The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy Webb (a memoir)

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Blair N. Cummings
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Re: The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy Webb (a memoir)

Postby Blair N. Cummings » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:14 am

Brief interview in Rolling Stone:
http://www.rollingstone.com/music/featu ... ra-w476622
Am I the only one surprised to learn that this thing is still being published?

pljms
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Re: The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy Webb (a memoir)

Postby pljms » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:40 am

Martin Johnson wrote:It seems that for us in dear old Blighty the book is only available on import, at least for the time being. 

You can just imagine in early 1969 Peggy Lipton's record producer Lou Adler asking Jimmy Webb for something along the same lines of his most recent hit song 'Wichita Lineman' and Webb doing his upmost to oblige, even to the extent of including the words 'county' and 'line' In the title. Webb also arranged and conducted the session but despite that the single failed to crack the US Hot 100, in fact it didn't even 'bubble under':

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=55C_0TdfBak


Peggy Lipton's recording of 'Red Clay County Line' could only have come from that 67-69 period, for the song itself and the arrangement featuring the musicians who became known as The Wrecking Crew. As usual Joe Osborne's bass is very distinctive and was such a trademark of Jimmy Webb's late 60s songs and arrangements.
pljms

Martin Johnson
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Re: The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy Webb (a memoir)

Postby Martin Johnson » Thu Apr 20, 2017 6:48 pm

I see that one reviewer for Webb's memoir described his writing style as being influenced by Raymond Chandler.

Another Webb curiosity, this one from 1970 that in cricketing terms 'failed to trouble the scorers'. Steve Ellis was the soulful lead singer in the English group The Love Affair who had two or three big hits in the UK, including 'Everlasting Love'. I remember the ads in the music press for Ellis's single 'Evie' made a lot of the fact that the song was by Jimmy Webb, even going as far as calling it his 'latest classic song'. Contains the typical Webb line, "if time was half a nice guy we might have made a nice try."

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fxehYnv0dBk
Last edited by Martin Johnson on Fri Apr 21, 2017 9:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

blueonblue
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Re: The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy Webb (a memoir)

Postby blueonblue » Fri Apr 21, 2017 9:06 am

Martin Johnson wrote:I see that one reviewer for Webb's memoir described his writing style as being influenced by Raymond Chandler.

Another Webb curiosity, this one from 1970 that in cricketing terms 'failed to trouble the scorers' Steve Ellis was the soulful lead singer in the English group The Love Affair who had two or three big hits in the UK, including 'Everlasting Love'. I remember the ads in the music press for Ellis's single 'Evie' made a lot of the fact that the song was by Jimmy Webb, even going as far as calling it his 'latest classic song'. Contains the typical Webb line, "if I was half a nice guy we might have made a nice try."

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fxehYnv0dBk


Martin,
Thank you for posting that rarely heard Webb song, Steve Ellis is a much underrated singer, he reminds me a little of Chris Farlowe.
Here's the Johnny Mathis version.....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q070TXO5DFw

'blue'

Blair N. Cummings
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Re: The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy Webb (a memoir)

Postby Blair N. Cummings » Fri Apr 21, 2017 9:22 am

Not to engage in overkill, but here`s the Bill Medley version, the story of which features prominently in the book:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ybdayoj2IG4

Martin Johnson
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Re: The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy Webb (a memoir)

Postby Martin Johnson » Fri Apr 21, 2017 10:06 am

Yes, 'Evie' is definitely one of those songs that after you've heard it a few times lodge themselves in your subconscious and stay there. The only other sung version of the song that I know of is by a close-harmony group called Revival. At the risk of over-egging the omelette, here's an instrumental version by - wait for it - James Last:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-y2HssevxI

Sara D
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Re: The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy Webb (a memoir)

Postby Sara D » Sat Apr 22, 2017 2:50 am

I remember in the early 70s or thereabouts my elder brother, who was a big soul and R'n'B fan, playing Thelma Houston's album 'Sunshower' every day for about a month and me, not being aware of the Webb connection, making some dumb remark about how some of it reminded me of 'MacArthur Park' (well, I was only 12 or 13 at the time). It's difficult to pick a favourite track but this one will do. What an extraordinary voice this woman has:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0x9S0ylr8W0

pljms
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Re: The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy Webb (a memoir)

Postby pljms » Sun Apr 23, 2017 3:18 am

Sara, for "dumb" read astute.

Of all the albums written, arranged and produced by Jimmy Webb in the 60s Thelma Houston's 'Sunshower' is the one I return to the most. When you consider that Webb was still only 22 and Houston just turned 23 when the album was recorded it makes it even more of a remarkable achievement. With the over-elaborate intro and outro edited out, here's 'Mixed-Up Girl' which remains a fave Webb song of mine.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-jZyDoFu3Zw
pljms

Blair N. Cummings
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Re: The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy Webb (a memoir)

Postby Blair N. Cummings » Tue Apr 25, 2017 2:26 pm

Hour-long interview w/JW (starting around the 9:00 mark): http://www.songcraftshow.com/jimmy_webb

Martin Johnson
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Re: The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy Webb (a memoir)

Postby Martin Johnson » Wed Apr 26, 2017 6:51 am

Thanks for posting the interview, Blair. As usual he's a thoughtful, engaging and witty interviewee, but being a fan there's not a lot there I didn't know already. However, his memoir is a very different story. More on that when I've finished it.

Blair N. Cummings
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Re: The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy Webb (a memoir)

Postby Blair N. Cummings » Wed Apr 26, 2017 8:09 am

Martin, you`re right about most of the interview being old hat and I hesitated before posting it for that reason, but I enjoyed his comments about the "devolution" of music etc. during the last third.
You`re also correct about the memoir being very different. My take is that it was a very deliberate self-hatchet job from which emerged not the hippie he never was but rather a spoiled, amoral prick. I wish that somewhere in it he had written (as he said in the interview) that much of what he did in his youth he now "profoundly regrets." Without that, the volume leaves a bad taste.

Sara D
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Re: The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy Webb (a memoir)

Postby Sara D » Wed Apr 26, 2017 10:38 am

Webb does seem to have a problem with the year 1965, doesn't he? Surely turning 19 in 1965 was young enough without him feeling the need to knock a couple of years off all the time. Maybe the reason they played the mediocre B-side of the Contessas single from 1965 during the interview is that Webb himself seems to be confused as to what the A-side actually was. Most Webb fans worth their salt know it was 'This is Where I came In', while Webb himself refers to it in both his books as 'This Time Last Summer', a different song of his entirely. If he can get confused about the song title of the first record he wrote and arranged how can we trust him when he's recounting conversations from 50 years ago? Perhaps the title of the book should have been 'Unreliable Memoirs', if it wasn't for the fact that Clive James has already used that title.

pljms
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Re: The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy Webb (a memoir)

Postby pljms » Thu Apr 27, 2017 12:06 am

Yes, I've noticed that an exaggeration of his youthfulness when he talks about his 60s heyday has been a trait of Webb's in interviews for many years. The most common example I've seen is when he states he was just 19 at the time of the recording of MacArthur Park with Richard Harris in 1968 when in actual fact he would have been 21 going on 22, which is still ridiculously young to have written and produced such an extraordinary record. Maybe it's just a case of his mental arithmetic not being up to subtracting 46 from 68? However, that doesn't explain why he still gets the title wrong for the Conttessas record. That really is bizarre.

I started reading the book a couple of days ago and am enjoying it, despite the weird chronology. We know from his concerts and interviews that he can be a long-winded storyteller, but with the obvious aid of a good editor I'm finding that is not the case for this book.
pljms

pljms
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Re: The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy Webb (a memoir)

Postby pljms » Sun May 07, 2017 3:05 pm

Despite the almost obligatory profanity which we've now come to expect from musicians' memoirs, Webb's literary gifts are obvious from almost the first paragraph. In common with many of his best known songs, Webb's writing is almost cinematically descriptive with corresponding images coming readily to mind. The fact that this memoir focuses almost exclusively on the years between 1955 and 1973 and jumps backwards and forwards chronologically I didn't find a problem at all and for me it was refreshing as practically all the autobiographies that I've ever read start at the very beginning ('I was born at a very early age'), spend an inordinate amount of time on the formative years and then wind-up racing towards the finishing line with the last decade or two of often dwindling success covered in as little as a few paragraphs. The current trend for memoirists to 'tell all' regarding their sex lives, no doubt encouraged by the publishers, is something Webb doesn't shy away from and maybe I shouldn't have been surprised at just how complicated his various romantic entanglements were given the nature of the songs he wrote at that time. Still, all that plus the detailing of his hippie lifestyle, the heavy pot smoking and Cocaine use, his obsession with cars and sailplanes and particularly the long, drawn-out account of the sailing expedition on the Magnifico, all could have been trimmed down to allow room to include much more on his music career and in particular the making of albums such as Up, Up and Away, Rewind, The Magic Garden and The Yard Went On Forever, all of which barely get touched on. However, there are plenty of fascinating stories told with refreshing honesty and much self-deprecating humour concerning the making of his first record with the Contessas, his time at Jobette Music, Johnny Rivers, the Monterey Festival, Richard Harris, Glen Campbell, 'Swinging' London, meeting the Beatles in the recording studio and Paul McCartney's seemingly calculated offhand behaviour, the making of the Sunshower album with Thelma Houston and his ill-starred transformation into a singer-songwriter. That he became heavily influenced by Joni Mitchell is obvious to those of us familiar with his first few albums as a performer, but just how much he fell under her spell as their friendship developed is made very clear in the book. Webb must have hesitated before deciding to include the rather sordid tale concerning Harry Nilsson and John Lennon during the latter's 'lost weekend' period and I for one wish he hadn't because it left a nasty taste in the mouth coming as it does at the very end of the book. Still, I'm sure the publishers were delighted with its inclusion and indeed the rest of the book and apparently 'Part Two' has already been commissioned. 
pljms

Martin Johnson
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Re: The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy Webb (a memoir)

Postby Martin Johnson » Wed May 10, 2017 12:07 am

That Webb has often been his own worst enemy in both his personal life and his career is evidenced throughout this ultimately rather depressing book.

I like the line in which he concedes that alongside Leonard Cohen's records nothing empties a room quicker than the playing of a Jimmy Webb album. I remember in the early 70s a friend of mine on seeing a couple of Webb LPs among my record collection asking why I'd never played them to him and me replying saying it was because I valued his friendship and I didn't want to lose it, and I was only half joking. I'd previously unhesitatingly lent him the albums The Magic Garden, A Tramp Shining and Sunshower and I think it's a measure of how much I think Webb had 'lost the plot' as a songwriter that I kept quiet about his first couple of albums as a performer. That his records became more accessible from Letters onwards is undeniable but as far as the general public is concerned, and in particular singers in search of quality material, the damage was done and I don't think his career or standing has ever fully recovered from his attempt to transform himself from a middle of the road songwriter (his own description) to a singer-songwriter with a so-called social conscience.


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