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


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.

Four Tops on Soul Train

Just found this awesome video of the Four Tops singing “Keeper of the Castle” on Soul Train in 1972. The best part is at minute 1:07 when you can see a guy on the bottom left doing the robot. The dancing in general is great. Yes, there was dancing in America before rap and to 40, and it was more interesting 

Comic Sans is funny

This year, WordPress is making suggestions each day for a topic bloggers should write about if they choose to take the post-a-day challenge. Yesterday’s topic was “who deserves more credit than they get?” I’m going to answer that, but I’m going to change this to a thing.

Comic Sans, the ubiquitous Microsoft font, (one I associate with middle-aged female office managers in Indiana) gets a bad rap, but it has inspired some very funny creations, and I think deserves more credit than it gets. There is the McSweeney’s article, written in the voice of the maligned font; a PSA of sorts for the “Comic Sans Criminal;” and, my personal favorite, this YouTube video of Hitler learning that his “marketing team” chose to do up its latest advertising campaign with Comic Sans font (Featuring the widely-used clip from Downfall).

Hipsters in 2011

Today, January 2, 2011, I am going to revisit a post I wrote almost six years ago, because it still manages to get more page views than some of my current posts. It’s about hipsters, which apparently is a popular search term on the google. But what I wrote is so hopelessly out-of-date that it makes me wonder if either hipsters have evolved dramatically since 2004 or I was just really off the ball. Here’s what I mean:

In 2004, I said Hipsters

Shops at: Urban Outfitters, Salvation Army

2011 commentary: Urban Outfitters? Really?

Reads: David Sedaris, Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers,

2011 commentary: Hipsters read books?

Listens to: Rufus Wainwright, Elephant 6, Stereolab, emo

2011 commentary: Emo? Maybe 12-year-old hipsters. But seriously, I don’t think Pitchfork has mentioned any of these musicians for at least three years.

Wears: Newsboy hat, horn-rimmed glasses, Vans, Blazers, Uggs (though starting to wear Uggs in irony)

2011 commentary: I can be forgiven for the fashion being way off

But seriously, I don’t really know how to characterize what hipsters wear or do. I know they still exist because I see them when I go to Williamsburg. And I’ll admit, I don’t have as visceral a dislike of them as maybe I used to, or as so many non-hipsters seem to. They’re just people, people! Happy New Year’s!


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