Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Lyrics & Their Meaning Part One- MacArthur Park

There is a band from Iceland by the name of Sigur Ros whose music consists of a language called Hopelandic that their singer Jonsi made up.

It consists of sighs, moans, groans and screams. Anything that takes his fancy when trying out a melody line. To most people it would probably sound as if he is singing in his native Icelandic.
To me it’s relevant because it totally dismisses the use of words as an important part of song structure.
Where this is not really relevant, as history has shown us, just check out any classical music piece, not a word anywhere. Neither am I discounting countless songs with heart felt words and stories that would be silly.
I do believe however that sometimes people get lazy and just pop any old shit anywhere and pass it off as relevant.
For the next few posts I am listing some very popular songs and what their song lyrics are supposed to mean or what they represent if anything at all.

MacArthur Park (1968) – Richard Harris

Jimmy Webb is one of the worlds best known songwriters
His songs By the time I get to Phoenix‘ and Galveston have become country rock standards and He is considered along with Paul Williams and Randy Newman as a leader in the Adult contemporary music genre.
So what was he thinking when he wrote MacArthur Park
Musically the song is a soaring production with lush orchestral arrangement, but those lyrics! Webb himself has been quoted as saying the words even make him cringe, when asked to elaborate Webb said “ O.K, it may be far out there, and a bit incomprehensible, but that is what I was trying to get at. I suppose the whole thing was that I wrote the song about the same time in the late1960s when surrealistic lyrics were the order of the day. It was written about the same time as ‘Strawberry Fields’, so it probably seems a bigger deal now than it was back then”.
Web doesn’t make it clear whether he meant the song was about childhood memories (as Strawberry Fields was about) or he liked the food theme. As usual everybody else has an opinion for him. The most popular theory being that the song is a metaphor for lost love. And judging by the description and the era it was written obviously through the eyes of someone off their head on Acid.
Even though at the time of writing MacArthur Park Webb was a hugely successful writer of hits, the band The Association collectively turned down the song as too weird. So Webb offered the song to his friend hard drinking Irish Actor Richard Harris. Webb said the reason he worked with Harris had more to do with hanging out and drinking rather than create great art.
Harris who had just experienced success as Arthur in the lame Hollywood musical Camelot was more a tough guy actor but was looking for different directions and fancied himself a bit of a singer after the role in the movie even though critically he was considered a weak choice for the lead role.
Harris’ choice paid off and the song was a mammoth hit worldwide.
Similar songs around this period may have contributed to its success. Songs like Eloise, Nights in White satin, Out of time and Whiter shade of Pale also selling truckloads of records as the super ballads of the period.
Even though the lyrics themselves are subject to ridicule it didn’t stop Frank Sinatra from covering the song even though he was relentlessly critical of silly song lyrics, which in his opinion ruined the mood of a song.
The music has gone on to be a Muzak classic while the words have been constantly voted in the top ten dumbest lyrics of all time even as recently as 1999, even beating such tough competition as Yummy, yummy, yummy (I got love in my tummy).
Of course we have to mention before he died Richard Harris played Dumbledore in the Harry Potter Movies. And his still the best one.

© Shidot Prod. 2003


Frank said...

ROFL - Love your writting style. Keep up the great work. If you write a book I'll read it, might even buy it.

Anonymous said...

This does not necessarily mean something personal from Webbs life, though he may have, originally, had that in mind; poets often write more than they know, at the time of the writing. MacArthur Park, and the melting cake, is a great metaphor for our own Great Park, and the universal hope that we all have, for a time, that we then watch melting before our eyes.