I have been thinking about music for the past few days... not that music isn't regularly on my mind, but this is different. I have been thinking about sad songs, and songs that, no matter what, I simply cannot grasp. I plan to spend the next few days writing about music, not as a critic, but as a consumer. I wanted to start with my thoughts on a particular Beatle's song, but another song has pushed it's way to the forefront of my tiny little brain and won't go away. That song is MacArthur Park.
You know that one, don't you? If you aren't old enough to remember British actor Richard Harris' original recording from 1968, you might remember the more popular version recorded by Donna Summer in 1978. Anyway, the song has been covered by a long list of artists, including Frank Sinatra, Waylon Jennings, The Four Tops, Maynard Ferguson, Percy Faith, and Sammy Davis, Jr... even Maureen McGovern recorded the song (don't lie, you know that you know who Maureen McGovern is/was... Torn Between Two Lovers.... right?).
They say that if you want to know how great a song is, all you have to do is see how many different artists have covered it, and how many different genres of music it has been arranged for. If that truly is the test, and I beleive that it is, then MacArthur Park has to qualifiy as a true giant in musical history, and full credit must be given to Jimmy Webb for having written it.
Now to the point of this post: Here is the thing... I am old enough to remember both of the most popular versions of this song, and as much as I love the musicality, it still makes no sense to me. Now, I know that there are strong feelings about it, but let's be reasonable, no matter what Mr. Webb was trying to say with his lyrics, he cearly failed since most people still can't grasp his point without a study guide. Now, you talk about genius.... this guy writes a song that makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER and it is an unqualified hit by any measurement you care to use.
If you are a fairly young person and have to go to iTunes to hear this song for the first time, that's OK... go listen and come back, you'll like it, I promise you, but her are the lyrics for your perusal... tell me if any of this makes sense to you.
Spring was never waiting for us, girl
It ran one step ahead
As we followed in the dance
Between the parted pages and were pressed,
In love's hot, fevered iron
Like a striped pair of pants
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
I recall the yellow cotton dress
Foaming like a wave
On the ground around your knees
The birds, like tender babies in your hands
And the old men playing checkers by the trees
If someonw were to ask me, and of course nobody gives a crap about what I think, this song MIGHT be interpreted as being about the loss of innocence, or virginity... or baby birds, or.... hell, I don't know.
What do you think?