Song Musings

What you always wanted to know about that tune

It’s Wednesday and I hope this week has been kind to you. As usual, this is the time for another installment of my weekly feature where I take a deeper dive into a tune I’ve only mentioned in passing or not covered at all so far. For this post, I’ve decided to highlight Anticipation by Carly Simon.

Anticipation, a beautiful song I’ve come to dig, is the title track of the singer-songwriter’s second studio album released in November 1971. Solely written by Simon, the tune also appeared separately as the album’s lead single that same month.

Anticipation was Simon’s second single. It pretty much matched the remarkable chart performance of That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be, released in April 1971 as the sole single off her eponymous debut album. In the U.S., Anticipation reached no. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and surged to no. 3 on the Easy Listening chart (now called Adult Contemporary). Elsewhere, it climbed to no. 9 in Canada and no. 64 in Australia – not too shabby for an artist who at the time was only nine months into her solo career!

The Anticipation album also did pretty well. In the U.S., it peaked at no. 30 on the Billboard 200, matching its predecessor, while in Canada it got to no. 36, lower than Simon’s debut (no. 17) but still a top 40. It did best in Australia where it climbed to no. 12, significantly up from its predecessor (no. 55). In the U.S., the album reached Gold certification (500,000 certified sold units) as of September 1973, placing it in the group of Simon’s five best-selling studio albums. Here’s a nice acoustic live cut of Anticipation, captured during a September 2005 concert aboard the British transatlantic ocean liner Queen Mary 2, which appeared as a DVD at the time.

Apart from Anticipation, Carly Simon has had 12 additional top 40 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. Her biggest hits on the U.S. pop chart were You’re So Vain (1972); Mockingbird, with James Taylor who also was her husband at the time (1974); Nobody Does It Better (1977), the great theme song of the James Bond picture The Spy Who Loved Me; and Jesse (1980), her final big hit.

Overall, Simon has also done well on the album front. In the U.S. alone, 12 of her 23 studio albums released between 1971 and 2009 charted in the top 40 on the Billboard 200, including five in the top 10. Three were certified Platinum (1 million certified sold units) while two reached Gold certification. Her 1975 compilation The Best of Carly Simon hit a whopping 3xPlatinum in December 1997.

Simon whose 80th birthday is coming up on June 25 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year. She canceled her planned attendance after tragically losing both of her sisters Joanna Simon and Lucy Simon to thyroid and breast cancer, respectively, within one day of each other! Her brother Peter Simon had passed away from lung cancer in November 2018. Carly is a breast cancer survivor and underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery between 1997 and 1998.

Following are additional insights for Anticipation from Songfacts.

Carly Simon wrote “Anticipation” while waiting for Cat Stevens to come over for their first date (she was making chicken with a béarnaise sauce). She was his opening act for a concert at the Troubadour in Los Angeles on April 6, 1971, and they were set to play again at Carnegie Hall in New York City on June 5. Simon lived in the City, so she invited Stevens over for the date a few days before that show.

He was late, so Simon burned off some nervous energy by sitting down with her guitar. She imitated Stevens’ style (he was her favorite artist) from his song “Hard Headed Woman,” where he keeps it mellow but then ramps it up for a section when he sings, “I know many fine feathered friends.” Simon played loud, singing the word that came into her mind because she was waiting for Stevens: “Anticipation.”

“I was anticipating his arrival,” she said in the book Anthems We Love. “So I just started the song and I wrote the whole song, words and music, before he got there that night. So in about 15 minutes I wrote the whole song. Three verses and the choruses and the outro. That’s only one of three times that that’s ever happened to me. That I just sat down and wrote the whole song in just one stretch. It was only about 20 minutes that he was late.”

This song is very much about living in the moment. Simon isn’t sure this relationship is going to last, but she decides to just enjoy it while they’re together. “These are the good old days,” goes the refrain at the end.

Simon performed “Anticipation” for the first time when she opened for Cat Stevens at Carnegie Hall on June 5, 1971. The song got a great response, so she knew it was a winner. She added it to her repertoire and performed it a handful of times before recording it.

The romance between Cat Stevens and Carly Simon was short-lived, but they forged an enduring friendship Simon spoke of fondly many years later. She ended up marrying James Taylor in 1972 (they divorced in 1983)...

…Simon’s musical director Jimmy Ryan played bass on this track, but on the last verse he played guitar-style riffs on the instrument. The other personnel were Andy Newmark on drums, Paul Glanz on piano, and Simon on acoustic guitar and vocals.

Simon earned a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, but she lost to Helen Reddy for “I Am Woman.”

Simon recorded an acoustic version with her son, Ben Taylor, for her 2009 album, Never Been Gone.

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; YouTube

On This Day in Rock & Roll History: December 16

It’s been a while since the last installment of this irregularly recurring feature. While picking a random date is an arbitrary way to look at music history, I think it’s always interesting to see what comes up. As usual, the picks reflect my music taste and are not supposed to be a complete list.

1965: The double A-side non-album single Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out by The Beatles hit no. 1 in the UK on the Official Singles Chart, becoming their ninth chart-topper there. Primarily written by John Lennon, the tune was credited to him and Paul McCartney, as usual. According to Songfacts, the lyrics were the first reference to LSD in a Beatles song. Day Tripper and We Can Work It Out were also included on Yesterday and Today, a U.S. album from June 1966 that caused an uproar over its original “butcher cover,” showing The Beatles in white coats, covered with decapitated baby dolls and pieces of raw meat. Frankly, I much prefer Day Tripper – always loved that cool guitar riff!

1966: The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their first UK single Hey Joe, backed by Stone Free. Different recordings of the song were credited to different writers, including Billy Roberts and Dino Valenti. Some recordings have indicated it as a traditional song. The first commercial recording was made by Los Angeles garage band The Leaves in late 1965. Hendrix’s rendition is the best-known version of the song and became one of his biggest hits in the UK, reaching no. 6 on the Official Singles Chart.

1970: Credence Clearwater Revival received Gold certification in the U.S. for their singles Down on the Corner, Lookin’ Out My Back Door, Travelin’ Band, Bad Moon Rising and Up Around the Bend. All songs were written by John Fogerty. CCR’s first five albums Credence Clearwater Revival (May 1968), Bayou Country (January 1969), Green River (August 1969), Willy and the Poor Boys (November 1969) and Cosmo’s Factory (July 1970) were also certified Gold. Here’s Travelin’ Band, the lead single from Cosmo’s Factory, which appeared in January 1970, backed by Who’ll Stop the Rain. Love that tune!

1972: Me And Mrs. Jones, the biggest hit for American soul singer Billy Paul, reached no. 1 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was included on Paul’s 1972 album 360 Degrees of Billy Paul. The tune about marital infidelity was co-written by prominent Philly soul songwriting team Kenny Gamble, Leon Hoff and Cary Gilbert. Songfacts notes Me And Mrs. Jones knocked I’m the Woman out of the top spot, a female-empowerment anthem by Helen Reddy.

1989: Billy Joel’s 11th studio album Storm Front, which had come out in October of the same year, reached no. 1 on the Billboard 200. The piano man’s second-to-final pop record to date was also pretty successful internationally. Among others, it topped the charts in Australia, climbed to no. 4 in Canada, and reached no. 5 in the UK and Germany. Here’s the lead single We Didn’t Start the Fire, which like the album turned out to be a big hit for Joel. The fast-paced recitation of 118 significant political, cultural, scientific and sporting events that occurred between Joel’s birth year 1949 and 1989 became one of his signature songs.

1993: Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York concert aired for the first time on MTV. Unlike other MTV Unplugged shows Nirvana chose to perform predominantly lesser-known material including various covers. Moreover, in contrast to previous performances in the series, which were entirely acoustic, Nirvana used electric amplification and guitar effects during their set. The concert was taped on November 18, 1993, at Sony Studios in New York City, less than five months prior to lead vocalist Kurt Cobain’s suicide on April 8, 1994. Here’s Nirvana’s haunting cover of David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World.

Sources: Wikipedia; This Day in Music; Songfacts; Songfacts Music History Calendar; YouTube