MacArthur Park

MacArthur Park

By Jimmy Webb

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!!



MacArthur Park by Bill White

Beethoven was arrested while leaving the Hollywood offices of Elektra Records.

“You seem like a serious musician,” he had been told, “but this melodramatic stuff doesn’t fly in today’s market.  We learned that with David Ackles, and the last thing I need is another David Ackles.  My advice to you is to get a band together and trade your piano in on an organ. If you can find the right singer to put it across, the song might connect.  But I don’t have time to develop artists.  The Doors got their thing together after months of working in front of an audience before we even thought of touching them.  I advise you do the same.  Or better yet, get out of LA altogether.  Go to Vienna and try to get a job with the local orchestra.  From what I hear, Vienna is an open city for talents like yours.”

The only reason Harry Hartwick had responded to Beethoven’s demo tape was because the song bore similarities to a recent massacre at a wedding in MacArthur Park.  Someone had poisoned the wedding cake, and every member of the wedding party had died.   While Hartwick ran down the reasons he was not interested in signing Beethoven to the label, his secretary was on the line to the LAPD.

“He is here in the office now. “

“How long can you hold him?”

“As long as it takes you to get a patrol car here.”

“Keep him another fifteen minutes.  We’ll be waiting for him outside.”

When Hartwick saw the light go off on his secretary’s telephone line, he excused himself and brought her Beethoven’s demo, telling her to leave now and take it to the precinct so they could hear for themselves what appeared to be a confession of mass murder before the suspect arrived for interrogation.

The cops were watching a soap opera about cars when Beethoven was brought in to the precinct.   At this point he was simply a ‘person of interest,’ and was offered coffee and donuts while the interrogation room was swept out and made ready for his questioning.  As he had been neither cuffed nor arrested, nobody felt obligated to let him know that the presence of a lawyer might be to his advantage.  Instead, they invited him to enjoy the television and refreshments until his name was called.

The interrogating sergeant was studying the lyrics to “MacArthur Park” while Beethoven enjoyed his donuts and coffee. It was a strange lyric that could have meant whatever one wanted it to mean. All except the part about the cake.  Forensics had already established   that the cake had been poisoned with the pre-meditated purpose of killing the wedding guests.  The cake of the chorus being the weapon, the motive was to be found somewhere in the nonsensical verses.

“How the hell does a cotton dress foam like a wave?” he asked himself. Then, shaking his head, he buzzed the front desk to send Beethoven in.

“What is this all about, sergeant?” Beethoven asked after he had been seated.

“It’s about your song, and the possibility that it might contain a clue to the wedding massacre at MacArthur Park.”

“I don’t see how it could.  I wrote the song months before that tragedy took place.”

“Doesn’t matter when you wrote it.  What I want to understand is why you wrote it.  And what the hell the damn thing means.”

“It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? A guy goes to the wedding of an ex-girlfriend, and can’t get over the fact that the rain ruined the cake.”

“In LA?  I don’t buy it.  How many weddings get rained out in LA?”

“This one did.  And so, I guess, did the one that ended in a massacre.”

“Both of which took place in MacArthur Park.  It’s too co-incidental.”

“You think I have something to do with it?”

“Maybe.  Or maybe you’re one of those singing prophets who knows what’s going to happen before it happens because you are an antennae of the times or something.”

“I was tuned in, man.  Tuned in and turned on.  I had a vision and I turned it into a song.”

“Tell me this.  How does a dress foam like a wave?”

“It doesn’t.  It just seems to.  You see, when a wave breaks, it foams. So does a dress when the girl bends it at the knee. “

“Maybe it’s all the guts foaming out as she dies.”

“That’s another interpretation.”

“Who is the girl, Beethoven?  And why did you kill her?”

“The bride.”

“In a yellow dress?  It doesn’t add up.”

“You’re looking to deep. The truth is right on the surface.”

“Beethoven, were you invited to the wedding?”


“Did you crash it?”

“I was there, but I kept my distance.”

“You watched from afar, is that it?”

“There was a little shed over where the old men play checkers.  I watched the ceremony from there.”

“And what did you see?”

“I saw my girl getting married to another man.”

“And so you killed her…”

“No, I wrote a song about it.”

“You know what I think?  I think you saw it in your mind.  Then you went to the wedding and acted out. “

“Acted out?  What does that mean?”

“It means you couldn’t take it.  You heard your girl was going to marry another guy, so you wrote a song about it.  And in that song, there was a cake that took a long time to bake because it was laced with poison.  And in your mind, you saw all her friends who were once your friends as well but now they were only hers and they were celebrating her union with a new man.  You saw these people and you imagined them eating the poisoned cake and dropping like flies all over the goddam park.  Then, when the day of the wedding arrived, you felt compelled to go to the park and act out the song.  You switched cakes, then hid in the shed by the place where the old men played checkers and you watched as they toasted the bride and groom and you watched as they died, as the groom died, and as the bride died.  You watched through a pane of rainy glass.  Then you walked away.”

“You can’t prove that.”

“You made one small mistake, and that mistake is going to land you in the gas chamber.”

“Okay.  Tell me.  What was my mistake?”

The sergeant stood up, took a long look at Beethoven, then left the room.  When he returned he was carrying a large dessert box. He set it on the table, and opened it up.   Beethoven looked on in horror at the sight within, and the sergeant chortled.

“You left the cake out in the rain.”


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