Posts I Never Finished, Volume 1

03 Jun 2008


[Sometimes I start writing posts, but grow painfully bored before finishing. I'm sorry I never completed this post, as Mr. Miller may have liked it. Instead of deleting it, though, I'll just post the body of it and let it end where it did. See if you get bored before I did ... ]

Carly Simon hit the Billboard charts with You're So Vain about 250 years ago. But, there was no blogosphere back then, so I'm not sure how many people have taken the time to examine the song in any kind of depth. For the record,she has never divulged the identity of the "vain" subject, though many speculate Warren Beatty.

The particular pop-cultural allure of this song seems to reside in the aforementioned speculation. (Warren Beatty? Mick Jagger? James Taylor?) The world may never know. But the more interesting aspect, IMHO, is this: While the song is generally known to be about someone who is particularly vain, there is actually little lyrical evidence to support the assertion. Let's look at the subject's actions as described in the song:

You walked into the party like you were walking onto a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf it was apricot

("Your scarf it was apricot?" What was she, Yoda?) Anyway, fifteen years ago, I'd probably have had a field day filtering that through some Marxist literary theories. For openers, I have to admit I cannot necessarily relate to the usual manner with which one might walk onto a yacht. "Walk" seems to me a weak choice for the action. Looking back, I see that this rather weak verb is used twice in that opening line. I'd forgotten the first instance of "walking" into "the party."

How does one walk onto a yacht? Carefully, I'd guess. (You wouldn't want to lose your balance.) But, of course, she didn't mean that. Perhaps she should have said "your yacht," which could have better implied the meaning she was after -- that of a wealthy tycoon. However, logically speaking, it doesn't necessarily follow that a wealthy tycoon is vain. I'm sure there are men and women occupying respectable slots on the Forbes 400 list who have self-image issues.

It should also be noted that neither strategically dipped hats nor apricot scarves are traditional hallmarks of vanity. The hat suggests a possible Walter Mitty syndrome and the scarf implies a certain flamboyance -- but not necessarily vanity. [Perhaps it was precisely, as Sturdy Girl suggested regarding my recent questionable use of cinnamon/clove soap, metrosexuality.]

I was starting to believe that there would be no evidence whatsoever of the subject's actual narcissism. However, Simon continues:

You had one eye on the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte

Alone, it's not an entirely poor line. However, in the context of a forced rhyme scheme (yacht, apricot, gavotte ), its quality is reduced considerably. Still, I'll at least admit that it implies vanity. The question is: Now that Simon has actually put forth a statement to support her premise, will she sustain her momentum, or will she let it peter out with additional weak, unrelated observations?

And all the girls dreamed that they'd be your partner
They'd be your partner, and ...

Well, aside from my affinity for the anapestic meter of "all the girls dreamed that they'd be your part ner," there is once again a logical flaw in this statement in that it does not support Simon's thesis. If the women desired the subject, that might make him beautiful, but not necessarily vain.

You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you
You're so vain, I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't you?

I won't beat this part to death, as it's been done so since 1973. Quite obviously, there is a paradox here as the tune IS about the person. And, furthermore, believing a song is about oneself is not necessarily a narcissistic action. She has, after all, cited specific events already and will follow up with additional specifics.

Any normal person, vain or not, would draw this conclusion. It'd be like ... well, if Carly's next tune contained the lyrics, "ooooo, you wrote on a blog called Blowing Shit Up with Gas, and you were obnoxious and talked out your ass, and your book Tales of the Midwest was really crass ... . and you're so vain, you probably think this song is about you. Don't you?!!!! Don't you?!???!!!" Well, uh, yeah Carly, I think maybe it IS about me! But anyway ...

You had me several years ago when I was still quite naive
Well you said that we made such a pretty pair
And that you would never leave
But you gave away the things you loved and one of them was me

Ahh, yes ... Now we finally get to the brass tacks; what the tune really addresses (which isn't, it's quite clear, a vain man).

- - - - - - - - - - - - [insert abrupt ending] - - - - - - - - -

Okay, right here is the point at which I got bored, stopped writing, and almost deleted the piece -- which is kind of sad because I hadn't even had a chance to praise Simon for the one good line in the whole song:

I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee,
Clouds in my coffee, and ...

Clearly that's the only really interesting line in the whole tune, right? Even Simon must have recognized that because she reiterates the words "clouds in my coffee." Poets use this reiteration device from time to time. Hell, I've done it myself. I've got a whole chapbook that I'll post someday ... But, while a poet does it for effect, I had the feeling that Simon's use was more pitiful, as though she were writing a bunch of crap and then suddenly accidentally produced something interesting. The reiteration becomes not a purposeful, cadenced reflection, but rather a young woman excitedly shouting to the world, "Hey, look, a metaphor!!! I made a metaphor!"

Why yes, Carly, you did. My congratulations.

Original Comments

Below, are the original comments on this post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On June 4, 2008, yllwdaisies (aka "D") wrote:

I always thought the song was about ME.

Written before my birth, in anticipation of my arrival.

On June 4, 2008, Chris wrote:

You might have been bored but I found it entertaining. I thought the paradox bit was hilarious.

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