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Flashback: Carly Simon Performs Cat Stevens-Inspired ‘Anticipation’ in 1971

Shortly after the release of her 1971 self-titled debut, Carly Simon received an unexpected opportunity: a five-night stint opening for Cat Stevens at the Troubadour in Los Angeles.

The singer-songwriter was hesitant for several reasons, including the fact that she had never performed solo or been to Los Angeles and had an extreme fear of flying. The shows were also three weeks away, and she needed to hire a band. She managed to secure drummer Russ Kunkel, who had suddenly become available after James Taylor suffered a motorcycle accident and delayed his tour. Simon arrived in Los Angeles and experienced severe stage fright. “After that, as far as I was concerned, I would be done with live performances forever,” she wrote in her memoir, Boys In the Trees.

That obviously didn’t happen, as Simon received overwhelming acclaim and spent the rest of the year touring. She began a brief romance with Stevens (now known as Yusuf), who had recently released his landmark album, Tea for the Tillerman. When they both performed at Carnegie Hall that June, Simon invited him to her apartment for dinner. She made chicken with cherries and waited for Stevens, who was running late. Within minutes, she famously wrote a song about it.

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“I got agitated,” she recalled. “I dosed my eyes in a deliberate attempt to relax and loosen up. I got lost in the boundaries of my expectation. Or was it fear? The darkness seemed infinite, which scared me. Would I ever be able to control my emotions? I let a sliver of light through my eyelids and by the time I did, the fear had changed. It became practical. I looked at my watch. He was still late. I took my guitar in my cold hands and determinedly wrote ‘Anticipation,’ sitting on my bed. It was all there.”

“Anticipation” became the title track for Simon’s next album released that fall — her second in one year. In the video above, she performs the song at the 1971 Schaefer Music Festival, which appeared in a TV special alongside the Beach Boys, Ike & Tina Turner, Kate Taylor, and Boz Scaggs.

Simon hasn’t performed “Anticipation” since 2008, and her last stage appearance was at the 2018 Tibet House benefit at Carnegie Hall, where she sang “Let the River Run” backed by a choir. The last time she had performed at the iconic venue was that summer opening for Cat Stevens all those years ago, when it was really fortunate that her chicken and cherries had gone cold.

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