Hello lovely readers.
In the summer of 1967, songwriter Jimmy Webb composed a 22-minute cantata that ended with a seven-minute coda called "MacArthur Park." He offered it to Bones Howe, who produced The Association, for possible inclusion on the group's fourth LP. Howe loved it, but the group didn’t want to give up about half of the album for Webb's project, so they rejected it.
Richard Harris was a superstar actor, not a singer. (There are many fine biogs about him on the net – here's a taster). His performance on this track was, therefore, essentially "acting" - as he read the lyrics with lashings of drama. (He recorded this shortly after starring in the movie Camelot). The track runs at 7:20 and, at that time, it was still very rare for radio stations to play songs longer than the bog standard 3 minutes. "Hey Jude" by The Beatles came out shortly before this, and when it became a hit - despite running @ 7:11, stations learned that audiences WOULD stick around if they liked the song.
Donna Summer recorded a disco version of MacArthur Park in 1978 which made it to No 1. Her version was originally part of a 15-minute "suite” and has none of the naked pain of Harris’s – but then it wouldn’t would it! The song has been much covered since.
Much has been said about interpretations of the lyrics to this epic. University essays about underlying metaphors and Shakespeare abound. Perhaps, you know, it's just a song about a bloke who loses his love! What do you think?
This song - more than any other, perhaps - falls into the 'love it or hate it' category. Perhaps we should just let music and lyrics take us where we want them to.
The wonderfully unique Richard Harris died in 2002 aged 72. I used to see him in a pub next to the Savoy Hotel on The Strand in London (where he held a suite and lived when in England). Always one for a Guinness and the 'craic' - it was ironic that to me he always looked like a shining tramp with his long grey locks and overcoat down to his bright red boots. 'Tramp Shining' is the name of the album from which MacArthur Park was taken in 1968! Find more about his musical catalogue here or better still buy some here