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‘Someone left a cake out in the rain’: The ‘MacArthur Park’ megapost

Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park” is one of the most powerfully evocative and epically heart-breaking “love lost” songs ever written. It is preposterous, although it is not kitsch. It is sublime. It’s a masterpiece for the ages.

But it drives some people nuts.

“MacArthur Park” was once ridiculed by “humorist” Dave Barry as the “worst song in modern history” and as having the “worst lyrics.” (Then again if Dave Barry is yer barometer o’ musical taste…) Others, more generously, have called the lyrics to “MacArthur Park” among the most misunderstood in pop music history, but until fairly recently, the great songwriter himself was always somewhat coy about the meaning. And why shouldn’t he have been? What might seem to be obtuse imagery was anything but—and he obviously knew this—but why ruin what people projected onto his words when they heard the song by explaining exactly what it meant to him? Many people probably have their own deeply held versions of what that song is “really” about. To them. It’s one of the key elements that makes “MacArthur Park” so personal for so many people.

After years of listening to and enduring what I’m sure must have been annoying efforts to either perform an exegesis on “MacArthur Park,” or simply lampoon it, Jimmy Webb spilled the beans about one of his greatest songs to the Guardian in 2013:

The lyrics to “MacArthur Park” infuriate some people. “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.” They think it’s a psychedelic trip. But everything in the song is real. There is a MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, near where my girlfriend worked selling life insurance. We’d meet there for lunch, and there would be old men playing checkers by the trees, like in the lyrics.

I’ve been asked a million times: “What is the cake left out in the rain?” It’s something I saw… But as a metaphor for a losing a chapter of your life, it seemed too good to be true. When she broke up with me, I poured the hurt into the song.

In an interview with Newsday the following year, Webb further explained:

Everything in the song was visible. There’s nothing in it that’s fabricated. The old men playing checkers by the trees, the cake that was left out in the rain, all of the things that are talked about in the song are things I actually saw. And so it’s a kind of musical collage of this whole love affair that kind of went down in MacArthur Park. ... Back then, I was kind of like an emotional machine, like whatever was going on inside me would bubble out of the piano and onto paper.

It was not the only deeply longing love song that he’d write for this same woman. Immoralized as the girl with “the yellow cotton dress foaming like a wave on the ground around your knees,” Suzy Horton was also the muse for “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Where’s the Playground, Susie” and “Didn’t We.” They’d met when they both attended the same high school in Colton, CA and Webb had carried a torch for her for years. She was apparently somewhat less than sold on him, however. When Webb found out that Horton was getting married, he composed “The Worst That Could Happen” (a hit for the Brooklyn Bridge) with the heart-ripping refrain:

“Girl, I heard you’re getting married, heard you’re getting married…. maybe it’s the best thing for you, but it’s the worst that could happen — to me.”

“MacArthur Park” and its epic musical detailing of the end of their relationship was offered to chart-topping vocal group the Association as a cantata—their producer Bones Howe had asked him to write something elaborate and orchestral for the band, and this was what Webb had come up with—but the composition was rejected for being too long.

Around this same time, Webb got chummy with Irish actor Richard Harris, who he got drunk with backstage at a charity event in Los Angeles. Harris sent the composer a telegram asking him to come to London to record an album, and Webb joined him. “MacArthur Park” was the final song in the pile and when he played it for Harris, the actor told him he’d give him his car—a Rolls-Royce Phantom Five—if the song became a hit (it was and he never did).
A shitton of “MacArthur Park” after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Times slows down and worlds collide in this evocative version of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’
03:58 am


Donna Summer
Giorgio Moroder
'I Feel Love'

Giant waves crash against monumental rocks, Tibetan monks groan into the void, space ships shimmer in their own heat, a building slowly collapses in upon itself as dinosaurs breathe heavily in their sleep, black-garbed nuns descend the cold cathedral steps startling a flurry of bats who ascend into an immense grey sky while below Jesus pulls himself from the cross and does long slow pirouettes, leaving perfect circles of blood on the merciless marble floors: red mandalas the priests mistake for wine and drunkenly sip from like ravenous ravens. Donna Summer’s voice and Giorgio Moroder’s production exude many new evocations in this time-stretched version of “I Feel Love.”

I think Moroder might like this.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Mashup: Donna Summer and Booker T & the MG’s - ‘I Feel Love’ / ‘Green Onions’

A couple of years ago Dangerous Minds featured a Velvet Underground/Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell mashup that resonated with a lot of our readers and eventually went viral. The guy that did that mashup, joeypropeller, has created something new that shares some of the haunting ambient quality of his Velvets/Gaye project. Propeller’s blending of Donna Summer singing “I Feel Love” and Booker T and The MGs’ “Green Onions” isn’t all that crafty or gimmicky, it’s just kind of cool and eerie - an opium dream of sexy funk. And by pitch-shifting Summer’s vocal, the whole thing sounds like it’s being beamed in from another planet.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
‘Roots Music for the Gay Community’: Horse Meat Disco’s tribute to Donna Summer

Horse Meat Disco are one of the most recognisable names in the modern dance music landscape, a four-piece dj unit known for their top quality record selection as well as their rather cheeky “boner horse” logo.

Focusing heavily on disco music, Horse Meat have done much to rehabilitate that maligned genre in the eyes and ears of the club-going public, and have already released three compilations of rare disco gems on the London-based funk and disco Strut label.

Their weekly party in South London’s Vauxhall is a free-for-all of dancefloor intensity and wickedly positive vibes. It’s overtly-gay, yet open-for-all, and its friendly atmosphere has done wonders to re-establish gay clubbing (and clubbing period) as something cool and fun to do in these down-at-heel times. By concentrating, heavily but not exclusively, on music from the 70s and 80s, Horse Meat have reconnected the modern gay audience with their own, often overlooked, history and culture, and serve as a timely reminder that going out, getting out of it and dancing ‘til the wee small hours was not invented yesterday.

In short, they’re legendary. And it’s my favorite club. To me, the best description of Horse Meat Disco comes from the Brixton DJ and label owner Andy Blake, who calls the club “roots music for the gay community.”

For their latest podcast, the second in a new series being made available through Soundcloud, Horse Meat Disco DJs James Hillard and Luke Howard have put together over an hour of their favorite tracks by Donna Summer, who died last week at the age of 63.

It’s a suitably joyous, and touching, celebration of disco’s reluctant female queen, and features much of her work with super-producers Giorgio Moroder and Quincy Jones, including a whole side of the excellent 1977 LP Once Upon A Time. Although generally regarded as a “singles” artist, Summer had some killer album tracks, as demonstrated here. She could also turn her hand to straight-up soul as opposed to icy electronica, and must rank as one of the most sampled artists of all time.

I wonder if any current musical “gay icons” will leave such a lasting legacy?


  HMD’s Donna Summer Tribute Podcast by Horse Meat Disco

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Gorgeous Donna Summer mural by Serve

Via Ego Trip:

Moved by the news of Donna Summer’s death, South Bronx-bred aerosol artist and DJ, SERVE (a/k/a SERVE ONE), wasted no time painting the stunning mural pictured above in homage to the late singer. With “Last Dance” – the title of Summer’s 1978 classic – emblazoned by an iconic image from the cover of her Live & More LP of the same year, it’s a beautiful piece of work. “I just had to do it…” SERVE wrote on his Facebook wall to the enthusiastic response of friends. Props, SERVE. RIP, Donna Summer.


Here’s another thing of rare beauty, Donna performing the wonderful “Spring Affair” from the Four Seasons Of Love EP on Soul Train:

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Donna Summer sings ‘Black Power’ on German TV in this seldom seen video from 1969
12:23 pm


Donna Summer


While America had the smooth jazz of Henry Mancini, Italy the lush atmospherics of Ennio Morricone, England the bold brass of John Barry, and France the moog experimentation of Jean Jacques Perry, Germany had all these rolled into one - Peter Thomas!”

In this clip circa 1969 from German TV series 11 Uhr 20, Donna Summer sings “Black Power” written and arranged by Peter Thomas. This is Summer’s first recording and it wasn’t released commercially until it appeared on a 1998 compilation of Thomas’s compositions called Moonflowers And Mini-Skirts.

Although Peter Thomas scored countless internationally released films and German television series, it wasn’t until bands like Pulp, Stereolab and Air started sampling his work that he became a hip commodity. 

Powered by an incredible, high-wired rhythm section consisting of Germany´s best studio and jazz musicians (including Siggi Schwab of Vampyros Lesbos fame on guitar and Lothar Meid of Amon Düül II on bass!) Thomas created ‘sonic explosions with enough force to put a man (with his woman) on the moon’. John Bender

Donna was 21 years old in this clip.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Donna Summer, the Queen of Disco, dead at 63
12:15 pm


Donna Summer

I’m feeling a little spooked out right now, not just at the news that the number one Disco Queen Donna Summer has died at age 63 after battling cancer, but also because I was going to post this clip today just because it is so damn good.

Taken from a 1979 TV special, here is Donna performing a live version of her classic “Sunset People” from the Bad Girls LP. The original track is one of my all time disco favorites, and one of her best collaborations with that damned pop music genius Giorgio Moroder.

In this clip Donna performs the track live while walking down the actual Sunset Strip, and play acts different roles of some of the Strip’s denziens (starlet, showgirl, traffic cop.) The track itself is different to the recorded version too, being slightly faster and sounding more “live band” than “studio whizz.”

The reason I wanted to post this clip today, before I heard the news, is that it is awesome, a real treat for Summer/Moroder/disco fans. Only now it takes on a new gravitas as the news filters through of Summer’s untimely death. And there I was, only recently pondering the thought of a Donna Summer-revival tour. She was one of the few major (still living) solo acts from the disco period not to be out touring again, and a glaring omission from the Etam Paris Fashion week “Disco Divas” show (which featured Grace Jones, Sister Sledge, the Pointer Sisters, Chaka Khan and Gloria Gaynor - what a fucking line-up!).

There are going to be plenty of Donna Summer obituaries coming through over the next few days with the passing of this true legend. If you’re aware of my other posts over the last 18 months here on Dangerous Minds, you will have gathered by now that I am a disco music obsessive. I shouldn’t have to explain what Donna Summer means to me, or to popular music culture in general. After the male-oriented “free love” boom of the 60s, she brought assertive female sexuality to the masses with “Love To Love You Baby” in 1975. Along with Giorgio Moroder, Summer redefined pop music with the epoch-defining “I Feel Love.” Hell, I still drop that track in my dj sets to this day, and it never fails to tear the roof off.

If you’re still in doubt as to how important her work was, ask Bernard Sumner of New Order who was more important to the band - Donna Summer or Kraftwerk?

Well then, here’s to you Donna Summer, performer and co-author of some of the best songs in dance, and pop, music history. You will be missed!

Donna Summer “Sunset People” (1979 TV special version)

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
A Tournament of Sally Go Round The Roses

Some claim the 1963 hit single Sally Go Round The Roses by The Jaynetts is the first recorded psychedelic pop tune. While this may or may not be true, it’s certainly a beautifully hypnotic, circular number with mysterious and whimsical lyrical imagery. It’s also, I’ve discovered, one of the most covered songs ever so I’ve decided to line up most of the versions I’ve found. Play ‘em one after the other or mix and match to make your own trance-inducing rose parade. Let’s begin with the original. I have no proof, but it’s claimed that the drummer on this session was Buddy Miles, later of Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies.

Many more roses after the jump…

Posted by Brad Laner | Leave a comment
I Feel Casablanca Records, Parliament Sells Itself

Before records labels like Slash and Dangerhouse came along to consume my youth, there was, of course, Casablanca Records.  With KISS, Meatloaf, Parliament and Donna Summer under its roof, the label straddled a number of seemingly incongruous musical worlds.

But as the LA Weekly’s Gustavo Turner points out in his review of Larry Harris’ new book And Party Every Day: The Inside Story of Casablanca Records, these worlds were all linked, albeit tenuously at times, by Casablanca’s visionary-in-chief (and Harris’ cousin), Neil Bogart.  A genius at both label promotion and self-indulgence, Bogart passed away from cancer in ‘82, but not before becoming one of the defining figures of the ‘70s.  Here’s a snip from Turner’s review:

They struck gold, big-time ?

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
Catching Up With Moroder

Childhood movie-going usually falls into two categories: Movies you want to see and do, and movies you REALLY want to see but are forbidden to.  Along with Equus and The Exorcist, Alan Parker‘s Midnight Express, for me, fell into that later category.  Drugs, Turkish prisons, male-on-male rape?  No way was I gonna talk my preteen self into that one.  That isn’t to say, though, that I couldn’t get my hands on the Giorgio Moroder soundtrack—something I played obsessively, and still hear faintly whenever I’m (not infrequently) trying to jump a wall. 

Moroder went on, of course, to even greater fame with Blondie, Donna Summer, even Japan.  The 70s synth icon turns 70 (!) next Spring, and still lives in Italy, where he scored most recently of all things the soundtrack to Leni Riefenstahl‘s last film, the marine documentary, Impressionen Unter Wasser.  You can find an excellent assortment of Moroder-related videos, here.  Or simply play the below video a few times and find a wall or two.


Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment