A DISPATCH FROM THE FRONT
Photo by Bob Gentry ©2001
A Thought for Today
Learn the song by heart before you sing it.
I don't have a perfect memory, but memories of perfect times do come back. I'm sure I will need a bit of time to get around to putting into words my feelings about doing concerts again but for now let me just say it was a blast.
I hope those of you who came to the concerts in Aurora, Thousand Oaks and the three "Life Upon The Wicked Stage" performances at Cal State went away with the feeling that I was genuinely enjoying myself. I haven't had as much fun in a long time . . . well, not since I was on stage the last time.
I should have followed the advice in my thought for today since I managed to forget the words to some songs I had learned long ago by heart; on others I felt so sure of myself that I soared. Whatever the situation I was positive that all of you were right there with me. What a feeling!
For the record and especially for those who couldn't make it to the concerts here's a rundown of the songs and poems performed.
Paramount Theatre 3/10/01 Aurora, Illinois
Act One: If I Could Fly o The World I Used to Know o Rock Gently o I've Been to Town o Everybody's Rich But Us o Poem: I Always Knew o Many Summers Ago o Jean o Love's Been Good to Me o Greatest Losers o Poem: Meditations on October o Blame it on July o Solitude's My Home o Poem: The Art of Catching Trains o To Watch The Trains o If You Go Away o Seasons in the Sun
Act Two: I'm Not Afraid o I'll Catch the Sun o A Boy Named Charlie Brown o Poem: Where Will I Rediscover You o Sleep Warm o The Complete Madame Butterfly o The Time It Takes to Love You o Poem: A Cat Named Sloopy o The Single Man o Times Gone By o Poem: Age is Better o The Ivy That Clings to the Wall o The Port of Amsterdam o Encores: Don't Get Around Much Anymore o When The World Was Young o September Song o Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.
Civic Center 3/08/01 Thousand Oaks, California
Act One: If I Could Fly o The World I Used to Know o Rock Gently o I've Been to Town o Everybody's Rich But Us o Poem: I Always Knew o Many Summers Ago o Jean o A Man Alone o Love's Been Good to Me o Greatest Losers o Poem: Meditations on October o Blame it on July o Solitude's My Home o The Art of Catching Trains o To Watch the Trains o If You Go Away o The Port of Amsterdam
Act Two: I'm Not Afraid o I'll Catch the Sun o I Think of You o Poem: Goodbye o Sleep Warm o The Complete Madame Butterfly o The Summer's Long o Soldiers Who Want to be Heroes o The Time it Takes to Love You o Poem: A Cat Named Sloopy o The Single Man o Times Gone By o Poem: Age is Better o The Ivy That Clings to the Wall o The Port of Amsterdam o Encores: Don't Get Around Much Anymore o When the World Was Young o September Song
Featuring Harvey Newmark, bass; Peter Woodford, guitar; Mark Stevens, drums; Nelson Kole piano & music director
Luckman Theatre Cal. State 3/2,3 & 4/01 Los Angeles, CA
"Look for the Silver Lining"; as part of an evening of Jerome Kern Songs to benefit AIDS & HIV patients. Produced by David Galligan. Full Orchestra with Ron Able, music director.
As you can see the two concerts only had slight differences & I managed to forget AND remember the lyrics to different songs at each performance. Quite a feat. Glad I was performing for friends
I'm not sure when I'll get through all of these, but here is some of the concert mail I wanted to share with you. I hope it doesn't come off as self serving to print a few of these letters, but I am proud of them and maybe my answers will help get across to you just how much I enjoyed myself.
Hi Rod, Well, here we are back in the U.K. having spent the most unbelievable weekend in Aurora. We cannot express sufficiently our gratitude to you for performing again and making our dreams come true! We hope it won't be too long before you are able to visit the U.K.!!?? (You have many avid fans over here!)
Thank you again, we hope you are not too exhausted after all those photo calls, book signings etc. With love, Ruth & Richard Cargill, Christchurch U.K.
P.S. Also glad you liked the roses!
Dear Ruth and Richard, You'll never know how much it means to me to have had friends such as you travel the distance you did for my Aurora concert. Trust me, I'll find some really positive way to show my appreciation but meanwhile I'd like to send you and your husband a copy of the A Safe Place to Land book & CD Set. Assuming, that is, that American Customs release it during our lifetime.
It's eight days after the concert and I am still flying very high at being able to perform for such an appreciative audience.
Thank you again for making the trip and based on my mail the four of you made a lot of new friends here in the colonies. As for a visit to the UK, I know England's near the top of Jerry Lonn's list of things he's exploring for my future concert tours. Of course he'll have to answer to Webmaster Ken if I don't get to South Africa first. Love to you both. Rod
THE ROD SQUAD?
Dear Rod, Thank you, thank you thank you! For once I am at a loss for words. You were magnificent. And to actually get to tell you that to your face was truly a pleasure.
You are the man! Let's do it again sometime. There was a youngster in the audience, about sixteen who had came alone from some distance to see you. I just know you have begun your magic again on a whole new generation of fans. And you'll
always have the "Rod Squad" and me. Much, much and More Love, Randi
Dear Randi, Thanks. I loved the mix of both audiences and as always I wish I could do both concerts all over again. Luv, Rod
AGE IS BETTER
Rod, I really enjoyed your concert at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, IL this past Saturday evening. You awakened some sleepy memories within me. I will hit the "Big Five-O" on April 30, the day after you turn 68. But you know I identified a lot with your poem, "Age is Better". I have been in too much of a rush with life....
I think the last time I saw you in concert prior to last weekend was during the summer of 1970 at Red Rocks Amphitheater, just outside of Denver. My undergraduate college years were 1969-1973, and your poetry was a formative part of who I became. Having grown up in rural Northern Montana and going to college in Montana ... I was very unaware and very "sheltered". Your poetry gave me new sight ... like a pair of reading glasses to one whose eyes have grown dim.
I know you are busy man and do not expect any reply. I just wanted to be one that said "Thank You" ... not only for last week's concert at the Paramount, but also for contributing to who I am. Doug Chapman
Dear Doug, Thanks for coming to the concert and for writing me. Anyway, if I wasn't too preoccupied to write a few things back then that may have helped you out a bit how can I be too busy to comment on such a thoughtful letter now?
Letters like yours have kept me going all these years. It's never enough to work without some kind of feedback. I know from experience that all of us are in a hurry to grow up and start whatever we think life is. I still wonder what it is I'll finally do when I grow up; of course at my age I'm not in such a hurry any more. Affectionately, Rod
Hello Rod, First let me say the night I saw you in concert was one of the most wonderful evenings I have ever had in my life. I mentioned to my friends that the only thing I can compare it too was when I saw Peggy Lee. You're wonderful!
It was a thrill to be able to personally give you a copy of my band, Bric-a-Brac's CD of your work, "Three Weeks From Yesterday". We kind of put it on the shelf for the time being, focusing on our full band's CD. However, on the way to your show we played it again and thought this is pretty good. We hope that you feel the same way. Like I said before we don't intend to release it commercially, but we would love to.
We wanted to wait until we had your input and in a way your blessing. We want you to know that we were treating your work with the respect it deserves. If you have any comments concerning this project please contact me. Again, thank you for once again inspiring me to keep singing and writing. Yours truly, John S. Connors
Dear John, I enjoyed the Bric-A-Brac approach to my work a lot. I was particularly impressed that you chose several of my more obscure and neglected works. For instance you are only the second act to cover "When the Bars Close" and the first, other than myself, to record "Desire Has No Special Time," and "Beach Towns." I don't think I've ever recorded "Some Thoughts on Capitol Punishment." Your take on it was terrific.
The ping-pong effect of the subliminal voice on "Beach Towns" was a nice touch. And, I'm glad you chose two songs I wrote with Henry Mancini ("Lonely Winter" & "Natalie.") I loved the vocal harmonies you and Mike provided for "If You Go Away" and using "The Athletes in the Old School Annual" to introduce "It's Raining" really works. It's also one of the best arrangements on the disc.
You guys do a beautiful job on "Lonely Winter," which Hank and I wrote for the film "Joe Butterfly." I wish he were around to hear it. Ditto "Natalie."
I hope the album doesn't go back on the shelf and that you do find a distributor for it. Once it is released I'll be glad to do what I can to help you promote it. When your current project is finished I'd love to hear that one too. Bric-A-Brac makes an amazingly large sound for a three-piece band and you have a commanding voice. I think you and the band have an edge and a real chance for success because you have a distinct and original sound.
Thanks for the kind words on the concert and for choosing my material to perform. All the best to you, Mike and my fellow Irishman, Seamus (I signed his hat.) Please keep me posted on developments with your writing and your career. Cheers, Rod
BACK IN BUSINESS
Hi Rod, I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the concert in Aurora. It was a real highlight for me and made me feel good to see you "back in business."
Before the show began you could feel the energy of the crowd. Much of the discussion was how much they had missed you and the last time they were able to see you perform. Anyway you looked great. How did you lose the twenty pounds?
I would have stayed around after the concert to shake your hand, but have been battling bronchitis and thought it best for me to keep a safe distance. The poem "Age is Better" was really beautiful. Thank you and best wishes. Jeffrey
Dear Jeffery, Thanks for the kind gesture of not passing your cold on to me, but I wish you could have stayed and said hello.
Meeting the audience after the show is almost as much fun as performing and certainly, when I'm up to it, an important part of the evening.
You can bet that I felt the positive energy from the audience and it made all the difference. As for the weight loss, it was much easier than I thought. I didn't go on a special diet but instead ate smaller portions of everything. Hey Jeffery, just knowing you're going to be 'on exhibition' in front of a few hundred people does wonders for getting your act together mentally and physically. All the best, Rod
MY SISTER & I
Rod, Just a note to Thank-you for a wonderful evening in Aurora. My sister turned me on to you in the late 70's. After collecting many books and albums, (SOLD OUT had to be purchased twice as the first album wore out!), and becoming a big fan, I wanted to see and hear you live. However, I was too late. I thought I would never have that dream fulfilled. I was delighted to be wrong about that.
My sister, who came up from Springfield, IL, and I not only had the pleasure of seeing the concert together, but also meeting with you afterwards. Thank-you again.
Glad you're back! Hope to see you on the road again! Pray take care! Rich Engstrom
Dear Rich, In the midst of having such a good time for myself it's nice to learn that I brought about a brother and sister reunion. You can bet this
won't be the last time I come around your way. Incidentally The Paramount is one of the most beautiful theatres I've ever performed
in and it's older than I am. Luv to you and your sister. Rod
MORE NOTES REGARDING THOUSAND OAKS
Hi Rod. Many, many thanks for the wonderful performance in Thousand Oaks. I shouldn't call it a performance, it was more like you just sitting around and sharing your gifts with friends. I have loved you since high school and never thought I would get to meet you. Thanks for the songs, the words, and you obliging me with a picture in the lobby afterward. Your sincerity and
generosity beamed like an aura around you. I hope we will meet again someday. Deb Radwan
I just wanted to tell you how amazing it was to sit in the
audience and see you live. I have been a fan since the 60's, own 6 books, 6 CD's, and favorite-the record of The Sea. A special friend introduced me to it in 1971, and it still evokes wonderful
memories of a love with bad timing. The evening in Thousand Oaks was wonderful.
I was there with a female friend who wasn't as familiar with your work as I was but she also enjoyed it tremendously, so you now have another fan. Thanks for sharing your evening with us!
Marilyn Novak who likes to Listen to the Warm.
We just got home from Thousand Oaks, its Friday 3:15pm. We left on Wednesday, as we live in Modesto. The ride up there was so beautiful. The weather was perfect. It was so nice to see everything so green.
Now, what you're waiting to hear. This was one of the best concerts, I have even seen or heard our Rod perform. He was so comfortable, and made us feel that way too. He came in to a standing ovation. So much love was felt in that beautiful
Theatre. Yes, Rod McKuen still can cause a hush; you could almost hear the breathing. We didn't want to miss one word. We have all waited so long. I am so excited for those who have yet to hear this. I wish I could teleport, and go to the Aurora concert also. I shall be there in spirit. They're gonna love you Rod. Just like we did.
We were somewhat disappointed about the CD and book being held up in customs. But they still had items. I got two, tee
shirts. I am gonna use them as nightshirts. First I will take and show them off at work. I also got Listen to the Warm and Rod McKuen Greatest Hits. I am listening to, I'll
Catch the Sun. Oh, it's so beautiful. Thank you for all the prep time, this endeavor has taken. We who know and love you are most grateful.
Get ready Aurora, you have the grandest pleasure, of holding for a moment in time, the most wonderful and gifted, performer of our time. Lola
Rod, it was a great pleasure to see you again. what a great concert,
I've been waiting 20 years for this and it was the greatest thrill that I got to meet
you. I wish we had had time to talk, I share your love of records, though my collection is a fraction of yours, what
I wouldn't give to browse yours. This was my fourth concert of yours (you wanted to know which ones as you said
I didn't look old enuf...thanks for that :))
Like so many others I really identify with your music and poems and seeing you perform just adds to that.
I've been to hundreds of concerts from Son House to Frank Sinatra and yours have always been among the most memorable, like
B.B. King your performance seems to be a window to who you are and I feel as if we connect on some level.
I know everyone there felt that way.
Thanks again for a great nite! I'm looking forward to the next one. Randy
Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the
concert in Thousand Oaks. It was so good to hear you again. I enjoyed the mix of the old with the new, and it was such a
hoot when the guy in the audience had LONESOME CITIES.
You made me cry thrice, but more importantly, you made me
smile for three hours straight! Thank you. Bev Adams
Rod: What a treat last night. It was everything I hoped for. I have been following you faithfully for more years than I care to remember. It was your albums, your poetry that kept me going some times. You were always able to say what was in my heart. It was like you knew me, were there for the triumphs and for the despair. In so many ways you my inspiration to go on
and am I glad I did.
I'm 52 now and lead a very fulfilling life. Great husband, kid, the works. But I still listen to your CD's and pour through the books. Each time I take something new with me. Thank you for being you! Pam Miller
Dear Deb, Marilyn, Lola, Randy, Bev and Pam, Each of you is part of what made the night work for me at The Civic Center. And while the concert hall in Thousand Oaks is totally different than The Paramount in Aurora, I loved the intimacy of it and because it's just a short drive down the freeway from home I hope to make it an annual stop off.
No one was more disappointed than I about the Safe Place to Land Book & CD Set being held up at customs, but more about all of that tomorrow. It's a strange tale indeed & grows stranger every day.
I loved your letters and it's a good thing I don't wear a hat, my head's a helluva a lot bigger than it was a week ago. Time will cause the swelling to go down… that and the fact that I have a lot more to prove and many more chances to take. As always, you are all invited along for the trip. Luv, Rod
It's midnight and I'd better get this off to Ken. Below is another new poem from the book. Tomorrow, some 'concert moments.' Sleep warm.
Details of Rod's upcoming concerts
and appearances can be obtained via the link below:
McKuen Concerts & Appearances