Song of the day

Some songs are just good. One such song is Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill.” 

It is used to great effect in this mock ad for Shining

All the sweet green icing flowing down

One of the strangest songs that ever came out of the 1960s — and perhaps of all time — is MacArthur Park, a song about lost love, a park in L.A., and a melted cake left out in the rain. [Listen to MacArthur Park]

The lyrics are truly over the top. To wit:

Between the parted pages and were pressed,
In love’s hot, fevered iron
Like a striped pair of pants

And

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!

Lyrics like this made it one of the most lampooned songs of its time. Some people have speculated the song is a metaphor for drugs and that writer Jimmy Webb’s original lyrics specified that the cake was laced with hashish. Another explanation is that the cake image is from a Disney movie.

To make things worse, Webb initially couldn’t find anyone to sing it, finally settleing on Richard Harris, the film actor who is most recently well-known for playing Professor Dumbledore in some of the Harry Potter movies. Harris proves in his performances not to have great pitch, and when he recorded the song, he incorrectly used the possessive — singing it as MacArthur’s Park. Webb first tried to correct him but then gave up, so Wikipedia says.

Eventually, other musicians came around. The song has now been covered by over 30 artists, including Frank Sinatra, the Four Tops (my favorite version), Donna Summer, Sammy Davis Jr., and Glenn Campbell. Maybe they, like me, appreciated the song for the way it builds into full absurd melodrama, with laments about melting icing and rain sodden recipes, while managing to still be emotionally moving.

In 1992, MacArthur Park was voted worst song by readers of the Dave Barry column, after he posed the question to them. (This of course was before Nickelback came onto the music scene.) And the song has been the source of some hilarious parodies, like this one in 1981 on Second City Television

And it has been profiled on this show about one hit wonders.

Richard Harris’s wife is featured commenting on the connection her husband and Webb supposedly felt over the song, explaining why Harris wanted to sing it after it had been rejected by The Association. As she puts it:

I think they understood each other very well. Wanting to do something that it is not necessarily what the establishment recognized.

It should be said that the song was recognized by the masses. In spite of the ridicule, “MacArthur Park” went to number two on the American charts in 1968.

R.I.P. Michael, and us

I think Michael Jackson’s death is so important to many of us because in some ways, it marks the passing of our youth. After all, he has been with us all of our life, if we are Millenials. His song “Billie Jean” was number one on the Top 40 charts when i was born, my third grade class listened to him incessantly and interminably during indoor recess, his friendship with Macauly Caulkin was a memorable tabloid story during an era of tabloids, I discovered the Jackson Five in junior high school at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I threw up 11 times when I had the flu and was watching the Jackson Five tv movie all day.

It is the end of an era for us 1980s kids.

Another R&B/Soul Song

Actually, this is more reggae, Sharon Forrester’s “Silly, Wasn’t I” (thanks again to Soul-Sides for turning me on to it). It is sweet and distraught at the same time. I have never gotten into reggae before, but I really like this.

Choice lyric:

I believed in you, That what you said was true /It didn`t occur to me it was a lie/Ha ha ha, silly wasn`t I

Listen on YouTube

R&B/Soul Current favorites

Thanks to a professor’s recommendation, I have found the website Soul Sides, which has injected my R&B soul listening with some new excitement. Following are my current favorite discoveries.

“Maybe So, Maybe No” The New Holidays (Listen on YouTube)

Choice lyric: “Could it be that your love was meant for me? Maybe so, maybe no.”

“My Love is Your Love (Forever)” The Isley Brothers (Listen on YouTube)

Choice lyric: “I never thought that love would ever smile on me, but now I see/All the while, luck was saving a brighter smile just for me.”

“Please Stay” Marvin Gaye (Listen on YouTube)

Choice lyric: “I’ll just lie tossin’ and turnin’ All night long/Scared that if I closed my eyes/When I got ready to wake up, I might find you gone”

“Sexy Mama” The Moments (Listen on Imeem)

Choice lyric:

“This afternoon I know you’ll like me/By tonight you’re gonna love me.”

Other choice lyrics are R-rated for my blog (I’m trying to keep it family-friendly) but are incredbily hot.

Warning: A couple of these songs are not for the faint-of-sexiness. All are worth many repeated listens, at least if you’re me.

New campy R&B song discovery

The song “Disrespect can Wreck” by the Escorts is one of those truly campy 1970′s R&B songs, and I would daresay a precursor to Fresh Prince and D.J. Jazzy Jeff’s “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” I came across it today thanks to Pandora.

Thanks to Susan Sontag’s monumental essay “Notes ‘On Camp,’” which is almost impossibly abstract in a “you had to be there to get why a Tiffany Lamp is camp” kind of way, and which I just read for a class, I see my appreciation of some of the more ridiculous R&B soul songs from the 1970′s as part of a love of a truly out there world of sequined costumes, psychedelic sets, and overtly silly lyrics. I don’t know what the Soul Train appearance for “Disrespect Can Wreck” looked like, but the lyrics are priceless. It has to do with taking out the trash when you live with your parents, among other things. Unfortunately, I can’t find the lyrics anywhere, but I’m still looking.

[To Come]

The next Escorts song I want to get into is in the Paranthetical Phrases sub-genre and it is called “Let’s Make Love (At Home Sometime).”

Review of Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power

Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power by Gerald Posner


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
A highly fascinating subject, and Posner unearths some goodies, but unfortunately, he writes like an investigative journalist and not a literary one. In particular, he does not work to build the sort of suspense that drives a good story, which Motown most definitely is, and he fails to weave the FASCINATING characters together with much depth; rather, he seems to feel like he has a laundry list of Motown dysfunction to go through with each person he covers, from Temptations lead singer, the sadly drug-addled David Ruffin to spurned Supreme Flo Ballard. I wish instead, Posner could re-create what it would have been like to be IN A ROOM with say, Smokey, Ruffin, Flo, Marvin, Berry Gordy, and Diana. Still, I must give credit where credit is due: Posner clearly went through a rear end-load of lawsuits in order to understand all of the contract battles between Motown artists and Gordy. He also rightly keeps Gordy as his center and alludes to the fascinating question–whether intentionally or not–of whether Motown’s legendary CEO was really the music visionary some give him credit for or just the only guy who would get black musicians together to make pop in the late 1950s. I think the latter, in a way. It seems like BG clearly recognized talent but ran Motown like a straitjacket with no appreciation for his artists’ individuality. He actually didn’t want to put out Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?! That’s almost a crime. Also, he and Diana Ross had a majorly DYSFUNCTIONAL relationship. Not to judge or anything, because I love that reading about that stuff.

View all my reviews.

Fed up with the sex talk

There is one element that the two sides in the on-going debate between abstinence advocates and hook-up culture propounders and defenders seem to share: they all sound self-righteously prescriptive when they talk about their lifestyle choice. Today in Salon, assistant editor Tracy Clark-Flory writes about her objections to the abstinence movement by trumpeting her own choices:

I’m a 24-year-old member of the hookup generation — I’ve had roughly three times as many hookups as relationships — and, like innumerable 20-somethings before me, I’ve found that casual sex can be healthy and normal and lead to better adult relationships.

[The fact that she's 24 and an assistant editor in Salon makes me feel old and washed up. Good for her.]

She then launches into her relationship and sex history, which makes fine conversation with a friend but seems almost like bragging in an online magazine article. She doesn’t really acknowledge the reasonable defenses of other approaches to getting sexually involved with people, like the view of one of the article’s response letters:

Most of the world religions attempt to teach restraint, not chastity. For the Jews, sexual restraint is incumbent on both genders, especially men. For other religions, modesty and restraint come in all shapes and sizes. What is universal, however, is the noble idea that we’re not supposed to act like mindless animals.

Yet, I discern a fundamental commonality from the casual sex loyalists and the abstinence loyalists which is that they are all looking for devoted companionship, a mature relationship, perhaps the love of their life. Also, they both also talk a hell of a lot about sex, whether it be how much they have or how they aren’t having it.

Whenever I read these articles–yes, maybe I should stop–I always come away resenting that some over-confident 20-something is shoving their views in my face, be they “you’re a prude if you have problems with casual sex,” or “you don’t respect yourself if you are having sex with someone you don’t love or aren’t married to.”

Particularly, with Clark-Flory’s article, I resented her insistence that her approach of throwing herself into relationships, hookups first, is a way of “vetting” her future companion is silly. There are plenty of people whose approach is to only get involved with someone who she is very much into and find their future lover or husband that way. I don’t believe that finding someone you love and love spending time with is quite the same as test driving til you find your perfect car. Still, I think the thing that can be said in favor of Clark-Flory’s approach is that it often reveals what you don’t want in a relationship, which is useful too. Most of all, approaches differ.

It would be ideal if women would stop turning on each other in these fruitless fights that pit “prude” versus “slut,” and, in the spirit of positive feminism channel the vituperation into more on tangible problems in which we all have an interest: equal pay in the workplace, friendlier workplace policies toward women who are pregnant, more help for daycare, equal parenting responsibilities between husband and wife (if that is what the couple wants), and so on.

And in the meantime, as the saying from the ’90s about abortion went, could we try to keep public disclosures about one’s sex life “legal, safe, and rare?”

The Beatles!

My brother’s sketch comedy group has been noticed by influential music site Pitchfork!  Check it out.

Juno criticism

Word to this article about all of the flaws in the cutesy, somewhat nauseating critic hit Juno:

A sample from “Loose Lips,” which powers a key scene in the movie:

“So if you wanna burn yourself remember that I love you/And if you wanna cut yourself remember that I love you/And if you wanna kill yourself remember that I love you/Call me up before you’re dead, we can make some plans instead/Send me an IM, I’ll be your friend.”

Those lines treat the very real problem of teen suicide with the same glib insincerity that “Juno” adopts while addressing teen pregnancy. Reitman may be right when he says the movie found its ideal soundtrack.

And I don’t like the Moldy Peaches either. Blech.

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