The Falcon's Nest

The Falcon’s Nest Three Way: MacArthur Park

Posted by falconi5 on October 27, 2011


Song info from songmeanings.com

With the famous “cake out in the rain,” this is one of the more lyrically intriguing songs ever recorded. Jimmy Webb, who wrote the song, explained in Q magazine: “It’s 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 I wrote the song at a time in the late 1960s when surrealistic lyrics were the order of the day.”

The love affair Webb speaks of was with Susan Ronstadt, Linda Ronstadt’s cousin. Said Webb (in the Los Angeles Times), “MacArthur Park was where we met for lunch and paddleboat rides and feeding the ducks. She worked across the street at a life insurance company. Those lyrics were all very real to me; there was nothing psychedelic about it to me. The cake, it was an available object. It was what I saw in the park at the birthday parties. But people have very strong reactions to the song. There’s been a lot of intellectual venom.”

Spring was never waiting for us, girl
It ran one step ahead
As we followed in the dance
Between the parted pages we were pressed,
In love’s hot, fevered iron
Like a striped pair of pants (Chorus)
MacArthur’s 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! I recall the yellow cotton dress
Foaming like a wave
On the ground beneath your knees
The birds, like tender babies in your hands
And the old men playing chinese checkers by the trees

 
Webb produced this song for Richard Harris, crossing the Atlantic Ocean several times in the process. Explaining how he got together with the actor, Webb told us, “I met Richard on stage at the Coronet Theatre in Los Angeles. We were doing like an anti-war pageant with Walter Pidgeon, Edward G. Robinson, Mia Farrow and some other people, and I was doing music. In our off-time we used to like to play the piano backstage and sing and have a few beers, and Richard and I got to be really good friends. And we were just kind of tossing around that thing about, ‘Wow, one of these days we ought to make a record.’ And I used to say that to everybody, I’d say that to a cab driver.So one day I got a telegram over at my house on Camino Palmero that said, ‘Dear Jimmy Webb, come London, make record. Love, Richard.’ And it was the first time I was ever out of the country. I got on a 707 and flew to London and started doing this record with Richard. ‘MacArthur Park’ was kind of in the pile, but we had a lot of songs that we were interested in doing. And we ended up doing two albums. And a lot of people think the second album was better than the first. The second album was called The Yard Went on Forever.The first one was called A Tramp Shining. And that takes us to the question, which is why would you get an actor instead of a singer? Well, he was a singer. He had just done a very successful top-grossing motion picture, which was a musical version of Camelot. And he had sung all the Lerner & Loewe stuff. I mean, it wasn’t perfect, but he had sung it. He had gotten through the score and it was considered successful. And I thought he had done a good enough job singing Lerner & Loewe that I thought I could make a record with him. I didn’t think it was that weird – I still don’t know why people are so taken aback by it. It’s not like some strange thing. I had just done a musical. You know what I’m saying?

He knew every Irish song that he had ever heard, he could sing them all, he did sing them all. His favorite drinks were black velvets, champagne and Guinness. Get a couple of black velvets in him and he’d start singing Irish songs. And I still know probably about a thousand Irish songs that Richard taught me. And we ended up making a successful album – it’s hard to find a more successful album than that album. The song itself, ‘MacArthur Park,’ was covered by probably 150 or 200 artists. Still being covered, including Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton, all the jazz artists wanted to cut it.

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