The lyrics to “MacArthur Park” infuriate some people. “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.”
They think it’s a psychedelic trip. But everything in the song is real. There is a MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, near where my girlfriend (Linda Ronstadt’s cousin, Susan) worked selling life insurance. We’d meet there for lunch, and there would be old men playing checkers by the trees, like in the lyrics.
I’ve been asked a million times: “What is the cake left out in the rain?” It’s something I saw… But as a metaphor for a losing a chapter of your life, it seemed too good to be true. When she broke up with me, I poured the hurt into the song.
PS: SongFacts has another version of the story: The staff music composer Colin McCourt used to work for the publisher of this song, Edwin. H. Morris. The head of the company was a friend of Jimmy Webb, who once explained to him the song's meaning - cake in the rain and all. McCourt told The Daily Mail April 2, 2011: "Jim was in love with a girl who left him. Months later, he heard she was getting married - in the park. Broken-hearted, he went to the wedding and, not wanting to be seen, hid in a gardener's shed.
As the open-air ceremony was taking place it started to pour with rain and the rain running down the shed window made the cake look as if it was melting. Interestingly, the man who married the girl was a phone engineer from Wichita - inspiration for another Jimmy Webb song.