Don’t Watch After Eating

I hate the songs of Jimmy Webb.  He won a jillion Grammy’s, and he’s regularly named as a great songwriter by people who really should know better (Bruce Springteen and some others).  At his best, his songs are merely annoying, melodically vapid, and oozing with gooey sentimentality (his songs for Glen Campbell: Galveston, Wichita Lineman, By the Time I Get To Phoenix).  At his worst, they are also pretentious (McArthur Park) and stupid beyond all description (Up, Up and Away, McArthur Park again).  I once played Richard Harris’s original hit version of McArthur Park to my older son, who was certain I was playing him a comedy record.  If you’re so inclined, above you can watch him perform what could be the worst song ever written with such bone-headed earnestness that you may find yourself wanting Anton Chigurh to walk up and do his captive bolt stunner thing on him.  I didn’t even make it to the infamous “cake out in the rain” part (surely the dumbest metaphor ever devised).  In a way it’s funny, but mostly not.  My question to you bastards: am I incorrect?  If any of you are Jimmy Webb fans, can you clue me in as to what’s good about him?  Did he write some hidden gems I’ve never heard?  Because based on his biggest hits, I don’t get his reputation as one of the greats at all.

8 Replies to “Don’t Watch After Eating”

  1. I couldn’t even make it through this video.

    And 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

    Ha ha ha ha ha

  2. Richard Harris’s version is even funnier. I laughed my ass off the first time I heard it. I think I was in 5th grade. You should listen at least through the first verse about the striped pants and then the first cake in the rain refrain. You can just imagine how any snotty 5th grader with his head full of MAD magazines would respond.

    For some reason Donna Summer did a disco remake of this song. Senseless. I’ll say it again, the 70’s were fucking weird.

  3. I greatly appreciate this hatepost. Never heard of the guy, or any of his music, but can confirm: that song blows. Love how he stuck with the cake metaphor to the bitter end.

    Apparently, he’s coming to town, and please don’t spare the hyperbole:
    ”He’s a prodigious performer, and a night with Jimmy at the keys is not unlike getting to hear George Gershwin or Cole Porter live.”

    Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what we were all thinking.

    Springsteen should know better. Here he is raving appropriately about Roy Orbison. I’m going to watch this on repeat until I forget I ever heard McArthur Park.

  4. In defense of Bruce, he was specifically praising Webb’s partnership with Glen Campbell, not McArthur Park. Those Glen Campbell songs aren’t as bad, but still too cloying for me. I think it may be an older/younger boomer chasm. Older boomers may like more syrup in their songs. McArthur Park peaked at #2, believe it or not. But it was also widely reviled. In the 80’s, Dave Barry invited readers to nominate the worst song ever recorded. Thousands responded, and the winner was, you guessed it, MP.

    I sometimes post these things forgeting that you bastards are about a decade younger, so weren’t bombarded with these tunes as was I. In a car, you had to listen to the radio or nothing. Sometimes, when force fed something by the likes of Webb, you changed stations or turned it off. Other times, you’d listen for the same reason you’d watch a car crash.

  5. Best YouTube comment on the Richard Harris version …

    Jimmy Webb wrote it for The Association they turned it down and Richard Harris said hold my beer.

  6. I feel that there are DEFINITELY a lot of terrible 70’s songs roaming my neocortex.
    Originally heard by me during the 70’s.
    On a radio station I was not permitted to change.

    So, kind of weird that I missed this guy.

    Anyway, I wanted to confirm that I still knew lots of overwrought 70’s soft rock, and looked up a Top Ten List of Worst Songs of the 70’s…. and recognized them all.

    Also: the title and album cover from A Tramp Shining help explain the entire aesthetic of the peerless Liartown.

    1. That list is a true chamber of horrors, although it should have included Sometimes When We Touch by someone named Dan Hill, who, to quote Dave Barry, “sounds like he’s getting his prostate examined by Captain Hook.”

      The Jimmy Webb songs I mentioned were all from ’67-’69, but I’m pretty sure the ones Glen Campbell sang were still in rotation in the early 70’s. You may recognize those if you hear them. As far as I know, Webb never scored any hits as a performer, although he had many as a writer. You probably heard All I Know, which was a hit for Art Garfunkel, and more I can’t name from the top of my head.

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