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Photo by Bob Gentry ©2001 Stanyan Entertainment

A Thought for Today

Old friends are the best. They eliminate the need to dress in Sunday clothes.

 

I’m finally coming down from the mixed high my 50th High School Graduating Class reunion produced last weekend. I’m hoping to get some photographs and reports from other members of the class that I can share with you soon.

DISCOVERING SINATRA’S “A MAN ALONE”

Hi Rod, Well, it is definitely the first of many beautiful dandelion days here on the coast of California. So it was especially poignant that yesterday I came across, by chance, a classic hardcover copy of Listen to the Warm AND an LP I never even knew existed: Frank Sinatra's "A Man Alone," with Frank
singing your songs and speaking your words.

You cannot imagine the excitement when I laid the record down on my old Magnavox. Can you tell me anything about making that record? Was it your only collaboration with Sinatra? Great stuff!

I have been a McKuen applicator ("fan" sounds so splashy) for about ten years, when I came across my first record, and I'm glad to see you're still around and still Rod McKuen. I may be your youngest collector -- I even have your double live LP.

I have a request, and you can disregard it if you want, but would it be possible to get an autographed picture? Could you write, "Let's make every day a dandelion day"? That has to be the line that has affected me the most, believe it or not.

Thanks for letting me listen to the warm with you! Don Frades


Dear Don (or should I say “Dandelion Day Tripper), Thanks for the nice letter. I’m glad you found Frank’s recording of “A Man Alone.” Everything to do with it, from its inception through the production and continuing life of it, was and is a labor of love.

I’ve written extensively about Sinatra and the album over the past several years, so rather than revisit it here; scroll to the bottom of the page and click The Archive button. Then, type in Frank Sinatra and you’ll have plenty of reading ahead of you.

This month marks the third anniversary of Frank’s passing and it is certainly an event that no one I know is celebrating. Thank God for modern media. Where Sinatra is concerned there are six decades worth of priceless recordings, radio transcriptions, and film and television appearances that will make it impossible for coming generations to ignore the most influential popular singer in history.

That offers some comfort to those of us that knew and loved the man and many thousand hours of on-tap pleasure to his fans all over the world.

In addition to “A Man Alone” you can find “If You Go Away” on his “My Way” album and his extraordinary rendition of “I’m Not Afraid" on his “Greatest Hits, 2” CD. I wrote both of those songs with Jacques Brel.

Thanks for writing Don. Your photo is on the way. Warmest Regards, Rod

WHO’S POETRY HAVE YOU BEEN READING, LOLA?

Me thinks you spend too much time trying to get everything mapped in your mind that you miss the point of the person. Woman is not just food for your loins. We have so much more to offer. Now what did you have to offer them. That is the rub?

How can you say you live in the moment, I think you are pulling the wool over your own eyes.

Can you write a poem about a love, with out having sex in it?

Love is more then the sexual experience.

Love is sharing the whole of the person. And you know what the next line was gonna say. I am being kind. Lola

Dear Lola, I haven’t a clue as to what the next line was going go say. Sorry you’ve mistaken A Safe Place to Land for the Kama Sutra. The Rosary Hour is also available on line & you might check that out. Cheers, Rod

PEPPERMINT WEST & OTHER PLACES

Dear Rod: I live in London now and I went back to Hollywood near the site of the old Peppermint West, has time obscured my mind or do I remember you singing "If I had a Hammer"? there and on KCOP or somewhere like that?

I keep finding or being given copies of Stanyan St. and a lover emailed your Oak poem.

I volunteer to look after a beautiful garden square in the center of London and we have a Turkey Oak there that self seeded a few years ago, that was brought to mind about that poem, it is on the edge of the square in a lesser used spot reminiscent of your poem.

Come to London and lets have our picture taken with the oak.

I was very deeply moved by your poetry you are a great bard of our time. I don't think I'm alone in that opinion. Cheers and God Bless. Jordan Reynolds


Dear Jordan, Flattery will get you everywhere or nearly any place you want to go. Thanks for the nice words.

It wasn’t your imagination, once long ago during the twist craze I played joints like The Peppermint Lounge in New York and Peppermint West in Los Angeles. There’s even a re-issue of an album “Mr. Oliver Twist” made at the time, to prove it.

My past is forever catching up with me but unlike some that have moved on to other things I regret nothing that has my name on it. I worked hard at whatever I did and did it for the love of the work as well as to pay the rent. Shaking my butt while belting out twist songs had its moments and being a sexual object for a few minutes was quite a change for this basically introverted chap.

The inspiration for the ‘Summertree Poems’ is still very much in evidence so I have no doubt that more will flow from wherever they come from.

Be careful what you wish for Jordan, I just might show up in that London Square of yours for the snapshot. If I can travel 3000 miles once or twice a day to Atlanta via the Net, London should be no problem.

Thanks for writing and remembering, warmly Rod

THROUGH EUROPEAN WINDOWS

Rod, I'm sorry to bother you with this, but I have exhausted all of the other avenues that I can imagine. I am addicted to your album Through European Windows, but my vinyl copy is worn despite loving care. Has it been or will it ever be released as a CD? Thanks. Steve Nielsen

Dear Steve, I highly approve of your addiction. We have copies of the vinyl version of “Through European Windows” at Stanyan By Mail. The album will be released on CD as part of a 6 or 7 CD boxed set “Rod McKuen: The RCA Years.” There is no way the project will be completed for release until sometime late next year or maybe even late 2003. A lot of research is going into that project. It will be very elaborate with extensive notes, photos from the period, at least 20 tracks that have never been released and many alternate takes. It will contain in addition to “Through European Windows,” “The Loner.” “Other Kinds of Songs,” “Prolific Composer Rod McKuen Sings His Own,” “The Single Man” and the double album of “Listen to the Warm.”

You may have noticed that I have included very few of the RCA tracks in my CD anthologies; I consider my 5 years with RCA a very pivotal period of my recording life. Among other things I was coming out of a folk period and became heavily influenced by the French chanson. I like the idea of it being released as a body of work.

For the time being your best bet is the order the LP while it’s still available. Thanks for asking, Cheers, Rod

THE EARTH

Dear Rod, I have searched for "The Earth" for many years, with no success. I noticed that there was a listing for this on this website, however, there were no ordering instructions.

Is this available in CD? if so - will you help me locate it for purchase?

I would also be interested in - the complete sea, the sky and for lovers. thank you so much Jeannette Klein

###

Hi, I have read many of your books, and words cannot express how much my husband and I have enjoyed them nor can I tell you how many enjoyable hours we have spent quietly sitting and listening to your records. I was so excited to find you have this web site and I immediately ordered some CD's.

However I could not find my most favorite album, “The Earth”
on cassette or on CD. Is it possible I have missed it? And is it
available on either? Please never stop writing you have a wonderful gift that is enjoyed by so many, may I say Thank You Rod McKuen. Most Sincerely, Marian


Dear Janet and Marian, I’ve just finished part one of a new in-depth interview with Ken and he will be posting soon. It explains in some detail the situation with the San Sebastian Strings CD’s.

There is no “Earth” CD but Stanyan By Mail has exactly 3 copies of the LP left. The price is $12.85. Sorry I didn’t have better news for you on the “Earth” CD. Warmly, Rod

THE WORLD I USED TO KNOW

In which book can I find the words to your poem, "The World I Used to Know?" I recently heard it as recorded by Jimmie Rodgers and really liked it! Thanks! M. N. Pipkin

Dear M.N., The lyrics to “The World I Used to Know” are contained in “Listen to the Warm” and the songbook “Sold Out at Carnegie Hall.” The vocal version is included in the following LP’s “In Concert,” “McKuen Country,” “At Carnegie Hall,” “The Amsterdam Concert” and several Greatest Hits collections.

It’s also available on the CD’s “Early Harvest” & “The French Connection.” Hope this helps. Sincerely, Rod

FOR A GIFT

Hello Rod, Having checked out your web site I have to admit to vaguely remembering your name from years back! The reason for the search is that a friend would very much like a book of your poetry for her birthday. Are all your books poetry books or can you possibly name a few for me that are not?

I liked what I saw on the web site so perhaps will explore it more at a later date. Do you know if your books are available in the UK? Many thanks and look forward to your reply Cari Green


Dear Cari, Most of my available books are poetry except for “An Outstretched Hand" which is a mixture of poetry and prose.

There is a complete listing in the bibliography, but if she’s been a fan for very long there’s no telling which books she may already have. Your best bet would probably be the newest “A Safe Place to Land.”

There are no books currently available in the United Kingdom, but that will change when and if I tour there again. All the best, Rod

THE RED RAVEN

Hello Rod my old friend! I've thought of you often as I've listened to your soft seductive voice and comforting words of love.

It's been so many years since our late night sightings of each other at the busy 'Red Raven' in Hollywood. Who could forget that wonderful oasis in the charming village of Hollywood, California. It was 1963 - we'd occasionally share an admiring greeting and a few words as we passed through the standing room only crowd.

Remember the occasional showing of Bugs Bunny/Porky Pig Cartoons like 'What’s Opera Doc'? I just found a copy on Video at Warner’s on a visit. The Red Raven had to be one of the first to show short Cartoon films. Long before Videos became the prime distraction at bars in Hollywood and San Francisco.

I'm living in Palm Beach area now, but go back 'home' regularly on business. I even drove by the Ravens old building last week on a L.A. and Palm Springs visit. It's still there! Even had a hot dog at 'Pinks'!

Thinking about it - I was a frequent part of one of the cliques of
handsome men at that bar while 'House of the Rising Sun', 'Suspicion' and the Beach Boys singing 'Don't Worry Baby' played endlessly. And Peter and Gordons 'World Without Love' played too.

I hope I've I stirred a few memories of a frequently lonely, but lovely time in your wonderfully poetic head! You still look great in the photo.

I'm Rob DeMars. We have common interests since, In the later 60s, I went into the Music Business scouting acts into the 70s for Zappa’s production and Publishing Company (Straight/Bizarre - Warners). Produce acts for Columbia and hung out at the Troubadour - especially on Monday 'Hoot Nights'. Great music – I discovered Tom Waits and Jackson Browne too - took them to David Geffen at Asylum and worked with Zappa, Tim Buckley, Linda Ronstadt and countless others during the wonderful Peace Movement days! So much love of people and life.

The kid from Burbank High had his life changed by it all. It would be nice to see you again Rod. Have a drink! Talk of old times! I've loved your soft music and romantic insights ever since I found you again spinning on those RCA LPs. Never knew how to contact you! Hope you're well. Robert DelMars


Dear Robert, Your letter brought back memories of an innocent time and place where much of how and what I write today had its formation.

The Red Raven was one of my favorite watering holes and the three or four-mile walk from my house on Gardner Street to ‘The Raven’ produced some of my best early songs. I didn’t own a car or even know how to drive those first years in Hollywood and I used to write while walking to and from the bar. “I’ve Been to Town,” “Doesn’t Anybody Know My Name” and "You Pass Me By” came from those walks.

The Red Raven had one of the best jukeboxes anywhere and for the price of a single beer that could be nursed far into the night you could meet all kinds of interesting people. If you were as introverted and afraid of rejection as I was most of the time you could get off on just standing around looking and listening.

I had the pleasure of taking Leonard Bernstein to the Raven to see some of the Warner Bros. Symphonic cartoons. He had never seen any of them and enjoyed himself immensely.

Pinks Hot Dog Stand still stands. If you watch Leno’s Jay Walking segments many are filmed in front of Pinks. No matter what time of the day or night you go there you have to wait in line.

Nice to hear you’ve been involved in the music business and at one of my old stomping grounds, Warner’s. I note your E-mail address mentions Sammy Kaye. Just used his version of “Remember Pearl Harbor” in a CD compilation I produced.

Again, Robert, thanks for the memories. Good luck till the next time we meet, Rod.

 - RM 05/17/2001

Booking for "An Evening with Rod McKuen" at the Riverton Rendezvous is open! Click below for more details:

Riverton Concert Details

notable birthdays Stewart Alsop o Cameron Bancroft o Andrea Corr o Archibald Cox o Enya o Jean Gabin o Dennis Hopper o Edward Jenner o Jordan Knight o Sugar Ray Leonard o Taj Mahal o Zinka Milanov o Merle Miller o Tahj Mowry o Birgit Nilsson o Maureen O'Sullivan o Bill Paxton o Dennis Potter o Ted Raaf o Trent Reznor o Bob Saget o Eric Satie
Rod's random thoughts Prosperity and wealth have no meaning without charity.

A friend is forever.

Everything comes together in the spring.

PASSENGERS
for J. S. A.

We are passengers
on the same train.
Destinations far removed
            from one the other
but close enough that you
once entertained the thought
of us arriving and stepping down
at the same stop,
               the self same station
from this vehicle
built for carrying
alike feelings, alike needs.

If the unseen, unknown conductor
              is not known to you,
he is to me.
Beneath his guises and disguises
he is known to me as love.

Again I shake my guts out
              not so silently
and boast and brag of love.
If you are so engaged with echoes
it may seemingly come often to me.
I cannot say with certainty
                     that it's not so,
but I will not demote, degrade
this aura, this event
      by any lesser name.

I love.
To what degree
this hour and this time
is of no importance.

I love you with what I am
and all I am as of this minute.
Not the hours ahead or yet to come.

Friends will say -
and if they do
then they are your friends
              no longer mine –
that I have loved before,
           other places, other times.
And they may even circle
a certain calendar curriculum
and show you without doubt
that they are said to be
                 my lovers too.

I say doubt them.
Trust them not.
For I was not invented
          or thought up
until these recent minutes
that heaped atop each other
became these round and recent hours.

In truth
could I not
I would not love you.
I would choose the easy road.
Age has taught me, or I thought it had
how to discover, disguise and avoid
                                      anxiety.

It's not so much that it is difficult
to love and be not loved, or even
                        that it holds no hope.
It is that the business of so doing
        is impractical and incomplete.

At best not being loved affords only
the luxury of latitude and self-pity.

This time
there is some evidence
that knowing you or starting to
has made me better in a known
          and in some unknown way.
Ah, but we are greedy men
those of us who come to rest
                                at last
on what we feel to be
                        our final, real love.

Better will not do.
We always want the best.
A taste of you has left an ache,
an opening for all the rest.

Passengers we are
traveling these same tracks
carried along by this same ribbon
                       of boardwalk.
All journeys end
or so we are told they should.

The destination looms,
is nearly in our sights.
Can you see it, feel it?

Come closer one more time
and see it through my eyes
or stand behind me, hold on tight
and feel it through my shoulders
or feel it while I'm holding you.

There on the beach
beyond the boardwalk
two people stand
         looking into nothing.
Can't you see them?

There behind the snow-fence
             where the track ends
                           standing
                      staring
some distance from each other.
One is holding little shells
and sea smooth rocks
gathered from some unnamed ocean.
The other's hands are cupped
and filled with chips of colored glass
          retrieved from that same sea.

Side by side they've come
down the same much traveled beach.
And having journeyed for a time
           on the same train
each has loped or run
the distance necessary
to have learned all lessons
              worth the learning.

Now each is gone
beyond the boardwalk separately
                       not together
where something surely waits
and found that there was nothing.

-from "Beyond The Boardwalk," 1975, 1976

 
© 1975, 1976, 1988, 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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