In the best Carly Simon songs, there are webs of possibility and ambiguity that create multiple stories in the same narrative. Simon once said, “In every one of my songs there is my biography.” Yet while she draws from her life, she rarely does so in a straightforward way.
Instead, Simon’s songs are of roads not taken as much as ones that are. She has spoken of this as her “peripheral vision”, where she “sees too much of what might happen. There are all types of ways that you can interpret things if you have too much of a peripheral vision.” It means Simon can be brutally honest yet maddeningly elusive in the exact same song.
While she did not really become a superstar until the release of 1972’s No Secrets album and its megahit, You’re So Vain, Carly Simon was a remarkably complete songwriter and performer before then; her early albums contain several hidden gems and fan favourites that still rank among the best Carly Simon songs. Many of these are featured on the new compilation These Are The Good Old Days: The Carly Simon And Jac Holzman Story, which documents Simon’s relationship with her first label, Elektra. “There was never more care given to me,” Simon says of this period.
Simon is loved not only for her music, but also for her frank and warm personality, which shines in her memoir, Boys In The Trees. She doesn’t shy away from the tougher parts of her life, yet looks always for redemption. “I think in the book gives a very good journey through the way I handled things that were desperately frightening for me,” she has said. “I think by the end of the book I have made that journey, and it’s as if I’m coming up through the water and having oxygen again. I’m constantly re-emerging in my life.”
Listen to the best of Carly Simon here, and check out the best Carly Simon songs, below.
10: Our First Day Together (from ‘Anticipation’, 1971)
Gentle and enigmatic, Our First Day Together perfectly captures the soft lilt of new discovery in romance, yet its minimal lyrics also suggest a mismatch of expectations and an uncertain future. Many of the best Carly Simon songs are masterful examples of this, injecting equivocation in what may, at first, seem a straightforward love song.
At the time of Our First Day Together, Simon was just getting to know James Taylor. She first met him in April 1971, before his then girlfriend, Joni Mitchell, interrupted them. When the pair next met, the attraction built, and they wed in 1972. Taylor had been a heroin user since before meeting Simon, and his addiction carried through into their marriage. But at this stage, Simon did not know the extent of his habit. “It just kind of confused me and I didn’t know exactly what it was,” she said. This feeling of unspoken and unknown barriers suffuses Our First Day Together.