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Photo by Dan Chapman ©2001 Stanyan Entertainment Group

A Thought for Today

It could be worse. Wait and see what happens tomorrow.

 

I like the questions today, particularly the first one. It gives me a chance to explain some of the things I’ve been doing in the studio recently.

THE BACK CATALOG

Hello Rod: It was only six months ago that I found your web page "ASPTL". Before that I had begun to wonder if you were dead. (Editors Note: You’re not the first one, buddy!)

Though the 60s, 70s and 80s I had dined well on your books of poems and albums but in the 90s I had to make do on scraps of information and scratchy LPs. So I was very pleased when the Internet entered our home late last year and I typed in search for "McKuen" and low and behold I found you are not only alive but becoming active once more.

So from the start let me state THANK YOU FOR ALL THE WORDS AND SONGS THAT STRETCH BACK THE FULL LENGTH OF MY GROWING FROM BOY TO MAN.

I offer the following advice from respect and the need to hear the song in the manner and sequence I was first attracted to them.

YOUR BACK CATALOGUE

I own a significant number of your LPs and they are looking and sounding the worse for wear. Over the last 10 years I have replaced all my LPs, by other artist, with CDs. So at this time I have 1500+ CDs by a wide range of people and bands. I have obtained all the McKuen CDs that I can find in the UK. I am sorry to say that I am not happy about the number of CDs available or the material that is included on such releases.

Most of CDs that have been made available are compilations (Greatest Hits, Live albums and compiled collections) this can not be right. LPs are statements and essays of the period they were released in. They remain locked to the time and things learned from that period. They remind us of what attracted us to listen in the first place. Like most fine things they should not be broken down and glued together with other broken bits.

Yes there is a place for Greatest Hits but they should not be used to reflect a life’s work. Life is a film in phase’s not snap shots all out of sequence.

Am I right in thinking that "The Rod McKuen Christmas Album" and "Mr. Oliver Twist" are the only two "song" CDs available in their "original" sequence and format. (Don’t forget “After Midnight.)

The Frank Sinatra back catalogue is a good example of how it can be done well. Leave the original LPs in sequence and add other tracks from that session to the end of the CD. Or there is the Harry Nilisson approach, when the LPs are short placed two on one CD. Being somebody who has reassigned some of your LPs to CD, so I can still play them, some of your early works are short in time but high in content.

I would, and I am certain many others would also, like to see some of your earlier LPs bundled together and released on CD before you get into themed compilations. It can not be right to think that "The Beautiful Strangers" or "The Single Man" LPs may never be made available on CD.

I agree that over views of your work may be required and of value but I respectfully ask you to remember that it all started with statement in time assigned to LPs that should not be broken and ripped apart like torn pages from a diary.

Rod much of the above reads cold and hard but you are much better with words than I, so I hope you understand what I am trying to say. I do hope you find time to come and see us in the UK. Regards, Robert & Linda Jackson


Dear Robert (and Linda.) I appreciated your letter very much and I couldn’t agree with you more on every point you made. So, I am confident my answer to it will contain some very good news for you.

The reason you see mostly compilations and nearly none of the original albums on the market is - for the very thing you sighted. I have wanted to protect the integrity of those works. I almost hate calling them albums because I put so much love, hard work and thought into each song and the overall theme of them – as you know, almost without exception they were concept albums. You guessed right about the fact that each of those LP’s represented what was going on in my life as I was living it. I was more surprised than anyone when some turned out to be huge commercial successes. I finally decided that like my books (diary’s really) other people were going through the same things I was and were able to identify with what must have been pretty common experiences for all of us.

Until recently I worked with a company that specializes in mass marketing CD’s at a very low cost to the consumer. In other words, ‘budget line.’ This was a great opportunity for me because it meant that whatever product I wanted in the market place would reach a wide audience and since as a record collector myself I have always been interested in ‘value for money.” (I hate paying $17.50 for a CD with ten or twelve tracks that comprises 25 minutes of playing time.) In fact, even though this was a budget company the CD’s I put together of my own material were never less that 70 minutes in length. That was the good part, the downside was that many of these collections never made it to record stores. They were designed to be racked and sold by the thousands at Costco, Sam’s Club, Best Buy and other mass-market stores.

You could buy them racked at Staples but many Virgin and Tower outlets didn’t bother carrying them because the profit margin was too low. Still, in a very short period I accomplished what I set out to do, create a CD Market for McKuen.

But, too much time and effort went into creating the large cannon of albums I have on the three major companies I’ve been affiliated with for the longest time periods (RCA, Warner Bros. & Stanyan and I didn’t want to see “Other Kinds of Songs” or “Alone” go out on a budget label nor did I want them priced at seventeen bucks a pop. What to do?

Since I own nearly every master I ever recorded I decided to develop a series of ‘original’ CD’s drawn from material I had created over a 30 year plus period. We’ll get to those albums another time and why I think some of them are very valid, but no more suspense as far as your original question and thoughts are concerned.

Here’s the plan. Starting very soon, this year in fact, "The Rod McKuen/Warner Bros. Years" will begin appearing on CD. They will come in chronological order (skipping for now "The Greatest Hits" Collections and there will be two albums plus bonus tracks on a single CD. The series will be called “Double-Up.”

First up “The Beautiful Strangers” coupled with “New Ballads”
Total time for both albums is 71 minutes and there will be bonus tracks recorded for the original albums but not used at the time.

Here’s the rundown for those who might be reading this but have forgotten the original contents:

THE BEAUTIFUL STRANGERS:

Do you know me Maria?; Alamo Junction; Tamarack Tree; Somerset; Love, Let Me Not Hunger; The Beautiful Strangers; An Isle in the Water; Poem#26; Only Love (In Answer to the Cannons); The House Upon the Hill; Poem#27 and two bonus tracks. This album was recorded in San Francisco, Paris & Los Angeles with beautiful string arrangements added by the late Marty Paich


NEW BALLADS:

Statement: Before I Loved No One; As I Love My Own; All I Need; Thank You for Christmas; And Tonight; I Looked at You A Long Time; I’m Not Afraid; Resolution: Before I Loved No One; Rock Gently; Philadelphia; Gone with the Cowboys; Tomorrow and Today; In Someone’s Shadow; Hit ‘Em in the Head with Love; A While More with You and a bonus track. We used a thirty-five-piece orchestra and the arrangements were by Don Costa with Nick Perito conducting (Don always liked staying in the control room during the takes.) I produced it with my old friend Sonny Burke & we were either working on or had just completed producing Sinatra’s “A Man Alone” album together.

Each Double-Up CD will contain an eight page booklet with the liner material from the originals & a song by song annotation, photos and reviews from the period and a new appraisal of the work (this first one by Jim Pierson who is co-producing the CD with me.) In all cases the original masters will be used and they will be transferred with 24-bit technology. As the writer and publisher of the material I’ll be giving the record company a special mechanical rate which will allow the 30 tracks to be on a single CD at a reasonable price.

"Sold Out at Carnegie Hall" (a world-wide double platinum album) will be released on 2 CD’s at a special price and will contain not only all the songs from the original Warner Bros. two disc set but tracks we had to leave off the LP’s because of time constraints. It will be the first time the concert has ever been presented on record in its entirety. Alone, Odyssey; Sleep Warm, Pastorale, McKuen Country, The Essential Rod McKuen, Seasons in the Sun, Grand Tour and all the other WB albums will make their way to CD and they won’t dribble out but will be released as soon as they are ready.

If all goes according to plan "The Warner Bros. Years" will contain not only the albums released stateside but ones that were released on Warner's in other countries and never made it to the USA. For instance “The Rod McKuen Show" & "Live in London" (England) "The Concert Collection: Africa" (South Africa) and so on. We have even talked about releasing my original demo, done with full orchestra, of the album I wrote for Frank Sinatra, “A Man Alone,” coupled with “Thanks Frank” which contains songs I’ve recorded over the years that Sinatra first made famous.

The CD’s will be released on a very eclectic, well distributed label in the USA. One of the reasons I chose this particular company is because all of the executives and creative people connected with it are record collectors too. In fact their releases comprise everything from Bubble Gum anthologies and obscure artists to best-selling acts and soundtracks from major motion pictures. Like Rhino, they have managed to turn what was essentially a boutique label into a very viable alternative source of material that the huge conglomerates ignore. And, they have become successful enough to do mainstream product but still take chances on material they know only has limited appeal. In other words, they are growing without neglecting the care and watering of their roots.

I like the idea of being associated with that kind of operation. Don’t forget I turned down, by any measure, an enormous deal and guarantee to resign with RCA in favor of a handshake contract with FS and his much smaller (at the time) label Warner/Reprise. I’ve taken over a year to think this move out and am pretty certain I’ve chosen wisely. Once the I’s are dotted & the T’s crossed on the contract I’ll be producing a variety of other CD’s from the Stanyan Vaults and some new material as well for this (as yet unnamed to the public) company. The announcement of the record label should come soon because my first project for them (a non-McKuen album except for a single track) will be released on June 22nd.

Since you live in Great Britain, Robert, while overseas distribution is being set up you will be able to buy these American collections once they are available by mail order from Stanyan By Mail.

I’ve even completed a new Christmas album & with luck we’ll get it out this year in time for the holidays.

Not part of this series but something very dear to me is THE COMPLETE RCA SESSIONS that will comprise six or seven CD’s and include all of the albums I made for RCA during the 1960’s. It will also contain alternate takes and more than 20 unreleased tracks. It will come in a deluxe box set with a hardbound book from a European company that specializes in projects of this scope. Again Jim will co-produce and we are targeting the finished project for fall release of 2002.

With all this activity can The Sea, The Earth, The Sky and all the San Sebastian Strings albums be far behind? Enough questions and answers for now. All the best, Robert, and thanks for letting me address ‘The Catalog’ situation, because we get letters about it every day, though few containing such details, so well put, as yours. Warmly, Rod

THE WORLD I USED TO KNOW

Hello, I am glad to find your site on the internet.

I am looking for the name of a song and am sure it was on an album that I had a long time ago. Well my daughter’s dog ate it yup shur nuff he did, LOL.

The song I am looking to find has a line in it "till that day, I'll be your man, and love away your troubles if I can" and another line
in the song says " you'll find my feet are made of sand." this has all remained in the back of my mind but cannot think of the name.

I hope you can help me find the album or CD that I need to buy in order to acquire this song again. Sincerely, Rick Beehler


Dear Rick, The song is entitled “The World I Used to Know.” It’s available on the double CD “The Platinum Collection” from Stanyan By Mail. Thanks for asking. Cheers, Rod.

MACEWAN CASTLE

Hi Rod, I happened across your page when doing searches for the old MacEwan castle. Currently, I live in santa barbara. I will be traveling to the UK this Wednesday for a 3 week holiday. A big attraction of the trip will be the ruins of MacEwan castle. is there any information you can provide me to make it easier to make the visit? I plan on taking a train from London to Glasgow and renting a car from there.

Any information at all would be extremely helpful (finding the ruins, places to stay, things to do, etc.) thanks for your help! Ron McKown


Dear Ron, Thanks for writing concerning your trip to Scotland and the ill-fated MacEwan Castle.

As you probably know by now, like many a small clan we were 'absorbed' by the Campbell's or should I say they burnt the homestead down, absconded with our women and here we are a few hundred years later still spelling our name a dozen different ways. I never visited the ruins of the castle so I can't tell you much about it. I do have the following information gleaned on several trips to Scotland:

The MacEwan Clan was anciently known as the MacEwans of Otter, and a building known as McEwan's Castle stood near Kilfinan on the shore of Loch Fyne. They were allied to the MacLachlans and the MacNeils and in the 13th century owned part of cowal. Ewen of Otter, from whom the clan takes its name, lived in the 13th Centuury.

About 1432 The Campbell’s acquired Otter and thereafter the MacEwans declined. The name was later found in other parts of Scotland. Without lands the MacEwans became a "broken" clan and found their way to many districts. A large number settled in the Lennox country, others went farther afield to Lochaber, Perth, Skye and the Lowlands including Galloway. The MacEwans were hereditary bands to The Campbells.

The Rev. Alexander McFarlaine, minister of the parish of Kilfininan, writing in 1794 states: "On a rocky point on the coast of Lochfyne about a mile below the church of Kilfinan is to be seen the vestige of a building called Caisteal mhic Eoghuin or MacEwan's Castle." This might further narrow the location for you.

Our Crest consists of a mighty Oak trunk from which sprouts young green branches. It is surrounded by a strap with a buckle & emblasened on it is "Reviresco" which means "I flourish again." or "I grow green." And so we have. Our tartan is green on green with red and black stripes, the red being based on the blood at the roots of the tree trunk.

I hope some of this information helps and doesn't duplicate what you may already have. I know you'll take some photographs of our old homestead, don't forget to send me copies & pick up a stone from the ruins for me, please. On second thought don't get caught stealing relics.

Have a great trip, Ron. Ron McKown's not so far from Rod McKuen so I expect a full report once you return, little brother. Warmest Regards Rod

E CARDS

Dear Rod- Has anyone at ASPTL considered offering Rod McKuen e-cards? I know they would be a big hit, and a great way for fans to share your wisdom and wonder with the people we love.

I hope to write more soon, to tell you my story and how much it has meant to me to find your website and to know that you are still making magic. thanks so much- Joyce Sharp

Dear Joyce, Welcome to ASPTL. Thanks for the nice letter and for your suggestion concerning E-Cards.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had lots of problems with E-Cards, including two major crashes when I tried to open them. So, I no longer open E-cards sent my way nor do I go to whatever site I’m instructed to report to in order to retrieve the message.

I really appreciate the thought behind someone selecting such a greeting and sending it to me but with the volume of mail I get there just isn’t time to open or download greeting cards. That and the problems I mentioned above has cause me to adopt a rule of not opening any attachments that come to me through the mail unless I know about them in advance.

Even if I liked E-cards I don’t know who at our basically two man operation would find the time or energy to create the artwork and animation that people have come to expect from these items. So until the technology improves or I feel ASPTL has something original to offer, you won’t be finding E-cards here.

Again, I do appreciate your suggestion, but for now I think I’ll let it pass. Hope to hear from you again. With affection, Rod

MOTHER KNOWS BEST

A note to thank you for sharing your thoughts over the years. When I was growing up my Mum used to read your poetry, I was not interested, had not experienced life yet and did not understand.

Now, well, I collect your books, run to their worn pages when filled with joy or crushed by emotion, and I find what my Mum must have found those years ago. You are yet another wonderful gift that she has given me. Thank you. Lesli Harrer


Dear Lesli, Thanks for the kind words and I’m delighted that you’ve learned to like my work. And, special belated thanks and love to your mom. Affectionately, Rod

EIGHTEEN

Dear Rod I live in Scotland and 20 years ago my American friend sent me about 8 lines of this poem. It has never left my mind but I have lost it and can only memorize some of it. Please help. It started 'I stood watching as you crossed the street for the last time...”

I am now 60 but still experience the memories your words invoked. Many thanks, Pat Anthony

Dear Pat, The poem is called "Eighteen / The Singing of the Wind" and is from my 1967 book “Listen to the Warm.” It had its beginnings in a letter I wrote from Army boot camp in 1953. I’m glad you remembered it. By the way I find 60 very young, Pat. Here are the words to the poem.

Eighteen / The Singing of the Wind

I stood watching
as you crossed the street
                 for the last time.
Trying hard to memorize you.
Knowing it would be important.
The way you walked,
the way you looked back over your shoulder at me.

Years later
I would hear the singing of the wind
and that day’s singing would come back.
That time of going would return to me
every sun-gray day.
April or August it would be the same
         for years to come.

Man has not made the kind of bromide
that would let me sleep without your memory
or written erotically enough
to erase the excitement of just your hands.

These long years later it is worse
for I remember what it was
as well as what it might have been.

-from “Listen to the Warm,” 1967

Tomorrow’s the day we pass along those items too good to keep to ourselves. More important, it’s the end of what seemed like a very long work week. Sleep warm.

RM 6/7/2001 Previously unpublished

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notable birthdays Chuck Ashman o Gwendolyn Brooks o Beau Brummell o Vince Edwards o Philippe Entremont o Paul Gauguin o Nikki Giovanni o Dolores Gray o Jenny Jones o Tom Jones o Anna Kournikova o Virginia McKenna o Thurman Munson o Liam Neeson o Larisa Oleynik o Prince o Charles Strouse o Jessica Tandy o Karl Urban
Rod's random thoughts Books ought to be a meeting place for mind and heart - they are where we start our journeys.

To write it out is to let it go.

The road to riches is paved with bad intentions.

ROOM

Ceiling cracks,
dusty woodwork,
a spider web half started,
I know this room by heart.
I find my way
from bed to toilet
in the middle of
the darkest night.

Half asleep or wide awake
I need no map
to help me thread my way
past and in between
the obstacles that fill up full
this empty room.

I'd post a letter
but I don’t know
your address.
I'd call
but how would I begin
let alone maintain
a conversation ?
Once I'd promised
to forget you
I ran backward
making sure
that I'd remember you
for always.

The doorbell buzzes
at odd times
in the morning
or the night,
maybe all day long
if I were here
to hear it.

I never answer,
since it isn’t you.
And if it were
on opening the door
I'd only open
brand new memories
that even as they happened
I'd be making resolutions
to forget.

-from “Celebrations of the Heart,” 1975

 
© 1953, 1967, 1975, 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
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