she brought with her, aside from her aroma and her aura, was an album by a young man named Cat Stevens. It was called Matthew and Son. It was 1967 and things were moving fast. We were just out of high school and the world was passing us by in such a way that we could only imagine it, like a barely visible planet on the night's horizon. Was that really it, or just an after-image?

I recently heard Yusuf Islam, his Muslim incarnation, speaking about what he referred to as the "Decca years." He and the interviewer both spoke of those times with a sort of derision in their voices, as if anything other that Cat Stevens and a guitar was some sort of sacrilege. I found this offensive since this album meant more to me than anything else he ever did. It was actually released on the Deram Label which was a subsidiary of Decca. That was the same label which signed David Bowie and the Moody Blues when they were getting started.

Sure, this has Nelson Riddle-like string arrangements, but you listen to him sing "Better bring another bottle with you, baby," and tell me his voice has ever been more relaxed and in synch with the song at hand.

Did Carol Charleton make me love this album because she'd touched it with her own hands, several times, judging by the marks on the black vinyl? Was it the unnatural beauty and unavailability of girls such as her that drove the singer to a life condoning the covering of women so that no one would have to think these thoughts again? Was the duality of all this corrosive friction the reason men flew planes into buildings, just to make a point?

I would have flown myself into her room at night, and even tried on at least two occasions. Unfortunately, ladders are not wings, and desire is not an argument.

  1. Matthew & Son
  2. I Love My Dog
  3. Here Comes My Baby
  4. Bring Another Bottle Baby
  5. Portobello Road
  6. I've Found A Love
  7. I See A Road
  8. Baby Get Your Head Screwed On
  9. Granny
  10. When I Speak To The Flowers
  11. The Tramp
  12. Come On And Dance
  13. Hummingbird
  14. Lady
  15. School Is Out
  16. I'm Gonna Get Me A Gun

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