Boys in the Trees: A Memoir, by Carly Simon – digested read

‘Life with James Taylor was idyllic. I’d write hits. He’d go off to shoot up in the lavatory’

This day may have been the day, the very day when my identity was born. I was three years old and I was lined up with my sisters to say goodnight to my Mommy and Daddy. As they kissed Mommy and Daddy politely, it was as if a light had come on and filled my inner self with a radiant clarity. I had some childhood issues that had never been properly resolved which I needed to share with them.

“I have some childhood issues that have never been resolved that I need to share with you,” I said loudly.

“Yes, yes Carly. Please do stop Nanny from reading you The Interpretation of Dreams at bedtime.”

Mommy was a very remote and distant person whose own unhappy, damaged childhood had made her self-centred and inward-looking. Daddy was an even more remote and distant person – there were times when I truly believed he must have come from another planet – whose own unhappy, damaged childhood had made him so self-centred and inward looking he could see his very core. Luckily, we were extremely rich and well-connected so life wasn’t as bad as it might have been.

For a while, Mommy loved Daddy up until the point she didn’t. The first time I met her lover, Ronny, I felt an immediate electrical disgust. There was wrongness about him, building connections inside me on a cellular level. Shortly after that, Daddy died, which was a shame as I would never have a chance to confront him about our relationship and, as a result, the Beast built up inside me like a dark force.

There were some radiant days on Martha’s Vineyard, but deep within me I knew I had a yearning to find the Orpheus to whom I could play Eurydice. Then Nick walked into my life like he was walking on to a yacht and the two of us literally buckled into each other’s arms as Jools Holland’s sensitive fingers caressed an ivory keyboard. Once Nick and I finished with each other, I travelled to England with my sister Lucy, towards whom I have an ongoing resentment which I can’t let go of, for sleeping with Sean Connery on the ship when it was clear Sean really wanted to sleep with me.

In London, I met another Orpheus, a man called Willie Donaldson. Our relationship felt unbelievably deep, like something was missing yet being regained, and we were both able to reconnect with our child within by smoking far too much dope. Then there were the other Orpheuses. Robbie Robertson, who was too shy to get into the rock’n’roll groove. Marvin Gaye, who swept my tongue into his mouth. And then there was Jake. Jake, Jake, Jake. No, it’s no good. No amount of rebirthing can help me remember his surname, though I do recall him thrusting a verbal épée into my solar plexus.

Jack Nicholson, with whom I struggled to arrange my body for intimacy. Warren Beatty, from whom I had to break off making love because I had a session with my shrink at 9am – only for my psychoanalyst to tell me that his 8am appointment had also just got out of bed with Warren Beatty. I found Mick Jagger sexy not just from the get-go, but well before the get-go. Things began shimmering, pulsing, throbbing. With Cat Stevens, it was like being under the udder of a cow. But the love of my life, my one true Orpheus, was James Taylor. Sweet Baby James as I liked to call him, a Lacanian reference to his regressive infantile state.

For a while, life with James was idyllic. He would go off to the lavatory to shoot up some smack and I would spend time in the studio writing hit songs. I’ve always considered You’re So Vain to be the most intellectual song I’ve ever written as it confronts head-on one of the great therapeutic and epistemological debates about one of the seven deadly sins. And yet I was all the time subconsciously conscious that many of my long-repressed childhood issues had still not been addressed. With the birth of our two much-loved children, matters between James and me came to a head. The Beast and Orpheus could no longer coexist.

And yet we were reluctant to end it. We needed resolution. One day he came into the house and yelled “Strip, bitch” and took me from behind. I arched my back to ease the passage of his kundalini. It was long, intense, passionate. We were finally as one. We could now part.

Digested read, digested: You probably think this book is about you.


John Crace

The GuardianTramp

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