“You’re So Vain” a Comeback to Mick?


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
November 30, 1972, Vol. XVII, No. 48

by Howard Smith and Tracy Young

THROUGH THE YEARS Mick Jagger has sung a lot of nasties about women. Just some of the titles, like “Stupid Girl” and “Under My Thumb,” have been enough to raise the shackles of more than a few politically aware women who listen closely to their radios. Well, can Mick take it as well as put it down? That’s the question brought up by the song “You’re So Vain” just released off of Carly Simon’s new album. From the initially heavy AM and FM airplay the tune’s been getting, it’s destined to be her biggest hit.

She wrote it in a style that lets her full-bodied voice flash and shimmer up through an incredibly catchy melody. But it’s her words that are causing all the talk. Now, maybe Mick’s lyrics referred to particular members of the opposite sex — I guess it’s only something he and a handful of groupies know for sure — but “You’re So Vain” is evidently more specific. The rock world’s cognoscenti, all the way from L. A. to New York to London, have been gossiping for some time about the on-again-off-again affair between Carly and Mick. So it is assumed the tune is about him.

An added twist is that they look like identical twins. In fact, Bianca, his wife, also looks like him…How’s that for being hung up on a doppleganger.

Here are Carly’s lyrics to “You’re So Vain” and while you’re trying to figure out if they really are about the nefarious narcissist, remember that on the recording itself, Mick actually sings background vocals:

You walked into the party like you were walking onto a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye your scarf it was apricot
You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte
And all the girls dreamed that they’d be your partner they’d be your partner and…

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? Don’t you?

You had me several years ago when I was still naive
Well you said that we made such a pretty pair and that you would never leave
But you gave away the things you love and one of them was me
I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee clouds in my coffee

(Repeat chorus)

Well I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won
Then you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun
You’re where you should be all the time and when you’re not
You’re with some underworld spy or the wife of a close friend wife of a close friend

(Repeat chorus)

(Copyright 1972 by Quackenbush Music Ltd.)

Some people say the song might be about Carly’s brand new husband, James Taylor, but the words don’t seem to describe someone so laconic and self-effacing. If “You’re So Vain” does turn out to be a smash and she’s propelled into super-stardom, how will she handle the problem of fame? I can see it now, some male groupie will write a tune to her called “You’re So Cute, But So Conceited Too.”

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]