Why does this not surprise me?

Rolling Stone magazine asked the presidential candidates about what songs they liked and some used at their campaign events. All but one of them are pretty unexceptional. But can you guess Ben Carson’s favorite song?

But the song that touches him [Carson] the most? “MacArthur Park,” especially the original version talk-sung by actor Richard Harris. “It’s a long song, like seven minutes long. And a lot of the words don’t make a lot of sense: ‘MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark.’ What the devil is he talking about? It has three different parts and part two — ‘I will drink the wine while it is warm and never let you catch me looking at the sun’ — is just beatiful music. Again, the words don’t make a lot of sense.”

“A lot of the words don’t make a lot of sense” is putting it mildly. But given that much of what Ben Carson said in his campaign never made much sense either, this song looks like a perfect match for him.

MacArthur Park is widely reviled as the worst song ever, in the face of stiff competition from a whole slew of ghastly songs from that era, especially the incredibly sappy Honey by Bobby Goldsboro. Humorist Dave Barry once ran a contest to find the worst song and wrote a series of hilarious columns about his search. He concluded that MacArthur Park was easily the worst. For you young ‘uns who don’t know what I’m talking about, here is the song.

My personal favorite lyrics from it are these:

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!

It still cracks me up.


  1. says

    can you guess Ben Carson’s favorite song?

    I guessed “My Way” without looking at the list.
    Because it’s the perfect entitled whine of pride.

  2. says

    “MacArthur Park”? Really?

    Being a religious fanatic with bad taste, I was expecting Carson to name Charlene, a “singer” responsible for two of the ten worst songs ever recorded (arguably, THE worst songs ever). No, I am NOT going to link to them on youtube. Look them up yourself if you’re masochistic or you ran out of ipecac.

    “Never Been To Me”, Charlene

    “Used To Be”, Charlene w/ Stevie Wonder

    Charlene is/was a fanatical christian on par with John Michael Montgomery (the atroctious anti-atheist propaganda, “The Little Girl”). If subtlety were rubber, those two wouldn’t have enough to make a condom for a gerbil.

  3. moarscienceplz says

    I’m not going to disagree, but like many songs (especially those from the ’60s), if you know the backstory to the song, it makes much more sense:

    “MacArthur Park” was written and composed by Jimmy Webb in the summer and fall of 1967 as part of an intended cantata. Webb initially brought the entire cantata to The Association, but the group rejected it.[2] The inspiration for the song was his relationship and breakup with Susie Horton,[3] who later married Robert Ronstadt, a cousin of singer Linda Ronstadt. MacArthur Park, in Los Angeles, California, was where the two occasionally met for lunch and spent their most enjoyable times together.[4] At that time (the middle of 1965), Horton worked for a life insurance company whose offices were located just across the street from the park.[1] In an interview with Newsday in October 2014, Webb explained:

    Everything in the song was visible. There’s nothing in it that’s fabricated. The old men playing checkers by the trees, the cake that was left out in the rain, all of the things that are talked about in the song are things I actually saw. And so it’s a kind of musical collage of this whole love affair that kind of went down in MacArthur Park. … Back then, I was kind of like an emotional machine, like whatever was going on inside me would bubble out of the piano and onto paper.

    (from Wikipedia)

  4. says

    Wow -- I love the mixdown on that one. I guess they had just discovered sterephonic sound: “HEY let’s make the intro fade into both speakers then drop into full stereo!! That’ll bend people’s heads!!!”

    Someone left the cake out in the rain? WTF!?!?!? I am not familiar with this music. I am glad. I’m gonna go listen to “Anarchy in the UK” until I feel better.

  5. moarscienceplz says

    Another example of this is No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature by the Guess Who:

    According to Randy Bachman, the inspiration for the song arose after an incident when he was visiting California. He was walking down the street with a stack of records under his arm, when he saw three “tough-looking biker guys” approaching. He felt threatened and was looking for a way to cross the street onto the other sidewalk when a car pulled up to the men. A woman got out of the car, shouting at one of them, asking where he’d been all day, that he had left her alone with the kids. The man suddenly was alone and his buddies walked away. Chastened, he got in the car as the woman told him before pulling away: “And one more thing, you’re getting no sugar tonight”. The words stuck in Bachman’s memory.

  6. screechymonkey says

    I would have figured Carson the type to name “You Light Up My Life” as his favorite.

  7. says

    Holms (#2) --

    Nice, now I finally know where Weird Al’s Jurassic Park comes from!

    It’s appalling how some “Weird Al” covers become more popular than the original artist being ripped off.

  8. Friendly says

    “Macarthur Park” might be one of the worst songs to ever chart in the U.S. Billboard Top 40, but there are vast debris fields full of non-charting songs that are much, much worse. A few lousy but amusing ones that spring to mind are “My Pal Foot-Foot” by The Shaggs, “My Name Is Larry” by Wild Man Fischer, and “The Tapeworm of Love” by Tony Borello (released on Horrible Records — “It’s not a hit unless it’s Horrible!”); for some truly execrable stuff, though, I recommend any number that’s ever been the subject of one of Dr. Demento’s “Audio Torture Chamber” segments.

  9. grasshopper says

    I never understood any lyrics by “1910 Fruitgum Company”. They’re way too deep for me

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    MacArthur Park is widely reviled as the worst song ever

    Oh my. I don’t love it, but I never dove to change the dial when it came on. On the other hand, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”, or pretty much anything by Bacharach, would have me moving fast. Or dreck like “Wind Beneath My Wings” (I feel nauseous already). Also, Bieber. And so much more.

    I found the weird lyric actually quite endearing, compared to the usual banal crap in love songs.

  11. soogeeoh says

    BTW the lyrics link leads me to a barren page on play.google.com where I can see the album cover and title but no lyrics

    What could be a reason for that?
    Is it to do with where I am perhaps?
    Something with laws?
    (the video already is blocked here (I guess that is why I suspect “foul” play), but can find substitute easily)

  12. kremer says

    Now that I’ve heard the original, it occurs to me that the Weird Al version is a better (read way more coherent) song.

  13. Rob Grigjanis says

    BTW, Webb also wrote “Wichita Lineman”, which I think is a truly great song.

  14. Mano Singham says

    soogeeoh @#14,

    I don’t know why you get that. Maybe try searching for ‘Macarthur park lyrics’. I’m sure you’ll find a site that is accessible.

  15. Mano Singham says

    soogeeoh @#12,

    I find the song hilarious and weirdly fascinating because it is so bad.

  16. DonDueed says

    Richard Harris had a bit of a singing career going around that time. I remember his version of “Abraham, Martin, and John” as being pretty good.

    But I just can’t forgive him for dying before he could portray Albus Dumbledore in the last six Harry Potter films.

  17. grendelsfather says

    I’m not going to disagree, but like many songs (especially those from the ’60s), if you know the backstory to the song, it makes much more sense:

    Nearly all of these songs from that period have the same backstory: People were doing waaay more drugs back then.

  18. DonDueed says

    Oh, and my nomination for Worst. Song. Ever. is “Spirit In the Sky”. In retrospect that may have been the song that put the nail in the coffin of my religious faith.

    Okay, from that perspective maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.

  19. Steve Lion says

    As I remember I seemed to sort of like it. I can’t really tell why, I guess it just had sort of a “hook” that appealed to me. I always took the weird lyrics to be some sort of metaphor. Must admit I didn’t know what sort.
    At the time it was published I lived in Los Angeles. I was an apprentice electrician and my union hall was across the street from MacArther Park. So there’s that.
    What with all the drugs and weirdness of the times it just seemed, ah… ok.

  20. lorn says

    My favorite seeming nonsense song:

    It more or less makes sense if you have spent time in a dive bar with a talented but unenthusiastic piano player that gets payed in drinks.

  21. Rob Grigjanis says

    DonDueed @21: I quite liked “Spirit In the Sky”. Always thought it, and “Dropkick me, Jesus [through the goal posts of life]” were spoofs of Jesusy country songs. Was I wrong??!?

  22. Rob Grigjanis says

    lorn @24: My favourite Waits song! With “God’s Away on Business” a close second.

  23. Rob Grigjanis says

    Mano @27: What’s next, Teletubbies singing “Mad World”? Think of the children!

  24. lorn says

    The cookie monster is Tom Waits. Or is it the other way round? Either way … outstanding. I like.

    Tom Waits is a marvel. It is like he is almost telling a story. More like a train of thoughts with a theme. With just a bit of whiskey, and random lightning to to make it surreal enough to feel real. Somewhere between a waking dream and a fever dream.

    A newer song, 2011, in the same vein of story, mystery, feeling, and deep truth. This one about war:


    Posted this on the Cookie Monster thread but it works better here IMHO.

  25. JohnInLex says

    I rather liked McArthur Park. I was young. I graduated in 1963 so I would have been about 24 when it came out. I was riding the trough of the wave of the flower power generation. (I was teaching by then and afraid to do anything that would put that in jeopardy.) I was sure those young people were having much more fun than I was.

    My vote for worst song is Surfin Bird by the Trashmen. I liked it too, but mostly because it irritated the old people.
    I don’t know how to embed a link, so cut and paste.
    OH! It does it itself! Yay

  26. mnb0 says

    MacArthur Park is not that bad a song -- when sung by Donna Summer. Indeed, I’m talking about the Queen of Disco who proves that her talent was wasted on many of her hits.
    Anything by Barry Manilow is far, far worse.

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