Friday, February 08, 2008

Desert Island Tears

That bloody Beryl Bainbridge! She chose Jim Webb's MacArthur Park on Desert Island Discs this morning. They only played about a minute of it but that was enough to have tears rolling down my face and dripping into the washing-up water.
I have a kind of Pavlovian reaction to this song. Play it and I cry. I've no idea why. It's not as though I'm a lachrymose person. If I were an actor and needed to cry I would have this song piped into an earpiece. The problem would be that I'd shed so much fluid that at the end of the scene the stage would need mopping and I'd have to be put on a saline drip.

And stupid Beryl Bainbridge too! She said she didn't understand the song but someone had told her it was about drugs. It is NOT about drugs. And you would think that a writer, of all people, would understand metaphor.
When I wrote about this song in November 2004 (in a very angry, sweary post) I quoted Jimmy Webb himself explaining that if you look at the park with tears in your eyes, the distortion of vision makes the park appear to be melting.

The song has always made perfect sense to me ever since I first heard it on a jukebox in the back room of a provincial pub in 1968.
It has often been voted one of the most hated songs of all time. But there are also many of us for whom it will always be in our top ten favourite songs. Maybe we should get together occasionally and have a group weep.
Because as you get older, you cry much less - or almost never. And crying, like laughter, is quite therapeutic. ("Let it all out, dear. You'll feel better for it.")
Thanks to Jimmy Webb and Richard Harris, a good cry is available at the touch of a button. And the great thing is that you're not crying at anything specific or personal, just the fact that life's a bitch, love doesn't last and things go wrong.

I think I'll play it now, once I've checked the Kleenex stock.
After six minutes of angst and anguish, the sun will still be shining, nobody will have died, no lover will have left me and I can finish the washing up refreshed and dry-eyed. Lost recipes banished for another few months. No more sweet green icing flowing down. Just sweet green Fairy Liquid, untainted by tears.


At 3:46 PM, Blogger mike said...

Andy Williams' live performance of Macarthur Park, backed by an thrillingly inventive orchestral arrangement, was possibly the single best thing I saw on stage last year.


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