Thursday, December 04, 2003

Love songs, nothing but love songs

Hey Kari:

A few posts (Nov. 18) back you sang the praises of songs that make no sense. Indeed, you found some real oddities. Thoughts about that have been bouncing around in my mind and I decided to go ahead and make a full blown post out of a few disconnected bits of stuff cluttering my mind.

In a non-blog-mediated interaction you mentioned to me the unusual lyrics by Jimmy Webb in MacArthur Park. For non Los Angeles readers or people not familiar with LA, there is a MacArthur park near downtown.

MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it
'Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!

Is the song about that park? With strange lyrics you never know.…

What is the song about anyway?

When I talk with friends about the meaning of songs, we usually say love song. After all, what, probably 75% of all songs are about love? Kari, readership, higher or lower? Hmmm… says: Given that the song was written in 1967/1968, the general consensus is "bad acid".

The readers at popculturemadness even voted it the worst popular song of all time. To see the list of other works so honored, look here. I'd be curious to know what our readers think of that list.

But back to MacArthur park, believe it or not, somebody tried to organize all they could find about the song on the internet.

Unfortunately, the two most intriguing links are outdated so I can't check the validity of the quotes. Excerpts:

And then there's "MacArthur Park," made famous -- or infamous -- by Harris in 1968. The song has been ridiculed as classic '60s excess because of the overblown orchestra of the original version and the song's strange lyric -- that troublesome metaphor of the cake in the rain, etc. Columnist Dave Barry named it the worst song in history, or something like that, a few years ago.

But Barry and other detractors are just plain wrong. This is the inner cry of a young Okie kid lost in Los Angeles with a heart full of sorrows and a head full of acid. He has been crushed by love, but he vows to rise again, though he knows his loss always will cause him pain.

And then there is this:

"I always think that whatever is art, need not and should not be explained, as someone once said. "But I'll tell you: MacArthur Park is clearly about a love affair ending, and the person singing it is using the cake and the rain as a metaphor for that. OK, it may be far out there, and a bit incomprehensible, but that is what I was trying to get at. I suppose the whole thing was that I wrote the song at a time in the late 1960s when surrealistic lyrics were the order of the day. It was written around about the same time as Strawberry Fields, so it probably seems a bigger deal now than it was back then. Still, the lyrics never stopped Richard Harris, Frank Sinatra, Donna Summer and any number of trash garage bands from doing it - and who else can say that about one of their songs"?

What do you think Kari?

Speaking of love songs and Jimmy Webb, I have to post the lyrics to an unambiguous love song Wichita Lineman.

I am a lineman for the county and I drive the main road
Searchin' in the sun for another overload
I hear you singin' in the wire, I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line
I know I need a small vacation but it don't look like rain
And if it snows that stretch down south won't ever stand the strain
And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line
And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line

As someone who loves to drive and be on the open road, this kind of song has a resonance with me. I haven't heard it on the radio in a long time and it isn't in Apple's ITunes yet. But the echo of Glenn Campbell singing those haunting lines still rings in my mind.

Be well,


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