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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Carly Simon's torrid summer of 1971 and the invention of celebrity culture

Carly Simon wrote "Anticipation" in 1971 while waiting for Cat Stevens to arrive for their first date, if date's the word you use. During their brief affair Cat also inspired her to write "Legend In Your Own Time".

This was the era of the singer-songwriters. If you slept with one it was expected they would write a song about you. If they didn't it was tantamount to saying you weren't important enough. "Songs are like tattoos," as Joni Mitchell sang the same year. She wrote "Willy" about Graham Nash. He wrote "Our House" about her. Leonard Cohen wrote "Chelsea Hotel No 2" about Janis Joplin. That's the way it went.

Carly only saw Cat for a couple of months. She was in London making an album with his producer Paul Samwell-Smith, another lover. (That cover picture was shot in Regent's Park's inner circle.) In spring Cat introduced her to future husband James Taylor. In summer she supported Kris Kristofferson who took her back to the Gramercy Park Hotel and sang "I've Got To Have You" for her, in case she didn't get the idea.

They were all young, beautiful and would never be better. Being immortalised on somebody's next album simply heightened the romance. You could guarantee a song that featured your favourite subject - you. And of course as this branch of celebrity culture was being born that torrid summer the funny thing is the media neither knew nor cared.