One of the first Albums my Dad brought back from the US for me was No Secrets by Carly Simon. This was 1972 and I had heard “You’re So Vain“, the album’s first single, on the radio and was driving the family mad with my off-key rendition – especially of Mick Jagger‘s harmonies in the chorus. Roy was going to the US for an Insurance Convention – and I begged him to bring me a long list of records, culled from the Rolling Stone (which was banned, but which I read at a local record shop, under the counter). Many of the albums weren’t available in SA due to censorship restrictions … (Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon was another banned album – God knows what they thought it was about.)
My dad told me he would never break government regulations to buy something that could get us in trouble. Besides the song wasn’t that great. I sulked the whole time he was way. The day he got back I heard “You’re so Vain” on the radio – and yelled up the passage – “see Dad – the song is so awful the radio is still playing it”. I ran through to the ‘good lounge’, to sing-along and there was my beaming father with a whole pile of albums. “Now you can listen to it as often as you like!”
And I did – I got to know that album so well, I knew the timing between the tracks: proving it by standing in another room as my brother went through the record to check my claim. And I was spot on. Every single one of the songs on “No Secrets” is still a favourite of mine.
And I still know all the lyrics, breaths and pauses. Listening to the album again – I see the dark with the light in every song. And I realise those songs informed the way I thought about romance for a long time. Probably still do. It’s hard to believe this album is 40 years old – I guess that’s the truth in great songwriting – it stands the test of years.
When “You’re So Vain” hit #1 in the US, Carly Simon had been married to fellow pop-superstar James Taylor for just a month. So the song stirred intense curiosity as to which one of her previous lovers was the subject of this wry nod to the male ego. She’d dated widely in the past – Mick Jagger (who else could pull off a apricot scarflet), Cat Stevens, Warren Beatty and Kris Kristofferson were a few of her beaus and hotly tipped to be the subject. Carly never told – but she had fun over the years poking fun at some of the boys. This is from a 1983 interview with The Washington Post:
WP: Who was ‘You’re So Vain’ about? Mick Jagger?
WP: Warren Beatty?
Carly: It certainly sounds like it was about Warren Beatty. He certainly thought it was about him – he called me and said thanks for the song….
WP: You had gone with him?
Carly: Hasn’t everybody?
Carly: That only means you haven’t met him, though at the time I met him he was still relatively undiscovered as a Don Juan. I felt I was one among thousands at that point – it hadn’t reached, you know, the populations of small countries.
Besides the music – I loved Carly’s style. She always looked pulled together in a totally unplanned, hippy chic kind of way. And sexy with it. For a 13 year old girl in Joburg – who wasn’t a girly girl, and had a tomboy body – this seemed the way to go. Pink and flouncy just looked all wrong on me. I think this is where my lifelong obsession with finding the right jean kicked in. I’m still looking.
Hedi Slimane – the designer credited with turning Dior Homme around, and then turning hip-chick’s heads with his pencil thin tuxedos, has just debuted his first women’s collection for Saint Laurent. Although the critics were not over-enthused, fashion buyers loved the collection. I did too. It’s modern, hip and satisfies the Carly in me. I would need to adapt the look – leather stovepipe trousers aren’t going to work on these legs. Plus I won’t be rocking the hat. And, of course I can’t afford it – but who knows what I could cobble together between Zara (newly come to Cape Town), Country Road, JCrew (shipped via camparigirl) and the odd cupboard staple.