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Stanyan Entertainment Group
A Thought for Today
It could be worse. Wait and see what
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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,”
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
appearance dates just announced!
Booking for "An Evening with
Rod McKuen" at the Riverton Rendezvous is open! Click below for
Concert & Appearance Details