November 2, 2009 / 9:28 PM / 8 years ago

Carly Simon bounces back with homemade hits album

5 Min Read

<p>Singer Carly Simon in an undated publicity photo.Amanda Borland/Handout</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Carly Simon rarely performs concerts, due to a toxic combination of stage fright and fear of flying.

Fans who really want to hear the singer/songwriter dust off "You're So Vain" or "Anticipation" might be advised to go under the knife.

For Simon's boyfriend is a laparoscopic surgeon in Plymouth, Mass., and she occasionally accompanies him to the operating room where she soothes nervous patients by singing to them. Sporting scrubs and surgical mask, she even takes requests.

"One of them asked for 'Haven't Got Time for the Pain,'" Simon said in a recent interview, referencing a 1974 hit.

"I told them how much fun it was, and that I was going to be holding their hand when they woke up too. And then I watched the surgery and everybody thought that I was going to be grossed out and have to be taken from the room on a stretcher. I wasn't at all. I was fascinated by it."

Simon, 64, plans to swap such sterile surroundings for concert halls early next year, when she tours Europe for the first time in her career. The trek will help her promote her new album, "Never Been Gone." Her camp denies the trek is motivated by financial hardship linked to a recent lawsuit Simon filed against Starbucks Corp.

Clouds in Her Coffee

The coffee retailer scaled back its involvement in the music industry last year, just days before its Hear Music label released Simon's Brazilian-themed album "This Kind of Love."

"So therefore my record was basically an abortion," she said. "I was in a really bad funk, because I had put so much of myself into the record."

Last month she sued Starbucks in California, seeking $5 million to $10 million and making such allegations as "concealment of material facts" and "tortious interference." A Starbucks spokeswoman said the company "more than fulfilled its obligations" to Simon amid "tepid" sales.

Simon viewed the album as her swan song, and hoped sales would also boost her back catalog as well as help offset stock-market losses and the costs of owning homes in Manhattan and Martha's Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts. The financial fillip never eventuated. Perhaps worse, she was offended by Starbucks' silence.

"I tried to appeal to them and they didn't even answer me," she said. "You can get very down and you can think that it's you."

Her son, Benjamin Taylor, 32, rode to her rescue. The musician, the younger of two children from Simon's 1970s marriage to James Taylor, persuaded her to re-record her old hits with fresh arrangements at her Martha's Vineyard home. The resulting album, "Never Been Gone," was released last week on his Iris Records label.

The disc boasts acoustic renderings of tunes spanning her career, from her 1971 study of domestic disappointment "That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be" to her 1989 Oscar-winner "Let the River Run." It includes two new songs, the funky "No Freedom" and the long-lost ballad "Songbird," which she originally recorded on a Walkman decades ago.

Of course, "You're So Vain," her chart-topping 1972 swipe at a famously undisclosed narcissist, made the cut.

"It's very tough," she said of revisiting the tune. "Even I was a little bit in awe of doing that."

But she had just heard a cover version performed by indie rocker Matthew Sweet and former Bangles singer Susanna Hoffs, "and I thought, 'Well, if they can do it, I can do it!'"

This time around, she played guitar rather than piano, and picked the strings particularly violently. Her voice sounds parched on some couplets, adding to the song's tragicomedy.

Simon has never publicly revealed the identity of the object. The usual suspects are Taylor or one of her many ex-boyfriends, such as Warren Beatty or Mick Jagger or Cat Stevens or Kris Kristofferson, or ... Yes, there were a lot of men, unable to resist the full lips and seductive eyes.

Who was the best? The correct answer is her surgical boyfriend, Richard Koehler, who is a decade her junior.

"He's just a delicious person," she says, and goes on to describe him in gooey terms that would likely earn much ribbing from his medical colleagues.

She has committed detailed notes on her paramours either to the deep recesses of her mind or to paper, and has talked to publishers about writing a memoir. The exes can breathe easy.

"I need a certain amount of money to be able to do it, because it will take the rest of my life! I'm either plagued or benefited by this incredible memory that I have."

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