I never know what will set off my dark side, but at least I usually know when it’s been triggered. Recently, for example, a hapless dinner guest sang the first line of the chorus from MacArthur Park: “Someone left the cake out in the rain.” Why would anyone do that? Sing it, I mean.
They didn’t do it for long. Or again, for that matter.
How do I hate that song? Let me count the ways.
Between the parted pages
We were pressed
In love’s hot, fevered iron
Like a stripe-ed pair of pants.
It commits simile abuse.
I recall the yellow cotton dress
Foaming like a wave
On the ground beneath your knees
Birds like tender babies in your hands
It fakes its finish.
There’ll be another song for me
And I will sing it
Good Lord, we can only hope. Oh, sorry (I mean, really sorry): There’s more.
There’ll 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, oh yeah
No, don’t think for a minute that I’ll let you catch me looking at the sun. Oh yeah.
But the truth is that I might forgive even the overwrought and overextended figures of speech . . .
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
. . . if the arrangement didn’t whine, fingernails down the blackboard of my mind. Oh, noooo, I don’t think that I can take it either.
Alternatively, I might forgive the arrangement if the song had some jump to it . . .
If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well
It were done quickly. ““ The Scottish Play, Act 1, Scene 7
But Oh, nooooo: Where songs on the radio average about 3 minutes, the original recording of MacArthur Park by Richard Harris is 7½ minutes.
Original recording? Someone covered this song?
Yes. Yes, they did.
Despite this, according to Wiki the song has enjoyed commercial success:
- The Richard Harris version peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #4 on the UK Singles Chart.
- Donna Summer’s arrangement topped the Billboard Hot 100.
- The Four Tops reached #38 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- Andy Williams reached #102 on the Billboard Hot 100 (Don’t ask. It’s not my list.).
Wonders never cease.
Notwithstanding its success, I’m not the only one who hates this song.
In 1992, Miami Herald journalist Dave Barry conducted a poll among his readers who selected the Harris original as the worst track ever recorded, both in terms of “Worst Lyrics” and “Worst Overall Song”. Barry commented: “[I]t’s hard to argue with survey respondents who chose it as the worst.” ““ Wikipedia
Yes, it is hard to argue. Because consider this: Waylon Jennings also covered MacArthur Park. Yes, that Waylon Jennings:
- The guy who gave us Good-Hearted Woman, Luckenbach Texas, and Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down
- The member of the Outlaw Country movement
- One of the four corners of The Highwaymen (with Kris and Willie and Johnny ““ no last names needed for any of them, and a less whiny bunch hard to imagine).
And even Waylon’s cover is awful. Oh, nooooo!
Folks, that’s how bad MacArthur Park is: It makes Waylon Jennings sound bad.
Do you disagree? Come on back.
Nominate your own candidate for “Worst Song (Ever)” by sending me a comment.