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Cat Stevens
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Yusuf/Cat Stevens reminisces about the sweaty clubs and record shops of Oxford Street

The musician on how growing up in W1 helped launch his music career

Chiara Wilkinson
Written by
Chiara Wilkinson

I grew up on New Oxford Street, living above my parents’ busy café. It was a gateway to the most lively street in London at the time – Oxford Street – which informed the rest of my life.

Opposite the café was Collet’s Record Shop, an amazing jazz, blues and folk record store, where I picked up a lot of influences. Then there were the Oxford Street clubs, which I’d hang around endlessly. It was the start of the Merseybeat music boom: you had Eric Clapton, The Yardbirds, Manfred Mann and The Animals all playing in venues like 100 Club at 100 Oxford Street, and The Marquee at 165. I saw Chuck Berry in Tiles club and it was so sweaty, I could hardly move.

When music started happening as it did at the beginning of the ’60s, it was an open door. Anybody could do anything. The obvious career choice for me was not to stay at the café and wash dishes, it was to make music. Fast forward a few years to 1966 and Imhofs, another record store nearby, was selling my first single, ‘I Love My Dog’. You couldn’t believe the excitement I had seeing my name on the label in this shop I’d grown up with down the road.

The fiftieth anniversary release of ‘Teaser and the Firecat’ is out Nov 12.

Read more from this series:

‘Hamilton’ star Giles Terera on the pizza that changed his fate

Craig Charles on the London spot that shaped his radio career

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