Monday 9 September 2013

Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain' - Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?! (Top Five)

‘You’re so probably think this song is about you!’ Carly Simon’s biggest hit has – at various times – been referred to as about men in general, a combination of people or one specific person. A canny look at the narcissistic qualities of the men in Carly’s life, the singer-songwriter has very rightly refused to talk about the true subject of the song – although she has enjoyed dropping titbits to her fans down the years. She even allegedly revealed the person she was thinking of to the highest bidder at a celebrity charity auction in 2003, on the basis that the winner (Dick Esbersol, the president of NBC Sports) never told another soul. Carly has also revealed a ‘letter’ from the person’s name (first or last) every eight years or so, the letters now adding up to ‘a’ ‘e’ and ‘r’. A whole plethora of people have been linked to the song, not all of them AAA stars, with the list of possible subjects now said to include film star Warren Beatty, singer David Bowie or (the most likely candidate in my eyes) Carly’s muse and lifetime singing partner James Taylor (not the ‘a’ ‘e’ and ‘r’ in both the first and last of these names). Then again, it could be about someone we haven’t heard about at all – some acquaintance of Carly’s from before she was famous. There are still four very credible candidates amongst the AAA team of musicians, however, so for this week’s top four we’ve got our detective caps on and had a look at the evidence for each person. I doubt we’ll ever get a full and proper answer from Carly and if we do I doubt it’ll be just one person who inspired the song but still, there is evidence that points to all four of the following...

1) Cat Stevens

As we discussed in our issue two weeks ago, Cat and Carly were close. They were both working in the same Island studios in California, used the same producer (Paul Samwell Smith) and had birthdays very close together. Opinions differ as to whether the two were ‘just good friends’ or a genuine item for a short while, but the split between them seems to have come surprisingly suddenly (Cat leaving to become a tax exile in Brazil of all places) exactly the time (early 1972) that this song would have been written. As ‘evidence’ we also draw your attention to the fact that Carly had already written two songs for Cat by 1972 (‘Anticipation’ and ‘Legend In Your Own Time’); while both of these songs are deeply complimentary, Cat’s own song for Carly (‘Sweet Scarlet’) sounds regretful, even a tad guilty. The 1972 style Cat Stevens isn’t exactly what you might call ‘vain’, his near-death experience from TB in the late 1960s seemingly putting at end to that, but his 17-18 year old self was most certainly vain, eager to be seen with as many celebrities and talked about in as many gossip columns as possible, all whilst wearing the very best in frilly shirts. Cat also has two of the three ‘revealed letters’ in his name (‘A’ and ‘E’ - though not an ‘R’).

2) David Crosby
Although I’m such a fan I’ll defend David Crosby to the hilt over anything, if he does have a weakness it is for being slightly vain. I’ve not just selected someone at random here either – Crosby was a good friend of Carly’s (both he and Nash sing on lots of her albums and she in turn sings on their second joint album ‘Wind On The Water’) and if you treat this song as a joke rather than a put-down Crosby would make a lot of sense. As extra fuel to the fire, Carly admitted on an American show called ‘Soundcheck’ in 2009 that she’s added the ‘real’ inspiration’s name into the recording by placing it ‘backwards’. The event caused a lot of interest and speculation so the crew went through the whole crew checking for clues and confidently came up with the name ‘David’ (which could stand for Crosby, Bowie or maybe even Carly’s manager (and Neil Young’s manager) David Geffen. Carly’s denied this (she claims she was saying the word ‘ovid’, as in a greek mystery play and that the name she meant is another word entirely) – but that could have been because she didn’t want the person’s identity to be revealed so quickly and uneventfully. It’s also worth adding that David Crosby has the letters ‘A’ and ‘R’ in his name – although not the third and confirmative ‘E’.

3) Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger has never really been connected to the song recently, but suddenly became a major candidate when Carly revealed in 1983 that he’d sung un-credited backing vocals on the track (at the same time issuing a ‘denial’ that the song was about him). Mick would kind of fit though – he relishes his image as a strutting peacock playboy and is the same in private if any number of Stones books are to be believed (Keith Richards revealed in his autobiography of 2011 that the band had taken to calling him ‘Brenda’ in honour of all his hair creams and facial products). The fact remains, however, that Mick and Carly were casual acquaintances at best, the two only working together on this one occasion as far as we know – would Carly have really written about someone she only vaguely knew? That said, the fact that he was singing on this track rather than the other dozen or so people linked to this song would seem to raise him a bit higher in the list of likely candidates – and his name also features all three of the ‘reveal letters’ Carly has given over the years (‘A’ ‘E’ and ‘R’).

4) Art Garfunkel
One candidate who hasn’t been mentioned yet (as far as I know) is Art Garfunkel. He might not be the most obviously narcisstic member of the AAA bunch, but Art’s careful and rather obsessive nature has been known to drive his friends mad, including the time he spends doing his hair. Moreover, Carly said in an interview at the time that the person ‘might or might not be’ famous and that even if they were famous, they might not be someone the public necessarily thought of as being vain. Art was a good friend of Carly’s too, Art being an especially good friend of James Taylor, and the pair sang on each other’s records numerous times in the 1970s and 80s (indeed, Art’s such a regular he probably appears on more Carly Simon recordings than anyone barring her and James). He also has the three ‘reveal’ letters ‘A’ ‘R’ and ‘E’ in his name – the only person who does apart from Jagger and Beatty out of the dozen or so names on the ‘guilty’ list.
So, is one of our four candidates the guilty party? Are all of our candidates the combined inspiration for the song? Was the inspiration someone else entirely? (James Taylor is still the likeliest candidate, with all three letters to his name!) We will probably never know – but part of the fun of this song is with speculating, so let’s hope Carly never properly tells (although a few more clues to keep us guessing would be nice!) What’s more, if Carly ever re-records the song (again!) she can now add the line ‘You’re so vain – you probably think that Alan’s Album Archives article was all about you!’ And we’re vain enough to hope you’ll be back next week for some more news, views and music! See you then!

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
1) Chronic Fatigue songs

2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

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159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands

160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)

161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches

162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)

164) AAA Songs About Islands

165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended

167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock

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