"I'll Bet You Thought This Post Was About You":

Althouse has this cryptic post, which prompted a Commenter on her blog to utter the phrase in the subject line.

Which reminds me of a joke I heard a comedian (do we still use the term "comedienne"?) tell once. She was observing that with the song "You're So Vain" Carly Simon was really putting Warren Beatty in a bit of pickle. Once the song comes out, he has two choices--either he can admit that he is, in fact, so vain that he probably "thought the song was about him." And if he doesn't admit it, then Carly is going to write a follow-up song for the next album, "You're so stupid, you didn't even realize the last song was about you." Either way, he's stuck.


I had always understood that this song was about Beatty, but as noted in the Comments, apparently Carly Simon has never actually verified this. According to this, she has officially denied that it was James Taylor.

Scott Scheule (mail) (www):
Whoa, whoa, whoa, Zywicki. How do you know the song's about Beatty? My understanding was that nobody had yet cracked that riddle. Only one person besides Carly knows, or so the legend goes, somebody who won the knowledge at an auction.
7.22.2005 6:30pm
Hattio (mail):
I had always heard it was about James Taylor.
7.22.2005 6:41pm
Zywicki (mail):
I'll be darned--good catch.
7.22.2005 7:07pm
Craig Oren (mail):
and here's Carly Simon's own take. . . .
7.22.2005 7:24pm
Splunge (mail):
Either way, he's stuck.


"You're so vain, I bet you think this denial that I am at all like the person in certain obnoxious pop songs has something to do with your pop song and our relationship. . ."

DC al Fine
7.22.2005 7:52pm
Scott Scheule (mail) (www):
No worries. It's a rookie classic rock trivia mistake.
7.22.2005 8:20pm
fling93 (www):
No, no, no! It's about Natalie Portman.

Well yeah, she wasn't born yet back in 1973, but... well, everything is about Natalie Portman, goddammit! Everything!
7.22.2005 8:52pm
Why I don't understand is why is she singing a song specifically denying that it is about a certain person. The first word of the title is "You('re)"
7.22.2005 9:02pm
Tom Hanna (www):
I thought it was about Mark Felt.
7.22.2005 10:38pm
Carl (mail):
I thought it was about Carly Simon (and her painful lesson in love et cetera), and that the premise of the title was that some egoistical fool or other would think it was about him instead. . .
7.22.2005 10:48pm
Thom (mail):
I've always thought that the song made perfect sense if the chorus part "You're so vain..." was directed to one one person, but the rest of the lyrics were about someone else entirely.
7.22.2005 11:58pm
While I'm not sure that a literal interpretation of the song would necessarily be accurate, the second verse seems to exclude James Taylor from consideration:
You had me several years ago, when I was still quite naive
You said that we made such a pretty pair and that you would never leave
But you gave away the things you love, and one of them was me

The song came out in late 1972, around the time that Carly and James got married, and they had only first met in the spring of 1971.
7.23.2005 12:09am
mikem (mail):
No, No , No. It was Mick Jagger. That was definitely the scuttlebutt when the song came out, at least in my area.
7.23.2005 12:23am
mikem (mail):
Actually, it was about me. I was just too modest to admit it back then.
7.23.2005 12:25am
Aeon J. Skoble (mail):
Jagger sings backup vocals on that track, so it seems doubtful it's about him. Also, if Jagger had had a fling with Carly Simon, and that's what the song was about, we'd all know and it wouldn't be a big mystery.
7.23.2005 12:41am
Trashy (mail):
Jeebus, imagine the size of the mouth on a child of Simon and Jagger!
7.23.2005 1:15am
fling93 (www):
Aeon J. Skoble: Also, if Jagger had had a fling with Carly Simon, and that's what the song was about...

Oh, it's about a fling? Whoa, then it must be about me! Maybe now Natalie will return my calls...
7.23.2005 1:19am
Robert Schwartz (mail):
Way back when the song was new, most fans thought it was Beatty. I didn't hear the Taylor thesis until later years.

Incidentally, I saw that total eclipse in Nova Scotia, but I did not fly my learjet, I drove my 1965 Chevy Malibu.
7.23.2005 10:58am
OpinionPro (www):
Good points today, Mr. Zywicki. We at Dartmouth College (obviously big fans of you) always like to see you active on the Volokh Conspiracy.
7.23.2005 1:51pm
Spoons (mail):
The song is the most retarded thing ever. "I bet you think this song is about you"?

Uhhh, Braniac, it IS. By definition.

It'd be like saying, "Hey you! I bet you think I'm talking to you, don't you?"

7.23.2005 2:57pm
dgm (mail) (www):
glen whitman of agoraphilia picked this scab a few months back; it just won't heal.

i recall a rolling stone interview from the '70s with james and carly, in which she explicitly denies the song is about james or mick jagger, but she leaves the mystery otherwise wide open. apparently, she auctioned off the answer to one person, who is sworn to secrecy.
7.23.2005 3:10pm
Dennis Nicholls (mail):
The most reasonable theory about the subject of the song holds that it's written about Carly's pet dog. Guys wouldn't wear apricot scarves, for goodness sake, but putting a scarf on your dog was common back in the early 1970's. I read a writeup about this theory several years back that made each individual lyric seem plausible to the dog theory. The icing on the cake, however, is how everyone began theorizing how it referred to one of her previous boyfriends. Carly put over one of the classic jokes of all time....
7.23.2005 4:20pm
Spoons (mail):
Yeah, the dog. Carly's dog had an affair with the wife of a good friend, met with underworld spies, had a winning horse running at Saratoga, and took a Lear jet to Nova Scotia.
7.23.2005 5:45pm
Centrist (mail) (www):
I thought this was supposed to be the VOLOKH conspiracy. From the amount of posts, looks like Professor Zywicki is attempting something of a coup.
7.23.2005 6:20pm
soccer cleats (mail) (www):
Jagger sings backup vocals on that track, so it seems doubtful it's about him. Also, if Jagger had had a fling with Carly Simon, and that's what the song was about, we'd all know and it wouldn't be a big mystery.
11.23.2005 5:01am