MacArthur Park

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Someone Left a Cake Out in the Rain...

A masterpiece
15
65%
Glorious but flawed
2
9%
Good...but not that good
3
13%
Too mawkish for me
0
No votes
Awful
3
13%
 
Total votes: 23

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Davey the Fat Boy
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MacArthur Park

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 14 Nov 2017, 06:02



Here’s a song that polarizes people.

I’d argue that no definitive version has been recorded, and every criticism I’ve heard of it has some validity.

And yet...

I think it’s a miracle. As evocative as any song of its time. I’ve never failed to be moved by any version. Richard Harris...Donna Summer...Waylon Jennings...The Four Tops...Sammy Davis Jr....Andy Williams....Maynard Ferguson’s great instrumental take... Glenn Campbell...Doesn’t matter. I’ll hang on every note/word listening to anyone perform this one, and most likely I’ll get a bit emotional before it is over.

It’s a song without a tentative note or word. It could care less about the safety that comes from understatement. It’s got all of the harmonic sweep of something like Life on Mars, but without hiding behind cryptic sentiments of any kind.

If rock and roll at its best is about commitment...show me another song that commits any more than this.

Of course we already know who will be along in the next page or two to roll their eyes. But fuck’em all ahead of time. This is a song I’ll put on brass knuckles for.
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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby Diamond Dog » 14 Nov 2017, 06:10

A good advert for "Why songwriters shouldn't necessarily imagine they're great vocalists".

The Richard Harris version is genius - I don't care that he wasn't a singer either.... the song just fits his delivery like a glove.

The song itself is one of Webb's greatest - and that's very high praise indeed. Unadulterated brilliance from top to bottom. I love it with all of my heart.
So you're living in Eden where, apples are good
But every narrow miracle, takes place on Earth
Yeah, some militia have arrived and, the percussion has come
And they're pounding out messages loud on the drum

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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 14 Nov 2017, 06:16

Diamond Dog wrote:A good advert for "Why songwriters shouldn't necessarily imagine they're great vocalists".


Yeah...he’s mannered as hell. But I didn’t want this thread to be about the Richard Harris record (which is over the top...but strangely wonderful).

I do think that some of Webb’s piano figures in that clip are truly amazing.
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Charlie O.
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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby Charlie O. » 14 Nov 2017, 06:18

I agree with darn near everything you say, but don't know whether to vote "A masterpiece" or "Glorious but flawed" because both feel true to me.

Members of The Association have recalled that it was originally part of an 18-minute cantata, which Webb offered to them to record - it would have taken up half of their fourth album. As they were all writers themselves, as well as having other "outside" material they wanted to do, they politely declined. Webb apparently now has no record, written or recorded, of the whole cantata.

Even before I knew that story, the Richard Harris record [I wrote this before reading your last post - but to me the song really is this particular record] always sounded to me like it was cut down to seven minutes from something much longer - kind of like (if you'll forgive the comparison) Jethro Tull doing a 12-minute condensed version of "Thick As A Brick" in concert. Some of the musical transitions seem a bit ungainly.

And yet the whole thing gets by on sheer chutzpah, on the grandness of its ambition... that, and the fact that the individual components really are that good. I'm not sure it's more than the sum of its parts, but when the sum is that high, who cares?
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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby Quaco » 14 Nov 2017, 08:08

Where's the "I drove by it the other day" option?
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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby toomanyhatz » 14 Nov 2017, 08:40

Voted for the "good" option, though I don't think that really cuts it. To be honest, the part about the cake and the icing has always seemed a bit clunky, but I DO admire that he commits to it fully, and there's an interesting dynamic to it. It seems to always stop just short of being too mawkish or too overdone, but it gets right up to the edge of being too much. Really I suppose "fascinating failure," were that an option, would be choice. He has other songs I find more 'glorious,' to be honest. It's no "Wichita Lineman." :D
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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby Robert » 14 Nov 2017, 09:06

I 've loved it since I first heard it in any version. Even this one:


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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby Rayge » 14 Nov 2017, 09:14

I voted on the basis of the Richard Harris recording rather than Jimmy Webb's version. I've always loved it.
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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby Goat Boy » 14 Nov 2017, 10:03

Like Charlie said, some of the transitions don’t flow all that smoothly but the individual parts are stellar and you get swept along in the records audacious chutzpah.

The central metaphor is a funny one and it would be easy to scoff (arf) and maybe wince a little. I can understand why some would just laugh but I like its gauche sincerity. The record inhabits a very specific time and place in the psyche where such things lose any trace of irony and where small things can send you over the edge.

It’s a ridiculous record in many ways but, yeah, I do think it’s a masterpiece but it has to be the Richard Harris version for me.
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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 14 Nov 2017, 10:36

toomanyhatz wrote:Voted for the "good" option, though I don't think that really cuts it. To be honest, the part about the cake and the icing has always seemed a bit clunky, but I DO admire that he commits to it fully, and there's an interesting dynamic to it. It seems to always stop just short of being too mawkish or too overdone, but it gets right up to the edge of being too much. Really I suppose "fascinating failure," were that an option, would be choice. He has other songs I find more 'glorious,' to be honest. It's no "Wichita Lineman." :D


It is easy to think of Bernie Taupin as a bad lyricist...until you hear any Elton John song written with another collaborator.

That’s how I got past imagining some more elegant alternative-universe version of MacArhur Park. At some point I accepted that elegance and poetic restraint would have dulled its blade.

One of the reasons I went with the video of Webb singing it was to illustrate his utter reverie. He’s swept away in it - just as I always get swept away by the sheer emotion of the thing. This idea in the lyric that the guy knows without a shadow of a doubt that this one hurt will define him for the rest of his life... I mean it is all just so fragile. It’s also probably bullshit on some level. Time will probably dull all of the feelings involved. But in this moment...that feels absolutely inconceivable.

Doesn’t a moment like that deserve a song?

I just find that whole idea so human. I know a LOT of songs, but I don’t know any that take you as deep into that place. To pick up on Goat Boy’s post above about the time and place it inhabits, I think you HAVE to walk right up to the edge of mawkish to gain entry into its emotional landscape. The universe absolutely NEEDED that clunky cake metaphor to make sure that at least one love song in this dimension actually felt as immediate and exposing as love can when it is at its most operatic. One song that doesn’t stop short.

Think about it...the same song with the supposedly bad cake metaphor also pulls off the amazing construction that is, “I’ll be thinking of you, and wondering why.” (Is he wondering why they didn’t make it together, or wondering why he’s still thinking of her? Or both at the same time?). Oh...and is there any image in any song as vivid as recalling a yellow cotton dress “foaming like a wave on the ground around your knees.”

When a song operates on that level of poetic observation, you have to imagine that any cake it happens to leave out in the rain probably needs to be out there with its sweet green icing flowing down. What kind of drab world would constrain us all to the kind of unrelenting tastefulness of cakeless song after cakeless song?

I probably also like Wichita Lineman more (which is a testament to Webb rather than a knock on MacArthur Park). One thing it isn’t is a failure of any kind. It never fails me. It’s a crucial song, and we’ll never have that recipe again.
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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby The Unfragrant Ox » 14 Nov 2017, 10:49

:lol:

fuck me sideways with a spoon
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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 14 Nov 2017, 10:58

Dr. E. PLATE wrote::lol:

fuck me sideways with a spoon


:P

Yeah...I’m laying it on pretty thick. But I just love this clusterfuck of a song.
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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby Bent Fabric » 14 Nov 2017, 11:42

You'll get no dissent from me.

I love everything about it - nothing comes close to the Harris record for me, which is no different from saying I've rarely heard a cover version of "Come Together" or "Won't Get Fooled Again" that I liked.

The cake is something I've lived with my entire life, so - as a symbol of inflamed youthful romance that can't last, traces of wedding cake frosting on pavement in a grim rainstorm is as natural seeming to me as some house or tree that has always been there. I wouldn't know how to not be okay with it at this point.

All the little bits (especially the sort of "adventure section" where the Wrecking Crew take off down the runway after the magnificent "There will be another song for me" interlude) are wonderful - it does in its own way what things like "Good Vibrations" or "Close to the Edge" or "Bohemian Rhapsody" do in theirs. I probably wish the whole thing were even more bombastic. When the opening motif surprises me on the radio, it's always a "Fuck YEAH!" moment.

And you know what? When it ends? I'm sorry that its over.

(MODERATE RELEVANCE: Evidently, the David Letterman band had been playing various parts of it as bumpers for commercial breaks, and Letterman got excited and asked Will Lee, et. al. "Do you guys wanna do the whole thing?". Eventually they did, and it was just a lovely unexpected bit of television content. It's out there on YouTube, if you're looking for 'footage of people playing the shit out of "MacArthur Park"')
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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby Bent Fabric » 14 Nov 2017, 11:44

.

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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby The Modernist » 14 Nov 2017, 11:59

I love it, but I don't see it as this crafted masterpiece. The lyrics are ridiculous, but their ridiculousness is part of the eccentric appeal for me. There is an undeniably kitsch aspect to the track, but that's something to be embraced I'd say. The Richard Harris version is definitive and all I need.

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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby Bent Fabric » 14 Nov 2017, 12:02

Davey the Fat Boy wrote:
Diamond Dog wrote:A good advert for "Why songwriters shouldn't necessarily imagine they're great vocalists".


Yeah...he’s mannered as hell.


I digress, but...

One of the many anecdotes that stuck with me from my time as a friend and professional colleague of several of Jim Webb's offspring addresses this particular white elephant.

Evidently, when JW was courting his first wife (who bore him something like six children), he had played his debut LP (late 60s? early 70s?) for her father (a cantankerous old Hollywood type - Barry Sullivan, I looked it up!), eagerly awaiting his approval.

Afterwards the exchange (which Webb recalled quite good-naturedly and affectionately at Sullivan's memorial) went something like this:

Webb: "So, what you think?"

Sullivan: "You know, Jim, there's only one thing wrong with your voice."

Webb: "Yeah, what's that?"

Sullivan: "It STINKS!!!!"

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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby Goat Boy » 14 Nov 2017, 12:22

:)
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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby Bride Of Sea Of Tunes » 14 Nov 2017, 12:53

Masterpiece -

I mean: a singularity. Something that just happens, and can't be repeated, not even with all the conscious effort in the world.

And all such things are flawed. Because perfection is the same as being dead.
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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby Snarfyguy » 14 Nov 2017, 14:20

Jimbo wrote:Look, all I know is pretty much what I get from Robert Parry over at Consortium News.

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Re: MacArthur Park

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 14 Nov 2017, 15:42

Snarfyguy wrote:


Ha! I’d forgotten this. Genius!
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