Carly Simon Peter Reilly - Essay

Peter Reilly

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Carly's songs on ["Spy"] show her at her tough-minded best, asking no quarter and offering none. Like her literary counterparts Mary McCarthy and Joan Didion, Carly Simon sees and allows herself to feel a great deal more than the average privileged, upper-middle-class young woman—probably much more than she'd like to. In We're So Close she offers a clear-eyed description of one of those strangely bloodless relation-ships so many people cling to these days…. [No] matter how much it may chill the marrow of sentimentalists or romantics, Carly Simon has the courage to tell it like it is.

She also has the courage to touch on something that's rarely discussed: violent female rage. Vengeance tells of a woman stopped by a policeman for a traffic violation; he uses his position of authority to molest her verbally with gross sexual innuendo, and finally she strikes back…. It's a strong song….

Memorial Day shows courage of another kind, for instead of taking the role of a car hop, a bar girl, or some other of the not-so-beautiful losers who are the typical protagonists of most pop songs, Carly portrays herself as the relatively secure and immune person she really is, insulated by her wealth and celebrity from most of the rough and tumble of ordinary life….

But it's not all social realism. "Spy" includes plenty of simple entertainment, such as Pure Sin, about a girl posing chastely for her portrait while planning something a good bit livelier for later, the unsticky but romantic Love You by Heart, and the very funny and touching Coming to Get You, about a country mother talking on the phone with her runaway child….

["Spy"] is one of the best albums of the year and … Carly Simon is carving out a unique place for herself in American pop as a sort of Sister Courage.

Peter Reilly, "Carly Simon: 'Spy'," in Stereo Review (copyright © 1979 by Ziff-Davis Publishing Company), Vol. 43, No. 4, October, 1979, p. 120.