Monday, July 25, 2011

Music Monday ~ The Song Not The Singer: ~ MacArthur Park


Sincere condolences to the people of Norway, particularly the loved ones of those murdered this weekend.


RIP Amy Winehouse.

Her life was turning, turning,
In mazes of heat and sound.
But for peace her soul was yearning,
And now peace laps her round.
(From "Requiescat" by Matthew Arnold)


You absolutely love it or switch off after the first few bars, because "the lyrics are senseless" (they can be found at the at end of this post). But they're not senseless. In any case, it's a wonderfully evocative piece of music in its own right, without the lyrics. Jimmy Webb wrote it and, according to Wikipedia, originally intended it would be part of a cantata. Actor Richard Harris, a friend of Webb, having whetted his appetite for singing in Camelot, recorded the song in 1968. His version remains the definitive one for many. I'm fascinated, though, by the variety of interpretations of the song both vocal and instrumental.

Wikipedia also states that:
The inspiration for "MacArthur Park" was the relationship and breakup between Webb and Susan Ronstadt, a cousin of singer Linda Ronstadt. The song's title was the park where the two occasionally met for lunch and spent their most enjoyable times together. At that time in mid-1965, Ronstadt worked for a life insurance company whose offices were located just across the street from the park. Both continued to be friends, even after her marriage to another man. The breakup was also the primary influence for "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," another Webb composition. When asked by interviewer Terry Gross what was going through his mind when he wrote the lyrics, Webb replied that the lyrics were meant to be symbolic, and they referred to the end of a love affair.
I looked at Jimmy Webb's natal chart some time ago (here) along with that of Glen Campbell, whose interpretation of a couple of Webb songs brought both singer and songwriter much acclaim, and which still stand as classics of their kind.

Another quick look at Webb's chart to refresh my memory. Webb was born in Elk City, Oklahoma on 15 August 1946. Astrodatabank set their chart for 8:20 AM with a "C" rating (not reliable) and add a footnote that Webbs's father has said Jimmy was born at night, 8:40PM. I'm using that time here. Astrodatabank's 8:20AM chart can be seen here.

I'm not familiar with all of Webb's songs - there are many - but the ones which have imprinted themselves on the public memory (Wichita Lineman, Galveston, Didn't We? By the Time I Get to Phoenix, and MacArthur Park) all have melacholy and whistfulness at their core. MacArthur Park has abstract imagery too, like a surreal painting.

Webb's Leo Sun is in harmonious sextile aspect to Uranus in Gemini on one side and Jupiter in Libra on the other, linking self (Sun) to eccentric Uranus - abstract imagery, and Jupiter, planet of publication and expansion.

Venus, planet of the arts is conjunct Neptune (creativity, dreaminess) and Mars (energy and drive).

I see the links of Sun to Uranus and Venus to Neptune, in particular, as good reflections of the "feel" of MacArthur Park. A bit "left field" but beautiful, creative and dreamy.

Where, in the chart, is the melancholy and wistfulness found in so many other Webb songs though?

If this time of birth is near correct Moon (inner, emotional self) and Saturn were in close trine, with Mercury conjunct Saturn. The melancholy temperament is also described as Saturnine in this article at Skyscript. QED?

Below, ten very different interpretations of MacArthur Park, ranging from standard, to jazz, to Broadway-whacky, to truly whacky. This isn't an exhaustive collection, just representative versions of each style.

Kicking off with Richard Harris live, and some dorky comments from people who didn't get the song, and some who did:

Waylon Jennings recorded two versions, one in 1969 with The Kimberlys and one in 1976, solo. The later one is far better - brings me near to tears in fact. Waylon was really too good for country - he should have broken out more.

Waylon With The Kimberlys , 1969

Waylon - 1976 (my favourite vocal)

Donna Summer (doesn't work for me):

Woody Herman - the jazz version - great!

Maynard Ferguson on jazz trumpet (bit too screechy in places for me)

Brass band - Britain's Grimethorpe Colliery Band does the piece justice (as they do to everything they play)

Guitars - Chet Atkins & Jerry Reed: nice!

Whacky Broadway version from Priscilla Queen of the Desert (love it - want to see it! Definite Uranus vibe going on.)

Ultra Whacky - Weird Al Yankovic adapts the music and lyrics, and it becomes Jurassic Park. Only Weird Al could do this and get away with it!

And, finally, those lyrics:
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 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!

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

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!

There will be another song for me
For I will sing it
There will be another dream for me
Someone will bring it
I will drink the wine while it is warm
And never let you catch me looking at the sun
And after all the loves of my life
After all the loves of my life
You'll still be the one

I will take my life into my hands and I will use it
I will win the worship in their eyes and I will lose it
I will have the things that I desire
And my passion flow like rivers through the sky
And after all the loves of my life
After all the loves of my life
I'll be thinking of you
And wondering why

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!
Oh, no
No, no
Oh no!!


anyjazz said...

Fine research. Good post.

Anonymous said...

There is a common factor between the fall of Murdoch, the Norvegian drama and Amy Winehouse, it's exactly the media - or human ignorance and a public unsuspecting of the extent to which it is permanently being manipulated:

Murdoch: He knew it all the way, read his biography by Michael Wolff.

Norway: The authorities knew all along that right-wing fanatics could only create misery, sooner or later. At least the judge decided not to give that crazy man a big public hearing. But the media will still do it...

Whinehouse: Is anybody responsible for helping her to reach "peacefull realms"? The press already announced her next album. She just died in time...

There is for a while already a sinister T-square in the skies between Pluto/Uranus/Saturn - to soon be compleeted by Mars as (fortunately) Saturn starts moving away. GP

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~~~~ Ta!

Twilight said...

Anonymous/Gian Paul ~~

The common astro-factor could well be that sinister T-squre you point out, GP.

Regarding the Norwegian killer and Amy Winehouse, perhaps the common factor is a kind of mental short-circuit. The ultra-addictive personality has to be led by such a short-circuit, and the political paranoia that led to the murders and destruction in Norway likewise. different short-circuits, but both individuals had to be naturally wildly unbalanced, just waiting for a trigger.

Beyond that, I think it's too early to say more - especially in the case of events in Norway.

Vanilla Rose said...

If the Norway shootings had happened in the US, everybody would have been mentioning gun control. And rightly so, IMHO. But very little mention of why a person is allowed a semi-automatic weapon to shoot deer. We are told that people who shoot deer are excellent shots (so the first shot usually kills the deer or it gets clean away), we are told that they leave plenty of deer so numbers are not seriously depleted, we are told that they only kill deer if they can take them away and store the bodies. All three points seem to me to suggest they would not need to fire many bullets at all. Is it so if they wound the deer, they can rapidly shoot again so it won't charge them and trample on them? Would an injured deer be capable of doing that?

One of my friends was on about how she was so annoyed about people being upset about AW and not Norway. I pointed out that there had been a train crash and a report into maternal deaths in London (some preventable) and a shooting spree at an ice rink and she hadn't mentioned those. Did that make her a hypocrite?

The point being that it isn't a competition, and nobody can focus on everything, that only leads to depression and inaction.

Twilight said...

Vanilla Rose ~~ Thank you for your thoughts on this.

Hunting makes me so angry that I can't properly focus to respond to your comment. In fact the whole gun culture here in the US makes me very, very angry!

Regarding Amy Winehouse and the Norway tragedy, yes, as you say, so many things are happening all the time, we can't give attention to all equally. Many tragedies, equally painful to those involved as the ones involved here, aren't even reported. We do our best to offer compassion where we can, in the hope that it will help....someone, somewhere, even though those involved are quite unlikely to read our words.