MacArthur Park


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I can only remember Donna Summer singing this song, and it came as a surprise that there were earlier versions - and that the original was none other than Richard Harris who played Albus Dumbledore!

It always puzzled me why anyone would get so emotional about a cake being left out in the rain. (And I'm not the only one - it comes high on a lot of "Songs With The Stupidest Lyrics Ever" lists.) But recently I discovered it is a true story. Jimmy Webb (who wrote the song) had a love affair with someone with whom he spent a lot of time in MacArthur Park in Los Angeles. And the incident with the cake really happened. The cake is not a metaphor: it was an actual cake which actually did get rained on.

When you're in love, the small things you share gain great significance, and their memories  evoke the greatest pain if (for whatever reason) you lost that love. The heart is a fragile thing.

Edited by Jamie123
I was wrong Jimmy Webb wrote the song. Richard Harris was merely the first to record it.
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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Vort said:

All the sweet, green icing flowing down. I don't think that I can take it.

"Nope and I'll never have that recipe again!"

Just for interest sake I found MacArthur Park on Google Maps. I somehow expected it to be more impressive than that (seeing as it has a song written about it).

Untitled.thumb.png.814794e34e6427c48673be815ca36873.png

Edited by Jamie123
It's "have that recipe", not "get that recipe". I just looked it up.
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21 hours ago, Jamie123 said:

It always puzzled me why anyone would get so emotional about a cake being left out in the rain. (And I'm not the only one - it comes high on a lot of "Songs With The Stupidest Lyrics Ever" lists.)

Women can be very emotional creatures.  😁

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What a great topic! I haven't thought about that song in probably 40 years, though I'm very familiar with it from my childhood. As a child, I thought the lyrics were bizarre and surrealistic. As I grew through my teens, I never thought to question my childhood viewpoint. So after reading Jamie's OP, I thought about the lyrics, and it occurred to me (because it was blindingly obvious to my almost-60-year-old brain) that this was a song about deeply regretting a lost love, and not about cake.

I sincerely wonder how many things in this life we think we know and understand, only to discover (either in this life or the next) that we had no idea at all what we were talking about. I spoke to my 16-year-old son about this realization, and we shared a good laugh.

When I stand before my Maker, I intend to thank him for the opportunity and blessing of my mortal experience. We learn lots of valuable lessons here, and sometimes our ignorance and hubris prove vastly entertaining when we finally see them.

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Posted (edited)
54 minutes ago, Vort said:

What a great topic! I haven't thought about that song in probably 40 years, though I'm very familiar with it from my childhood. As a child, I thought the lyrics were bizarre and surrealistic. As I grew through my teens, I never thought to question my childhood viewpoint. So after reading Jamie's OP, I thought about the lyrics, and it occurred to me (because it was blindingly obvious to my almost-60-year-old brain) that this was a song about deeply regretting a lost love, and not about cake.

I sincerely wonder how many things in this life we think we know and understand, only to discover (either in this life or the next) that we had no idea at all what we were talking about. I spoke to my 16-year-old son about this realization, and we shared a good laugh.

When I stand before my Maker, I intend to thank him for the opportunity and blessing of my mortal experience. We learn lots of valuable lessons here, and sometimes our ignorance and hubris prove vastly entertaining when we finally see them.

I don't know what the final accounting of my life will be. But as for the intermediate accounts, I've learned that my worst screw-ups were rarely what I thought they were at the time.

P.S. Perhaps I should have said the cake is not ONLY a metaphor. A thing can be both real and metaphorical. Like Hosea's marriage.

Edited by Jamie123
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3 hours ago, Vort said:

What a great topic! I haven't thought about that song in probably 40 years, though I'm very familiar with it from my childhood. As a child, I thought the lyrics were bizarre and surrealistic. As I grew through my teens, I never thought to question my childhood viewpoint. So after reading Jamie's OP, I thought about the lyrics, and it occurred to me (because it was blindingly obvious to my almost-60-year-old brain) that this was a song about deeply regretting a lost love, and not about cake.

I had a similar experience. I thought it was a wacky song from that guy that sang American Pie. How silly that he thinks rain on a cake destroys the recipe. What world does he live where the only way to preserve a recipe is to consume the baked result?

In this past year I introduced my kids to it through Weird Al’s Jurassic Park. They all had a good laugh while I thought “It’s a metaphor, idiot.” Funny how time and life experience can change perspective.

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10 hours ago, mordorbund said:

I had a similar experience. I thought it was a wacky song from that guy that sang American Pie. How silly that he thinks rain on a cake destroys the recipe. What world does he live where the only way to preserve a recipe is to consume the baked result?

In this past year I introduced my kids to it through Weird Al’s Jurassic Park. They all had a good laugh while I thought “It’s a metaphor, idiot.” Funny how time and life experience can change perspective.

Gotta love the burp at the end!

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On 6/22/2022 at 2:03 PM, Vort said:

All the sweet, green icing flowing down. I don't think that I can take it.

 

On 6/22/2022 at 9:24 PM, Jamie123 said:

Just for interest sake I found MacArthur Park on Google Maps. I somehow expected it to be more impressive than that (seeing as it has a song written about it).

Untitled.thumb.png.814794e34e6427c48673be815ca36873.png

I'm amazed that the lake is still green after all those years. There must have been a HUGE amount of icing on that cake!

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20 hours ago, mordorbund said:

I had a similar experience. I thought it was a wacky song from that guy that sang American Pie. How silly that he thinks rain on a cake destroys the recipe. What world does he live where the only way to preserve a recipe is to consume the baked result?

In this past year I introduced my kids to it through Weird Al’s Jurassic Park. They all had a good laugh while I thought “It’s a metaphor, idiot.” Funny how time and life experience can change perspective.

A cover version of the song was gaining popularity around the time the first "Jurassic Park" movie was released, which is why he used it for the parody. 

It's the same reason why he used "American Pie" as the basis for a parody song about Star Wars Episode I, as a then-recent cover of the song had put it back in the spotlight, and with the song as long as it was he felt it the perfect fit.

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, Ironhold said:

It's the same reason why he used "American Pie" as the basis for a parody song about Star Wars Episode I, as a then-recent cover of the song had put it back in the spotlight, and with the song as long as it was he felt it the perfect fit.

I think American Pie is one of those songs that will always be remembered, regardless of whether there are covers of it or not. Rather like Bat out of Hell, Stairway to Heaven and Bohemian Rhapsody. You may be right about MacArthur Park though - it's not in quite the same league as those songs.

I knew a fella once who was forever strumming little bits of Stairway to Heaven on his guitar. It got most annoying. I wanted to say to him "Either play the whole thing, or put it away!" I didn't though.

Edited by Jamie123
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On 6/23/2022 at 2:57 PM, Vort said:

 I haven't thought about that song in probably 40 years, though I'm very familiar with it from my childhood.

Heh- core memory unlocked here too. What a difference a few years makes! I would’ve been single digits when this song was on the radio, and I don’t remember it at all.  
 

I do, however, have a vague ghost like memory of hearing the weird Al parody of it. Over the decades, there have been a good dozen songs that I first heard through parody, often never even knowing there was an original song, until I would hear it years later. I’m happy to add another one to that pile, as I have listened to both Donna summers and Dumbledore’s versions for the first time ever.

I bet this is where I get one of my bits of wisdom in my life. I never think I understand something, until I can satirize it in a way that has someone who knows more than me, chuckle and tell me I got it. (Or get mad at me for completely missing the point, depending on how much they understand and value satire.)

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24 minutes ago, NeuroTypical said:

I do, however, have a vague ghost like memory of hearing the weird Al parody of it.

 I thought I knew all of Weird Al's stuff, but I don't think I ever heard this parody.

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28 minutes ago, Vort said:

 I thought I knew all of Weird Al's stuff, but I don't think I ever heard this parody.

In late 1988 / early 1989, Orion Pictures contacted Al about having his own theatrical release.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UHF_(film)

The film, a slapstick comedy known as "UHF", opened during the infamous Summer of 1989, alongside such movies as:

Tim Burton's "Batman"

"Lethal Weapon 2"

"Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade"

"Dead Poet's Society"

"Robocop 2"

"James Bond: License To Kill"

Et cetra.

Vanity projects like "UHF" and Hulk Hogan's "No Holds Barred" were absolutely crushed at the box office. 

Al's 1988 "Even Worse" album and his rendition of "Peter and the Wolf" had been massively popular, but the lukewarm reception to his first Greatest Hits album and now "UHF" being a flop cost him his forward momentum. He would take a few months to collect himself, and then began work on what would be his 1992 comeback album "Off The Deep End". 

The album was such a success that Al was under pressure from his label to quickly produce a follow-up. A greatest hits album and "The Food Album", both hastily-done compilations of existing songs, were shoved out the door so that Al could put together "Alapalooza": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alapalooza . The album was very obviously done in haste, much as 1986's "Polka Party" had been, and so it met with mixed reactions from critics and fans alike. 

The same financial pressures that led to his label throwing so much material out the door in the wake of "Off The Deep End" led to them throwing even more out the door between 1993 and 1996, including an anthology boxed set, a second official greatest hits album, and "The TV Album" compilation. This sheer amount of product, combined with the smash success of "Bad Hair Day", caused "Alapalooza" to be quickly forgotten. 

 

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I've never heard this song before.  And, yes, the tune is very nice, but the lyrics...

The only place that this combo thrives is in musicals.  So, it seems fitting that Richard Harris (Camelot) would have been the original performer.

Edited by Carborendum
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  • 2 weeks later...

I remember Donna Summer’s version very well. I used to play the song on the piano and sing the lyrics. I never stopped to think what the lyrics meant, it was just a fun song to play and to sing.  But, today, I’m struggling!!! I listened to Donna sing it several days ago after reading the post and now I can’t get it out of my head! Three straight days in my head of “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!”

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