Today’s song is ‘You’re So Vain’. This song was written in 1971 by Carly Simon and was released in November 1972. It is one of the songs that Carly Simon is most identified with, and upon its release, it reached Number 1 in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The song is ranked at Number 92 on ‘Billboard’s Greatest Songs of All Time’. ‘You're So Vain’ was voted Number 216 in RIAA’S Songs of the Century’, and in August 2014, the UK's ‘Official Charts Company’ crowned it the ultimate song of the 1970s.
The song is a critical profile of a self-absorbed lover about whom Simon asserts "You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you." The title subject's identity has long been a matter of speculation, with Simon stating that the song refers to three men, only one of whom she has named publicly, actor Warren Beatty.
The song was initially entitled ‘Bless You, Ben’. The first words were: "Bless you, Ben. You came in when nobody else left off." Simon felt dissatisfied with the lyrics and put the song away until she attended a party one night where a famous guest appeared. A friend told Simon the male guest entered as if he was "walking onto a yacht". Simon incorporated the words into the melody of "Bless You, Ben" as she was composing on her piano, and the song took on a whole new meaning.
Before the song became a hit single in 1972, Simon told an interviewer that the song was about ‘men’ of a certain type, not a specific ‘man’. In 1983, she said the song was not about Mick Jagger who contributed uncredited backing vocals to it.
Over the years Simon has teased the people attempting to identify the ‘men’ the song was referring to. She divulged ‘letter clues’ and has claimed that the subject's name contains the letters ‘A, E, and R’ In August 2003, Simon agreed to reveal the name of the song's subject to the highest bidder of the ‘Martha’s Vineyard Possible Dreams Charity Auction’. With the top bid of $50,000, (Dick Ebersol, president of NBC Sports, and a friend of Simon), won the right to know the name of the subject of ‘You're So Vain’. A condition of the prize was that Ebersol would not reveal the name. In a 2007 interview, Warren Beatty said, "Let's be honest. That song was about me."
Let’s face it, folks, the song is about every vain man on the planet. I know from my own personal life experience that it was about me during the entirety of my teenage years, and if I am entirely truthful, up until my early thirties. In fact, if I was to identify the most objectional character flaw which I possess, a lack of modesty would have to come out at the top of the list.
While I must praise my mother for most of any good qualities of character I possess, I also hold her personally responsible for promoting a baser side of me. Two months into my mother’s pregnancy with me (I was her firstborn of seven children), she was courting my father who lived in County Kilkenny; thirty miles away. My mother lived at the home of her parents in Portlaw, County Waterford (the house where I would be born). She was the oldest of seven children born to her parents. My father would cycle into Portlaw once a week to meet my mum, behind her parent’s back.
At the time, only mum knew that she was pregnant. She had planned to tell my father when they next met and because she wasn’t yet showing that she was an expectant mother, she had not told her own parents. She planned to tell my maternal grandparents after informing my father.
One day, while my mum was doing some chores at her parent’s house, my mother told me that a visiting Romany traveller knocked on the back door. She was in the house alone and the Romany was selling pegs.
To understand the Irish, one must first accept that they are a race seeped in superstition, religion, little people, and prophecy. One of their oldest superstitions is ‘never to turn away a true Romany visitor to one’s home empty-handed’. Whether the Romany was touting their fortune-telling talents or wanting to sell the house occupier wooden pegs for the washing line, not to buy their product or engage their service, is tantamount to inviting bad luck and ill health for seven years.
The travelling peg-selling Romany gave my mother the pegs she’d bought for a silver sixpence. The Romany then said to my mother, “For an extra shilling, missus, I’ll tell you about the special child that you’re having!”. Her knowledge of my mother’s pregnancy took mum off guard and naturally, she wanted to hear all about this ‘special child’ of hers. So, mum told me that she gave the Romany traveller her last shilling.
Mum’s account of what follows went like this. The Romany told her she would have seven children in total and that her firstborn would be a son. The Romany also prophesised that mum’s first child would be ‘a special child’. Mum was over the moon. Which mother to be wouldn’t be, I ask you? Show me the mum who doesn’t believe that her child is ‘special’ and I’ll show you a part-time mother who has yet to bond with her offspring.
My parents were duly married (prior to my birth of course), but over the following three to four years, they were often separated. Dad was a man born to a large family who lived in extreme poverty. Dad left school at the age of twelve to earn a living. His educational learning was severely limited, but what my father lacked in educational attainment, he more than made up for in his ability to play football (or soccer as the Irish call it). Over the latter years that my parents courted, followed by their early marriage, my father played soccer for County Kilkenny, and he later went on to play for first and second teams of the Irish National Squad.
When I was aged 4 years old, mum, dad, me and my two sisters migrated to West Yorkshire. The purpose was to have a more prosperous life. I must point out that during the late 1930s and early 40s, Irish footballers who played for their country did not receive any wage. They did it out of national pride and the only cash they received was travelling expenses. Hard to believe today that the glory of playing sport at the highest level then seemed reward enough, especially when current professional footballers earn the wages of successful film stars and business moguls.
When we arrived in West Yorkshire, my dad got a job at the coal face as a miner and we lived in a one-bedroomed tied cottage. After five years in West Yorkshire, we moved to a brand-new council house with three bedrooms, a ceramic fixed bath (instead of a tin tub), and an inside and outside lavatory which didn’t have to be shared with the neighbours. After giving birth to seven children, mum eventually stopped being a baby production factory to increase the Catholic population count.
Every day of my childhood and teenage life, my mother told me she loved me, and never a day went by without her reminding me that I was ‘a special child’. As time went on my mother told and retold the tale to me about the peg-selling gypsy who had foretold my birth and had gone on to pronounce that I would be ‘a special child.’ Now, there isn’t a boy on the planet who wouldn’t like to be told by their mother daily as they grew up, that they were ‘special’, and I was no exception. My mother believed I was indeed ‘special’ and never let me forget it. In time, the more my mother believed I was ‘special’, and told me so, the easier it was for me to believe the Romany’s prophesy also.
As I grew up, every unusual thing that I did or which happened to me, was because ‘I was special’. When I was knocked down and run over by a large wagon, and survived horrendous injuries, my mother believed I lived because ‘I was special’. Having been told by the medics that I’d never walk again after damaging my spine, and then being able to walk again three years later, was because ‘I was special’. When my Mensa test score came back as being 142 at the age of twelve years, my mother said it was because ‘I was special’ and when I became the youngest shop steward in Great Britain at the age of 18 years, that also was because ‘I was special’. Becoming a Mill Manager at the age of 26 years merely reaffirmed my ‘specialness’ in my mother’s eyes. Everything good I did from my childhood until the day she died in 1986, my mother believed it was because ‘I was special’.
What a lucky son I was. I knew I was much loved by my mother and I grew up believing that I was indeed ‘special’. My ‘specialness’ had been purchased by a peg-selling Romany fortune teller for the price of sixpence in Portlaw during the year of 1942.’ My ‘specialness’ had then been conferred upon me by my mother as a growing and impressionable boy, and everything good or unusual I did in my life thereafter was (according to my mother), because ‘I was special’. I’m only glad today that the travelling peg-selling Romany didn’t tell my mother that her firstborn would be a reincarnation of the Christ child!
For the first twenty-five years of my life, I truly believed that ‘I was special’ and this feeling of ‘specialness’ that constantly resided inside me led me to do what I now believe was ‘ordinary’ things in the most ‘extraordinary’ and ‘special’ of ways. The second twenty-five period of my life between 25 and 50 led to me reaffirming that I was indeed ‘special’ and that my mother was accurate in her belief, BUT SO IS EVERYONE ELSE SPECIAL WHO LIVES AND BREATHES! The past twenty-seven years of my life (50-77) has led to me doing everything humanly possible to persuade, convince and reaffirm all people whom I am capable of influencing of their own unique ‘specialness’.
When I became an author and had many dozens of books published, Sheila persuaded me to write some romantic novels after we met. While I have stopped writing novels now, I did write and have another fourteen novels published under the umbrella title of ‘Tales from Portlaw’. The last book I wrote (and probably the last book I shall ever write) told the story of the Romany traveller who foresaw my birth when my mother was two months pregnant with me, and who prophesied to my mother that I would be the oldest of seven children and that I would be a ‘special’ child. It is fitting that an event that was to shape my life should form the subject of my final published book. The book is entitled ‘The Postman Always Knocks Twice’ and can be purchased in either e-book format or hardback copy from Amazon (all sale profits going to charity in perpetuity). The full story can also be freely read from accessing my website below:
Over my lifetime, and until I entered my thirties, I was highly opinionated. I believed myself to be better than I was. I held myself in high esteem and displayed a degree of confidence and a constant air of arrogance which puffed me with pride. I obviously possessed enough good character traits that offset my less favourable traits, otherwise, I would have proven wholly insufferable to my friends and work colleagues. At the time, I put these unattractive characteristics of mine down to having too high a standard in my work ethic and too unrealistic a level of expectation in others to succeed. I now realise that my high work standards and high expectations of clients to succeed were a sword with a double-edged blade. While, on one hand, it produced better than the average success rates with my clients, it must have also produced a greater level of disappointment in the feelings of those clients who had unable to significantly change for the better!
Back to my father’s influence on me. When I was a growing boy, I too became a football fanatic before my accident which crippled me at the age of eleven years of age. Inside our lounge was a framed photograph on the wall which I must have passed thirty times daily without knowing what it represented. I never knew until my tenth year of life that the man in the centre of the photograph holding the football was my father. Dad had been the Captain of the Irish Second National Soccer Squad. Dad later went on to play for the First Team of his Country.
On the day I discovered that my father had been an exceptional footballer, I was going to school and I was looking forward to the school football game later that afternoon. The school had recently purchased a new football strip but the shirt cost each team member £2: 10 shillings. This was a great deal of money for a poor household and amounted to 25 per cent of my father’s weekly wage then. Naturally, the fact that my parents couldn’t afford to buy me the new school football shirt in green and white square pattern disappointed me, but I understood. I was about to leave the house when my father asked me to hang about a minute. Dad then went upstairs and returned with a man’s green football shirt that had a white collar. It belonged to the Irish National Soccer team which he’d played for as a young man in his twenties. That shirt swamped me and went down beyond my knees, but that afternoon there wasn’t a boy footballer in the whole wide world who was as proud as me running aground the pitch in the team shirt of the Irish Soccer Squad.
Four months after this incident, my dad went on a rare two-week holiday on his own to the home of the Brennans’ in County Kilkenny, Ireland. Micky and Ann Brennan had effectively reared my father during the teenage years of his development, and it was while living with Micky Brennan and his wife, Ann, that my father was selected to play soccer for the ‘Kilkenny County Soccer Team’. Not only did my father play for County Kilkenny, but he was regarded as one of the best soccer players Kilkenny ever had. Over a four year period, my dad progressed from playing for his county to playing for his country, besides holding down a fulltime job during the weekdays.
Two weeks after my father returned from his rare Irish break, we received a newspaper cutting from the Kilkenny press. It told of my father’s recent return to Kilkenny. The press cutting it rated my father as one of Kilkenny’s best-ever footballers and it also reported that my father’s arrival in Kilkenny was celebrated by a brass-band reception which met him off the coach and marched him up to the home of the Ann and Micky Brennan where he was staying.
During the first nine years of my life, my mother would sometimes speak about having been a football widow most weekends of her early married life but never elaborated on this by informing me that my father had played soccer for his County before going on to play soccer for his country. And as to my father, he never said a word either about his footballing past. In fact, when he came back off his Irish holiday with the Brennans, when asked by my mum how his holiday break had gone, his reply was a simple “Okay”. If Micky and Ann Brennan hadn’t sent across the newspaper cutting of his Irish stay with them, informing us of the brass-band welcome he’d received upon his arrival in County Kilkenny, we never would have known the hero’s welcome and reception that the dignitaries of County Kilkenny gave him.
My father was the most modest man I ever knew; a trait, he sadly never passed down to me. I often wondered how such a modest and humble man could have spawned a son with the conceit I possessed and was always willing to wrap myself in. Instead, I was left to my mother’s influences and until my mid-twenties, I believed that I was simply the bee’s knees when it came to romance, fighting in the streets, dancing, singing, or simply ‘being me’. There wasn’t a vainer teenager than I was in the whole of West Yorkshire when I got dolled up for the Saturday Night Townhall Dance! The clothes I wore were the most fashionable; they were bespoke suits that had been cut and tailored from the most expensive cloth. I’d bought my male wardrobe with my own hard-earned money and I wore each garment with the utmost pride. My white shirts would be ironed and perfectly creased down the sleeves, and my fine leather-soled shoes would be polished until they reflected my handsome face in them, looking back up at me wherever I strutted my thing.
And yet, there is nothing that I wouldn’t have given to have had a mere tenth of my dear father’s modesty, along with his football ability.
Have a good day, everyone. Love and peace Bill xxx