September 3, 2012

"If everybody could love Alfred Hitchcock, I think it would be a better world."

Odd intro, by Cat Stevens (in 1976), to "Peace Train."

Yesterday, we were talking about Sun Myung Moon's idea for peace: marriage across national and cultural boundaries.

I ran into the Cat Stevens peace suggestion just now, by chance and unrelated to Sun Myung Moon (even by marriage). I was over on YouTube, clicking on the next song after "Longer Boats," a song we were talking about and trying to fathom:
Mary dropped her pants by the sand
And let a parson come and take her hand
But the soul of nobody knows
Where the parson goes, where does the parson go?
Please spare me the usual Cat Stevens hating. That's been talked to death. (Here's an elaborate Wikipedia page on your favorite Cat Stevens topic.) The subjects of this post are: 1. odd suggestions for world peace and 2. what is the song "Longer Boats" about? 

I'll start you off on the right track:

Topic #1: In 1969, right after they married, Yoko Ono and John Lennon sat in bed together for world peace. And — take note! — John Lennon and Yoko Ono had married across national and cultural boundaries.

Topic #2: The suggestion from Stevens is that he was imagining aliens in spaceships coming to earth and bringing us a better world, apparently free of the inferior traditional religions of human beings. In that view, there's no parson molesting Mary. Mary and the parson are simply traipsing off into a new way of life, liberated by the philosophy of the aliens.

IN THE COMMENTS: Now, this is smart, from creeley23:
I take Stevens' Hitchcock remark before "Peace Train" as a reference to the train-into-the-tunnel ending of North By Northwest, i.e. it was a coded reference to the "make love, not war" sentiment of the time.
Well, then. I wasn't going to say it, but I thought the "longer boats" were longer cocks! That's why it was so telling that Mary dropped her pants. And I thought "the parson" was some wags name for his waggler: Where does the parson go? I thought I had it all figured out!


The Drill SGT said...

Cat became a lot less peaceful, once he converted to the Religion of Peace

kentuckyliz said...

The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Panhagia Theotokos?

Dem's fightin' words.

kentuckyliz said...

Freedom of movement (to emigrate/immigrate) and worldwide trade are good for world peace.

So is financing another country's drunken Congressman spending.

No way we go to war with China, a.k.a. our owners. We're they're bitches.

Jim Sweeney said...

Stick to law and politics please

kentuckyliz said...

No, don't! I like the multitopicality of AltPo.

Cat was wrong. Easier access to 'tang leads to more fights and murders.

kentuckyliz said...

Especially when it involves clergy.


sakredkow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sakredkow said...

John and Yoko also had an "acorn for peace" thing going then. Everybody was supposed to plant one.

One of the oddest ideas for peace was Abbie Hoffman's idea to levitate the Pentagon during an October '67 anti-war demonstration in Washington. The plan was for the demonstrators to chant until it levitated and turned orange, and the evil spirits were driven away. Norman Mailer wrote about this, I think in Miami & the Siege of Chicago, a book I'd like to reread.

I hope there's another Norman Mailer chronicling this election. It seems as pivotal to our history as 1968 was.

Anonymous said...

*** I've run into Stevens' alien claim about "Longer Boats" before. When I first heard it as a college student I thought it might be about Mahayana Buddhism, since Mahayana means "Great Vehicle" and Stevens was a spiritual seeker.

His later song, "Freezing Steel," is clearly about a ride in a spaceship:

Up on the house of freezing, the house of freezing steel
I made my mind up then to get me to the wheel
I made the cabin door, the pilot turned around
He said we're Venus bound

Oh please take me home
After all I'm only human and the earth is where I belong
I must have looked pitiful to this freak without a face
'Cause as he touched my head I saw myself back in bed

It's interesting that Stevens is now trying to walk back the UFO claim as just something he said to make his interview more interesting. That's what he says now about the other topic we're not supposed to talk about.

sakredkow said...

One of the oddest suggestions for peace however, was the Neocon idea to invade Iraq in 2003, thereby creating a "beacon of Democracy" in the ME.

ricpic said...

But could Alfred Hitchcock love anybody?

Shouting Thomas said...

Living in a place that has as its motto... "Peace, Love & Music" somehow makes me want to go to war.

The yin and the yang must both be respected. War has its place, too.

The best songs don't "mean" anything. They evoke something... a time, a place, a mood.

The pastor came after Mary dropped her pants. That's as it should be.

A good thing to remember about Woodstock, which is a worldwide beacon of that message of "Peace, Love & Music" is that it is also the birthplace of the Communist Party USA. To this day, the lefties and hippies in Woodstock remain entranced by the dumbest, most vicious political ideas imaginable. The devil cleverly disguises his temptations.

The Utopian vision... and World Peace is part of that... well, it isn't entirely a good idea! Conflict and war are part of the human condition.

Sydney said...

I was thinking Mary Magdalen when I read those lyrics.

KCFleming said...

Weird. I was listening to Tea for the Tillerman all the way home from Milwaukee yesterday. 3 bucks for a used CD there.

I just figgered the words didn't make any sense except to him.

harrogate said...

Bringing back the collective shaming of war profiteers would be somewhat helpful, at least in terms of the American side of the world peace equation. Such shaming would find a target rich environment of course, and perhaps nowhere so much as television media.

No more blithely accepting montages with epic, scary music featuring bad guys and tanks &c. Instead, such nakedly cynical tactics should be grounds for hating the media outlet in question.

That'd be a start.

Anonymous said...

*** I take Stevens' Hitchcock remark before "Peace Train" as a reference to the train-into-the-tunnel ending of North By Northwest, i.e. it was a coded reference to the "make love, not war" sentiment of the time.

Shouting Thomas said...

My late wife, Myrna, hailed from a culture that never seems to entirely be at peace, the Philippines.

Her take on war reminded me of the environmental outlook on brushfires in the wilderness.

Myrna viewed blood lust as an innate, essential part of the human condition. Efforts to completely suppress that blood lust are doomed to failure, and ultimately produce a far worse result.

If you accept that brushfires are a part of nature's scheme in the wilderness, the mammoth conflagration occurs less frequently. If you try to eradicate the brushfires completely, you only increase the severity and frequency of the mammoth conflagrations.

Violence and war have a purpose, else they wouldn't exist. If you suppress your sanctimonious response for a moment and think about this, you'll see that this is a Buddhist outlook.

rhhardin said...

Corporate mergers are usually consummated with an exchange of women.

tim maguire said...

You know what brings peace? Having one country strong enough to kick the crap out of any other country. That's brought peace twice. Nothing else has brought it even once.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Steven Pinker (and others) have closed this debate.

We are not Blank Slates. We cannot choose, intellectually, a "better way", whether from Lennon or the Alpha Centurions. And no matter how appealing it is, emotionally or logically.

We are hard-wired, from the inside out. Self-obsessed. Strongly socially inclined. But very very tribal.

All that other stuff is pie-in-sky. Thought candy. Crack for our rationalization (not rational) modules. And always will be.

Best do the best we can, with how it is.

Wince said...

Longer boats are coming to win us
They're coming to win us, they're coming to win us
Longer boats are coming to win us
Hold on to the shore, they'll be taking the key from the door.

ELANE: I love Edmund Fitzgerald's voice.

JERRY: (Gives Elaine a look) No, Gordon Lightfoot was the singer. Edmund Fitzgerald was the ship...

ELAINE: I think Gordon Lightfoot was the boat.

JERRY: (Sarcastic) Yeah, and it was rammed by the Cat Stevens.

harrogate said...

It may seem ironic, but on this issue you really cannot act globally. If you are interested in peace you have to resist those locally among you, your countrymen and women, who have hankerings for war. That's the only way to even approach it.

sakredkow said...

If you suppress your sanctimonious response for a moment and think about this, you'll see that this is a Buddhist outlook.

That's just exactly how I thought the Buddha would sound.

Kelly said...

Saw a bumper sticker yesterday that told me war is never the answer. So simple, I felt very enlightened and at peace with the world.

Speaking of John and Yoko, my daughter became friends with a girl in high school and the mother and I took turns taking our kids to school.

One day when it was my turn, I had to go into the house to speak to the mother about something. The parents were in the bedroom, she was of Hispanic heritage, he was Caucasian...the kids insisted I go to the bedroom to speak to them as they wouldn't come out. I gingerly made my way back and was greeted as if it was normal to show up in someone's bedroom. They were both sitting in bed, the room was smoke filled as both of them smoked, there were plates of food. These people did everything in the bedroom besides just sleeping and the normal marital things.

A place was cleared off at the foot of the bed and was patted indicating where I should sit and where I perched (uncomfortably). It was strange and it reminded me of the old John and Yoko interviews. After that, I was never surprised when I went over, I never once saw them out of their room. Once, the man was even asleep when I went back.

Unknown said...

In Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clark imagined world peace imposed by aliens. A golden age on Earth followed, the end of poverty and so on, but it wasn't the last word. Humanity lost something when the fighting stopped. Like soda with the fizz gone.

It's hard to defend the innate tendency to conflict in humanity as an abstract good. It's easier to consider that nearly nothing imaginable is always all good or all bad.

I don't know of a path to peace that doesn't start with overwhelming force, a la Clark. I wonder whether he wasn't correct about the after effects as well - apart, that is, from all the transcendent evolution group mind stuff at the end.

sakredkow said...

I think we can learn to be at peace with the world even if the world isn't at peace with us. That's the supreme accomplishment, IMO.

chickelit said...

and 2. what is the song "Longer Boats" about?

The song sounds like a softly spoken word promise to a young third world child who might one day grow up to lead the First World from behind.

The phrase about Mary dropping her pants is a subtle dig at Christianity and Catholicism more specifically--why else choose the name "Mary" out of myriad other possibilities?--it's not as if rhyming required it.

I was struck more by the image of the young blond in the mauve sweater (visible at 2:52 seated front and center). She's clearly nodding along, mesmerized by the spell of the urbane minstrel. He sports a black beard and a copy-cat Pete Townshend white jump suit. I gotta wonder how many other young American women he led astray in his unsuccessful quest to be the alpha Cat.

Darrell said...

Sun Myung Moon sets. . .

rhhardin said...

I link the same album's Into White with Cowboy Take Me Away (Dixie Chicks) but I judge everything musically.

Longer Boats was a track you skipped, one of the many on every album which is the band noodling around.

Much later I may notice lyrics, like that Bach's Christmas Oratorio chorus lines rhyme in German (starting at 1:30) with what went before by about a minute, and then that it's actually text by Martin Luther.

Er ist auf Erden kommen arm,
Dass er unser sich erbarm,
Und in dem Himmel mache reich,
Und seinen lieben Engeln gleich.

I wonder if all these links will work.

chickelit said...

P.S.: Of course, I'm of the opinion that Cat Stevens' "Piece Train" was just an ode to daisy chaining.


sakredkow said...

Or as Bob Dylan said, "There isn't going to beee any peace. That's just the sound of people reloading."

rhhardin said...

"(starting at 1:30)" oops, I replaced it with a tighter clip. Starting right away.

John said...

So long as there are people who want to take what another has earned, there can be no peace. The takers just won't let it happen.

Craig said...


The Washington Times has lost money every year that it has been in business. By 2002, the Unification Church had spent about $1.7 billion subsidizing the Times.[45] In 2003, The New Yorker reported that a billion dollars had been spent since the paper's inception, as Moon himself had noted in a 1991 speech, "Literally nine hundred million to one billion dollars has been spent to activate and run the Washington Times".[46] In 2002, Columbia Journalism Review suggested Moon had spent nearly $2 billion on the Times.[21] In 2008, Thomas F. Roeser of the Chicago Daily Observer mentioned competition from the Times as a factor moving the Washington Post to the right, and said that Moon had "announced he will spend as many future billions as is needed to keep the paper competitive."[47]

sakredkow said...

I see Off-Topic Craig is back.

edutcher said...


I don't think so.

John Ford, maybe.

PS I thought Lennon and Yoko didn't just sit in bed, it was supposed to be a round the clock screw-a-thon.

I guess after a while all they could do was sit.

PPS Agree with KY Liz on the multitopicality.

The Crack Emcee said...

Topic #1: In 1969, right after they married, Yoko Ono and John Lennon sat in bed together for world peace. And — take note! — John Lennon and Yoko Ono had married across national and cultural boundaries.

They had cheated on their spouses, accomplished little by their stunt, and also broke up the greatest band of it's day.

Maybe these solutions for "peace" ain't all they're cracked up to be...?

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

The song sounds like a softly spoken word promise to a young third world child who might one day grow up to lead the First World from behind.

There's that Blank Slate meme again, thinking everyone is equal at the starting gate.

But there is a reason the 3rd world is the 3rd world.

They are NOT potential 1st world-ers who just got bad breaks, leaders, or both.

There's no there, there, for the things that lead to world military, social, technological, or economic 1st tier.

They do not dominate that world for the same root reason that, say, the Japanese do not dominate in basketball.

Craig said...

Tags: Cat Stevens, foreign affairs, Hitchcock, John Lennon, marriage, music, religion, Sun Myung Moon, Yoko Ono

bagoh20 said...

Some of my best friends are aliens, and I had breakfast with one today. You are not even close.

chickelit said...

SomeoneHasToSayIt said unto me:

There's that Blank Slate meme again, thinking everyone is equal at the starting gate.

I was just trying to figure out what the khat was saying, man. I wasn't imputing that he had smarts.

chickelit said...

@bagoh20: Does that boomerangst ever come back and hit you square on the head. :)

bagoh20 said...

My alien friend said it's kinda like that song: "You put de lime in de coconut, mix em bote togedda..."

But, that song has only one chord.

bagoh20 said...

"Does that boomerangst ever come back and hit you square on the head. :)

We wear helmets when flying for just that reason. To be safe, I wear one 24/7, even in the shower, which the most dangerous place in your house.

Richard Dolan said...

Cat Stevens? Oh, please.

This, though, was interesting: "The subjects of this post are .... I'll start you off on the right track."

Deconstructing that, taking you into the wilds of meta-blogging, would be fun in the word-play sense. It would also get you far in understanding Ann's take on Walter Russell Mead's 'no more comments' decision from yesterday -- it gets to the different ideas about what 'blogging' is and isn't, particularly how different it can be in the hands of a professor (using Ann and WRM as for-instances)..

Another place to start would be the 'rght track' idea, which always brings with it the wrong track trope. That's getting a lot of attention for other reasons this season.

But it's a nice, slightly overcast, slightly misty day in Brooklyn. Time for a walk instead.

Unknown said...

The song "Longer Boats" is a warning to young women: Hold on to the shore (viriginity).

The "longer boats", of course, are a phallic reference.

Men cannot be trusted. They have one and only one goal, to take the keys from the door. Even the pastor is a lecher. The young man may come bearing roses, which puts the woman in a romantic frame of mind ("The soul of nobody knows," she thinks, "how the flower grows."). But the young man's mind is on a different track ("the sould of nobody knows," he thinks, "where the [lecherous] parson goes."

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

chickelit said...
SomeoneHasToSayIt said unto me:

Sorry. Didn't mean to imply YOU thought that. Was only commenting on what it was you offered up, which many DO believe.

bgates said...

Please spare me the usual Cat Stevens hating.

If everybody could hate schoolmarmish hectoring, I think it would be a better world.

Robert Cook said...

"You know what brings peace? Having one country strong enough to kick the crap out of any other country. That's brought peace twice."

Who? When?

Ann Althouse said...

"Stick to law and politics please"/"No, don't! I like the multitopicality of AltPo."

This post is a good test of whether you like the Althouse blog. This post is not a strange extra post, me wandering away from the central mission. If you think it is, you're reading here, but you don't get it. Fine, I'm happy to have you read, but you directions to me to "stick to" something that you think I should be doing... these will only be held up as exemplifying your lack of affinity with Althouse, whose blog this is.

Rabel said...

No need to speculate on the meaning since Yusef spells it out for us himself:

Nuke the Bastards

Independence Day covered this as well.

Jeff Gee said...

1976 was the year Hitchcock’s final movie, “Family Plot,” was released and while it’s not all that great, it’s pleasant and probably as close to a ‘feel good’ movie as you’ll find in the Hitchcock corpus (although I always come out of “Psycho” and “Notorious” feeling excellent). I bet Cat saw FP the very afternoon he came out with his otherwise inexplicable statement (probably killing time after the sound check). I actually do think it would be a better world if everybody loved Alfred Hitchcock, but not THAT much better, and not if the aliens make us. // While I was trying (and failing) to get a handle on Cat’s “Longer Boats,” I stumbled across a couple of quotes from Robert Christgau. I’ve rarely agreed with him about anything except the excellence of Monk’s ‘Mysterioso’ album, but they track my thoughts on Cat closely, and long predate his Yusuf Islam period: ‘He can be charming about things that really are nice, like dawn, and a few of the many songs he has written about his own confusion have a winning je-ne-sais-quoi. Unfortunately… most things aren’t really nice, and when “the world as it is” isn’t driving him to tears (“Peace Train”) he often lies about it.’ And also: ‘Cat tells us there wouldn’t be any “wars in the world/If everybody joined in the band,” [which is] like saying there wouldn’t be any hunger if everyone became an ice cream man.’

Sunslut7 said...

Yeah! I want a world where everyone is Scotty looking for Carlotta, Judy and Ms.Madeline Elster. I am sure that it would lead to world peace or maybe a rise in employment and an end to Bernanke's stealth liquidity operations.

At least. we would get good steaks and beautiful fashions. And the bras.., the bras, blastically enhanced garments thrusting forward into a new decade. So modern and yet so classical. If only the women of ancient Greece had such garments under the kitons.

Is that a sword under your kilt or are you just glad to see me, Odysseus?

The Drill SGT said...

Robert Cook said...
"You know what brings peace? Having one country strong enough to kick the crap out of any other country. That's brought peace twice."

Who? When?

Pax Romana?

Anonymous said...

SomeoneHasToSayIt @ 8:53 gets it right refering to Steven Pinker's amazing The Better Angels of Our Nature.

The fact is that we are becoming progressively more peaceful. Humans today are far less likely to die violently at the hands of other humans than a century ago or even thousands of years ago. (Contrary to all the Noble Savage nonsense, prehistoric people were nine times more likely to die violently than we are today.)

Of course, that could change immediately if something goes wrong with the thousands of nuclear weapons, still launch on ready, that everyone has forgotten about...

paul a'barge said...

Cat Stevens?

Are you aware of what a monster the man is?

Jeremy said...

I wonder if anyone has ever thought about the deeper meaning of Styx's "Come Sail Away", which definitely is about aliens.

jr565 said...

Cat Stevens had the Peace Train. The OJ's (?) had the Love Train. Was that the same train?

jr565 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mitch H. said...

Why should we indulge your misplaced Boomerish Cat Stevens respect? He was insufferable when he was a hippie jackass, and toxic when he converted to one of the milder hack-their-heathen-heads-off flavors of Islam.

Just because I find the latter threatening, doesn't mean I can't also find the earlier twee-fake-pacifist version repugnant as well.

Shawn Levasseur said...

I should've known it'd have something to do with carrots and onion rings.