This morning, as I was sipping my coffee, my beloved walks in deep in a phone conversation with elder daughter. Daughter was looking for a recipe. This is a common occurance – all the kids cook up storms, and, no longer living at home, lack access to mom’s full-sized bookcase of well-thumbed cookbooks. Mom is the defacto culinary librarian. I sometimes get calls or texts instructing me to go to such and such a cookbook, look up this or that, take a picture of the recipe and text it to an offspring. (1)
As the conversation went on, my beloved spoke the following fateful sentence into her phone: “I’m not sure I can find that recipe again.”
Instantly, unbidden, the hamsters-on-speed wheels of my mind drive the following deathless lyrics past the barrier of my teeth:
I don’t think that I can take it
It took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again!
and…. I then had to google MacArthur Park and force my 14 year old, who made the tactical mistake of wandering by just then, listen to it with me. He is very tolerant of his old man’s goofiness. Think I’ll keep him.
Even he was eventually amused. That is one goofy song. Or maybe 3 to 4 goofy songs in a shotgun open marriage. Or something.
Seriously. Or should I say, Seriously? First verse, often overlooked in our eagerness to roll around in the sweet green icing flowing down:
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
(striped sung ‘stripe-ed’ of course. Because, uh, Shakespeare or something.)
And it doesn’t get any better.
My running commentary explained how the whole pop-tune-with-epic-orchestra thing got huge in the mid-60’s, when I was still single-digits years old, and that MacArthur Park was merely its most egregious metastasis. I then spun Classical Gas, as perhaps the peak of that fad. I mean, there were a few pretty good tunes marrying a pop sensibility with that sensibility’s take on classical music. The Moody Blues had a few good examples, found, lest we forget, on albums of mostly unlistenable crap. The ratio of good Moody Blues tunes to boring/painful Moody Blues tunes is maybe 1:10. Maybe.
Anyway, since I just listened to MacArthur Park, Youtube offers up a ‘mix’ or collection of tunes that, like the ‘Because you watched Midsomer Murders…’ Netflix feature, suggests more tunes/videos based on – ? Some mindless machine algorithm, evidently. I suppose, deep in the bowels of some Youtube server farm somewhere, programs written by nihilists and whippersnappers run, correlating tunes with my browsing and purchasing patterns, as well as things overheard over my iPhone and seen through the windows by the ubiquitous Google Map vans (you really think Street View is *all* they’re interested in? Hmmm?).
And perhaps other songs I’ve listened to? Little evidence of that. Here’s what the Mind of Google thinks I might want to listen to next:
From the Beginning, Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Within a couple year of M.P. Otherwise – acoustic guitar, bongos and a classic synth solo versus wildly overwrought harpsichord & orchestra mish-mash? The ways of the Algorithm Almighty are indeed inscrutable, because, heck yea, I’ll listen to that.
Cherish, the Association. OK, this is funny. Jimmy Webb wrote M.P. for the Association, who were pretty huge at that time (1967), who had asked for a big orchestral piece because, as mentioned above, that was all the rage at that juncture in history. They rejected it as too freakin’ weird.
Well, Webb then played it for Albus Dumbledore, who was looking for songs for what amounts to a vanity record, and who was evidently enraptured by that whole cake out in the rain image. Seriously, Richard Harris, fresh off starring in the 1967 movie Camelot, met Webb, who was already a successful and well known song writer back then, at a party and mentioned he wanted songs for an album he was making. He flew Webb out to London where he was then working to go over material. Somehow, some way, when he heard MacArthur Park, he said – that’s it!
I’m guessing Harris was famous enough at the time that people were willing to listen to the record he put out, and – the rest is history!
Meanwhile, the Association never had another hit, and were soon reduced to trivia answer status. Cherish is the most boring of their 4 hits songs. Windy and Along Comes Mary are better. But for old time’s sake, I gave it a listen.
Another mysteriously correct suggestion by the deep revolving Algorithm.
Other items in the list were either obvious – Moody Blues, ‘natch, and the 5th Dimension – or utterly baffling, such as Brubeck’s Take 5 and Petula Clark’s Downtown. But – was the Infernal Algorithm correct? Were these songs I wanted to listen to?
Should I be scared? Or at least draw the blinds?
- My last communication with our late son Andrew, the day before he died, was texting him the recipe for calabasitas.