Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Paul Q. Kolderie
Throughout this session, Carly Simon is joined by her son Ben Taylor, playing guitar and singing not just backup vocals, but sometimes providing the most stable and present vocals on these four songs. It's not a crutch, but more a way of deflecting some of the spotlight from her face. She's historically shy and averse to the attention and all that comes with becoming a mega-superstar even if you didn't want to become a mega-superstar - and there aren't many people who find themselves sitting in the corner of the room thinking to themselves that they need more attention, more adoration, certainly not the kind of adoration that comes from writing and singing a song like "You're So Vain," but having it become a song that's taken on a different life that no one could have imagined even if they'd tried back in 1972. It's a song that Simon's held onto the mystery to for over three decades. As legend tells it, there's one very rich soul who's paid her to know who the famous song was written about. There are these swears of secrecy and these swallow the keys to the locks sorts of promises made by one person to the next, protecting the truth of the subject matter. It's really just a remarkable sort of circumstances that have played out, allowing the song to assume the kind of degree of protection that this one particular song has assumed. It alone, makes it the most impossibly curious song in the history of modern recording.
Here, Simon sings the song - as she does the other three songs in her set, recorded quaintly and privately in her living room in Martha's Vineyard with super-engineer Paul Q. Kolderie - with her boy as he adds slight and personal flourishes to the finished piece, a song that has been a complete work of art for the longest time. And yet, there Ben Taylor is interpreting it his own way, as a boy who's heard this song, not just on the radio, but in the womb, through the layers of a stomach, through his most natural of processes, without out even thinking about it. He's been exposed to this song in more individual and different ways than anyone else in the entire world and here they are here - mother and son - playing a song that is about conceit and audacity, ascots, yachts and about emotions and relationships that have possibly gone well beyond repair. It's not necessarily Simon's son reinterpreting her most known and classic song, but it's him lending a hand in its telling, giving it a different hue. It's nice knowing that there are secrets out there worth pining for, secrets that do have answers that so few people know about.
Simon wrote a song that will forever be considered a gem and it's a song that will be forever regarded as a shroud. No one's clawing for the answer to the riddle and that alone makes it desirable and sought. Simon here sounds as if she's as cloying and as unable to be placed into some simple pop standard as she's always seemed. She doesn't seem as if she's anything like a simple Simon, but a songwriter that will continue to challenge those who might think that they're onto something. Simon, despite her fears and her shyness, will go on defying any of them, making songs that are for the ages to sort out.