I was fifteen coming up to sixteen in November 1972 when Carly Simon released her “No Secrets” album and I fell in love with with her voice and her lyrics in equal measure.
Forty-five years later, that album still gives me pleasure although changes in my experience and expectation have altered what the songs mean to me.
The song that’s been calling to me the loudest recently is “It Was So Easy”.
For those of us who bought the vinyl version back in the last century, this was third track on side two. Now my iPad thinks of it as track eight of ten which makes it sound like the Borg have assimilated my music.
“It Was So Easy” was never released as a single. I don’t remember hearing it on the radio. It was something that I got to savour, lying in the dark, in a room filled with the soft scent of warm plastic and dust that record players had back then, with Carly Simon singing just for me.
Back then, I enjoyed the clever variations in the rhymes and the bubbling joy in the music that spoke to me of American sunshine that, in my teens, spent in cloudy England, I’d never experienced.
I got the “It was so easy” part but I skipped over the subtext that it wasn’t easy anymore.
Now, when I listen, the verse that jumps out at me is:
I remember a time when our fears could be named
And courage meant not refusing dares
These days, I have more fears than I used to. The world is becoming a darker place where kindness is replaced with contempt and the desire for peace is being extinguished by a nationalism that is unthinkingly selfish and proudly ignorant.
If things were easy, I would stop working soon and use the money I’ve accumulated to enable me to spend my days with my wife, farting around doing bugger all.
Except, I now hear the past tense in:
It was so easy then never takin’ any stands
It was so easy then, holdin’ hands
and I find myself asking, “what does courage mean” now that I’m sixty, financial secure, well informed, good with words and can clearly see the very wealthy 0.1% undermining democracy and pushing more and more people into grinding poverty?
I’m not a crusader. I’ve never been particularly brave. I’m not even a people person. I’ve always thought that all I needed was my wife and my books and the time to enjoy both of them.
And yet… I keep playing this song.
It WAS so easy once.
It isn’t anymore.