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Cake in the rain

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
The mysterious, abandoned "cake out in the rain."
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OKLAHOMA CITY – It struck me as another one of those “50-year syncs” I’ve been noting of late, from the final episode of The Monkees featuring Tim Buckley performing the haunting “Song to the Siren” to going to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis and seeing where the State assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968.

In Memphis, at the Lorraine Motel site, now part of the National Civil Rights Museum. (Andrew W. Griffin /Red Dirt Report)

As it was in April 1968, just a few days after MLK’s death on April 4th, that WABC radio first played Richard Harris’ “MacArthur Park,” an epically-weird song, clocking in at over seven minutes long, written by Oklahoma native Jimmy Webb.

The background on the story is that Webb and Harris met in late 1967 at a fundraiser and the quirky Harris, coming off of his role as King Arthur in Camelot, wanted to record an album, hoping Webb would help him out in London.

What resulted was Harris’ ’68 album A Tramp Shining, and the song “MacArthur Park” with its references to a “cake out in the rain.” It was so weird and long that the sunshine-pop group The Association rejected recording it for being too long, complex and unorthodox. Their loss, it would seem, since “MacArthur Park” would go to number two on the U.S. charts in June 1968, stopped from reaching number one by Herb Alpert’s “This Guy’s In Love With You.”

Both songs seem appropriate in the context of the times. Both are orchestral and not rock n’ roll in structure – a counter to the turbulence of ’68, from the horrors of the Vietnam War to the riots in the streets of America and Europe.

I immediately thought of “MacArthur Park” as I pulled into the parking lot of my gym. There, in the parking space was a partially-eaten cake in a cake box, which had clearly been left out in the rain that fell overnight. When I saw it the rain had stopped but the cardboard box was waterlogged and the cake, with whitish frosting and blueberries on top, looked soggy and sad.

Why was the cake left out? What is the back story? Is this an homage to a native Oklahoman and internationally-respected pop songwriter? To quote the aforementioned Tim Buckley,  "I am puzzled as the oyster."

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!

As a side note, Jimmy Webb's new autobiography is titled The Cake And the Rain. Perhaps there are some clues therein?

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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