Nobody mixes vulnerability and potency better than Carly Simon. On No Secrets, her skilful third album, from 1972, she epitomised the feminist cry – that “the personal is political”; that what happens in relationships has wider resonance for women’s position in society. And it was all done with a sheen and accessibility that she had never achieved before. “I was coming out into a time that I was respected,” Simon said in 2017. “I wasn’t just being told what to do.”
Listen to ‘No Secrets’ here.
“We were troubled people trying to pass as normal”
For many years, Carly Simon had kept a little notebook. In it, she would scribble down phrases that came to her, or that friends had deployed in conversation, for later use. “Clouds in my coffee” came from that notebook – she was on a plane, and the clouds passing by reflected in her hot drink – as did the idea that someone looked like they were “walking onto a yacht”. Raw materials were in place. But at the start of 1972, a lot in Simon’s life and art was unclear.
Simon’s partner at the time was the singer-songwriter James Taylor. “From the beginning,” Simon wrote in her 2015 memoir, Boys In The Trees, “James and I were linked together as strongly as we were not just because of our love, and music, but because we were both troubled people trying our best to pass as normal.” Their relationship would last a decade – they married in November 1972 – but would also be difficult, not least because Taylor was a heroin user. Just prior to recording No Secrets, Taylor had revealed his habit to Simon. “This is what I do. Watch,” he told her, as he shot up in front of a shell-shocked Simon. “You have to watch me. I have to let it all go.” As soon as he told her, he tried to quit. From now on, Taylor wanted to have no secrets from Simon.