Question: Carly, what happened?
Answer: The 1980s.
Carly was one of the best of the many female singer songwriters to emerge from the 1970s. “You’re so Vain” is still one of the best break-up / get back at songs of the genre. But, by 1983 she was suffering the same fate as many of the other “old” acts who were trying to remain contemporary : terminal blandness, partially as a result of diminishing new ideas and partially a result of 1980s vapid production which was used on most mainstream acts.
The 80s didn’t really kick in until about 1983-84. Up till then the production was 1970s era sounds (and perhaps technology) updated to encompass the influence of the new wave. Technology, eventually, did catch up and mainstream music became slick, smooth and full of overwrought fake emotion or it’s flipside: insincere aloofness passing for late 20th century existentialism. Synths, reverbed gated snare drum sound, sexy saxes, a touch of mellow keyboard. I’m not sure what they were thinking. I know my ranting may sound like a croc of shit, but think about the mainstream 1983 to say 1993 …. Urrrgh. The only good music was coming from the indie, college and alternative scenes.
It’s a pity because Carly can still sing and she still can write a tune but this album is killed by the worst excesses of the 80s : the aforesaid (over) production and the inclusion of some white reggae (Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare would do anything). It may have made the music commercially viable in 1983 but time has not dated it well. Perhaps, and I have said this before, mainstream 80s production, dated pretty quickly anyway.
When things are turned down and Carly sings with little instrumentation (or rather, less instrumentation) or when she reverts to 70s era sounds, clearly never sure of the synth path she is on, the music is bearable. Those tracks would be better, however, if they weren’t so saccharine and it’s unfortunate that the up-tempo songs weren’t also 70s influenced.
The other problem is that, like all lyricists, Carly spends too much time on words and not on the music, which she leave to her producer (Mike Mainieri). This is a trap singer songwriters who dwell on lyrics fall into, and Dylan aside, because he knew better, pop music is about, err music.
As to be expected from Carly and her ilk all the songs deal with relationships from start to finish …romance, marriage, infidelity, break-up. Her songs are deeply confessional though and seem to relate, to real and direct events in her life and interestingly she doesn’t always take a pro female stand.
Tracks (best in italics)
- You Know What to Do – The lyrics are interesting but the music is wholly uninspired. It sounds like many, many tracks of the same era. And it goes on too long.
- Menemsha – mainstream weird. With interesting silly lyrics which are quite evocative and with a slight world music feel (perhaps it’s the title). Menemsha is a small fishing village, beach and harbour located in the town of
on the Chilmark ‘s islandof Martha …where, I believe, Carly lives. Vineyar, Massachusetts
I’d like to see him again
I remember when
We made love
On the jetty in the rain.
When the fishing boats would
Come back in
At the end of the day
He’d run up the hill to my cabin
With a swordfish and he’d say:
“Girl I want you all over again”
All over again
- Damn, You Get to Me – filler
- Is This Love? – a pointless version of the Bob Marley song.
- Orpheus – filler
- It Happens Everyday – a divorce song with a (very) slight early 60s white doo wop feel …
- Such a Good Boy – a infidelity type song with a different slant…the narrator being the accomplice in infidelity. Interesting.
- Hello Big Man – apparently a song about Carly’s parents meeting and falling in love. In the alternative reality of song her parents live happily ever after which apparently was not the case in real life. The song (and album title) refers to the reply that her mother gave to her father when they first met. Apparently he said "hello little woman"…she said "hello big man".
- You Don’t Feel the Same – filler, about a love that’s over
- Floundering – she certainly is. Flippant, yes, but accurate. A reggae flavour to this song about a girl looking for a solution (psychiatry, political activism, scientology etc etc) to her emotional malaise. Pity it’s not very good because the message in interesting.
Tape a song or two and sell.
And, of course, she is “foxy”. And I mean that in a post 20th century pro female empowerment way.
Maybe I could catch a swordfish?
1983 You Know What to Do Adult Contemporary #36
1983 You Know What to Do The Billboard Hot 100 #83
1983 Hello Big Man The Billboard 200 #69
You Know What to Do
It Happens Everyday
Hello Big Man
- wikipedia: Simon married fellow singer-songwriter James Taylor on November 3, 1972. Simon and Taylor had two children, Sarah "Sally" Maria Taylor (born
January 7, 1974) and Benjamin "Ben" Simon Taylor (born January 22, 1977), both of whom are musicians and political activists. Simon and Taylor divorced in 1983.
- wikipedia: Simon has been close friends with James Taylor’s younger brother Livingston Taylor for over forty years.
Livingstonhas said, "I love Carly and Carly loves me. She’s a ferocious advocate and supporter of my music." They have worked as a musical duo for some songs such as "Best of Friends", released in Livingston‘s 2006 album There You Are Again, and others earlier in their careers.
- "You’re so Vain" – who is it about? Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger, or somebody else? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You%27re_So_Vain