Living Large in Northeast Ohio
March 5, 2016
It’s funny how age gives one perspective. Like all good art, a song can evoke different thoughts in different people. There...in my car on Route 422...the meaning of the song became clear to me. I had a moment of clarity, an epiphany really. Plus I had a couple glasses of wine at dinner.
To me, MacArthur Park was a way of life, a place of security and achievement, life in America in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. It took a long time to achieve that way of life, but we didn’t take care of it. We let it go, and it melted away. And we can never get it back because we lost the knowledge and ability to recreate it. It kind of reminds me of America today. Pretty heavy stuff, huh?
The truth of the matter is somewhat less profound. Jimmy Webb used to date Susan Ronstadt, Linda Ronstadt’s cousin. She worked in an office bordering MacArthur Park in New York City. The couple spent many lunch hours in the park. The affair went on even after Susan married somebody else. When it finally ended, Jimmy Webb wrote the song as a lover’s lament (sob). The break up also inspired By the Time I Get to Phoenix. Let’s balance this out: the slow decline of America versus an illicit love affair gone south. Well to each his own!
Whatever the inspiration, it is still a great song. Richard Harris singing it….that’s another story. I think he needs to buy looser shorts when he goes for that high note at the end. That’s enough to make me want to go to Phoenix. What time does the Smothers Brothers come on?
Mark G. Mangie
Last week my wife and I were doing some shopping in a garden shop in Cleveland. It’s one of my favorite places to go with lots of pots and such to look at. The music being played over the speaker system was some “ really boss” music from the 1960’s. As I was looking at some fertilizer it started to play MacArthur Park sung by Richard Harris. You know…
MacArthur Park is melting in the dark,
all the sweet green icing running 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!!!
What an uplifting little ditty. Well…not really. But it was one of my favorite tunes back in the day. I used to play it on the piano driving my parents’ nuts, especially the rock bridge between the main melody lines. It was a long song lasting almost eight minutes. It gave the DJ’s a chance to use the facilities, so to speak.
I remember there was a lot of controversy when it was released, mostly centering around what the hell was the song about. What cake? What melting icing? And what’s with the rain and the baking time stuff? As pop gurus of the day speculated about it, I never really gave it much thought. It was just another goofy song of my generation; something akin to Lollipop- Lollipop.
MacArthur Park was written by Jim Webb, who also wrote tunes like By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Up, Up and Away, Wichita Lineman, The Worst That Could Happen, and Galveston. He was also a regular guest on the Glenn Campbell and Smothers Brothers television shows. Any recording artist who was anybody recorded Jimmy Webb songs…from Linda Ronstadt to Simon and Garfunkle.
So...what does it mean? I hadn’t heard it for years so it really caught my attention in the garden center. I stopped what I was doing and pulled out my trusty but antiquated Blackberry and downloaded it from Amazon at the cost of 99 cents and played it over and over again on the way home from Cleveland over the wireless radio connection in my car. A lot different than listening to Boots Bell!
MacArthur Park Is Melting...