Rod McKuen: Awesome or Dud?

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Having lived under a rock since I was born (the punk rock, specifically), I heard Rod McKuen for the first time today. I bought "Time of Desire" for twelve--TWELVE--cents because I thought the cover looked like what Jacques Brel's album covers SHOULD look like. All broody and French and Bohemian, and smoking a cigarette to boot. SURPRISE! I found out that McKuen translated a whole bunch of Brel's songs into English! Common knowledge, I know, except to me, the ardent Scott Walker fan. Then I LISTENED to it, and it was actually... kind of awesome, like what I really, really wished and imagined Ken Nordine was like before I actually heard him. And not in the way that watching "Dr. Phil" is awesome, either. Awesome like Donovan. And the liner notes! Genius! Anyway, I don't know ANYTHING about the man other than that his website is God-awfully ugly and he is to be held at least partially accountable for "Seasons in the Sun," a song which I have a personal vendetta with relating to the Three Stooges. He apparently has real "songs," like with melodies and everything. Are they also awesome, or, at least, would someone who thinks his spoken-word is awesome, think they are awesome?

owen moorhead (i heart daniel miller), Friday, 2 December 2005 01:41 (sixteen years ago) link

macarthur park is da bomb

dan bunnybrain (dan bunnybrain), Friday, 2 December 2005 02:25 (sixteen years ago) link

'cept, of course, that it was written by Jimmy Webb.

Myke Weiskopf (Myke Weiskopf), Friday, 2 December 2005 03:11 (sixteen years ago) link


tokyo nursery school: afternoon session (rosemary), Friday, 2 December 2005 03:16 (sixteen years ago) link

his lyrics are the worst thing since bubonic plague, and his album Through European Windows is the reason God now hates humans and is trying to kill us

Banana Nutrament (ghostface), Friday, 2 December 2005 03:16 (sixteen years ago) link

dud for nearly wrecking "a boy named charlie brown" with his horrible theme song.

CLASSIC for "(i belong to the) beat generation."

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Friday, 2 December 2005 04:17 (sixteen years ago) link

"time of desire" (later re-released as "desire has no special time") is about as incomprehensibly fucked up a record as you can find, it's the non-stop sex record, an amazing snapshot of beat culture diluting over into the mainstream, you will lose your mind trying to understand how he thought it was okay to think it / write it / give it to a record company to put it out. it's been sampled.

"beatsville" and "listen to the warm", similar, you will wear a hole in your forehead from punching it with your fist

the later records are a bit easier to make fun of without hurting yourself

milton parker (Jon L), Friday, 2 December 2005 05:23 (sixteen years ago) link

that's to say, he's completely awesome

milton parker (Jon L), Friday, 2 December 2005 05:24 (sixteen years ago) link

Awesome. Although his output is pretty patchy - he's released probably hundreds of records over the years...

Lonesome Cities
Listen To The Warm
Amour Amour (disco album!)

Concerto for Balloon and Orchestra.
Most of the other cheesy Stanyan Strings LP's

Jack Battery-Pack (Jack Battery-Pack), Friday, 2 December 2005 06:43 (sixteen years ago) link

SEASONS IN THE SUN, y'all! if rod mckuen was good enough for jacques brel, then what's YER excuse?!?

Eisbär (llamasfur), Friday, 2 December 2005 07:18 (sixteen years ago) link

sensitive guy shtick was solid gold in the singles-bar era. McKuen probably got laid more than Warren Beatty and Kahil Ghibran combined.

listen to the smarm (lovebug starski), Friday, 2 December 2005 11:28 (sixteen years ago) link

He's playing in Holland next week

Banana Nutrament (ghostface), Friday, 2 December 2005 11:35 (sixteen years ago) link

His translations of Brel (if they can be called that) are shit tho aren't they?

Oh No, It's Dadaismus (and His Endless Stupid Jokes) (Dada), Friday, 2 December 2005 11:43 (sixteen years ago) link

oh they're a couple of steps past "shit"

Banana Nutrament (ghostface), Friday, 2 December 2005 14:05 (sixteen years ago) link

The only thing I've ever heard was one of the albums he did w/the san sebastian strings. It was fucking terrible, I mean possibly one of the worst records I've ever heard.

Pashmina (Pashmina), Friday, 2 December 2005 14:21 (sixteen years ago) link

I have to recuse myself, as I was a member of the Rod McKuen Players in college. We performed spontaneous interpretive dance to the poetry of Rod. (I narrated, they danced. I also performed "Ode to Rod," in the guise / persona of The Young Allen Ginsberg.) We did this when we were drunk as bastardos at parties. Only once did we ever get anything thrown at us, but it was a lot of stuff so we counted it as suffering for our art.

I have about ten Rod albums. He is a sapmeister and a weak sister and I love him. His "Live at Carnegie Hall" album is brilliant.

The Obligatory Sourpuss (Begs2Differ), Friday, 2 December 2005 15:00 (sixteen years ago) link

I laff whenever I hear him played on WFMU.

nearly wrecking "a boy named charlie brown" with his horrible theme song.

Yeah, I musta heard that at seven. Do you think Schulz signed off on that assignment?

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Friday, 2 December 2005 15:19 (sixteen years ago) link

CLASSIC for "(i belong to the) beat generation."

Right. We wouldn't have Richard Hell's "Blank Generation" without it.

Edward Bax (EdBax), Friday, 2 December 2005 19:54 (sixteen years ago) link

Check the "Friends' page on Rod's website, Rod and the Queen, Rod and Mancini, on and on. I assume "Mister Kelly" was his big fluffy dog?

Drew Daniel (Drew Daniel), Friday, 2 December 2005 20:01 (sixteen years ago) link

how is this not awesome??

tokyo nursery school: afternoon session (rosemary), Saturday, 3 December 2005 05:03 (sixteen years ago) link

*recoils in horror*

Joseph McCombs (Joseph McCombs), Saturday, 3 December 2005 07:19 (sixteen years ago) link

do you think they are an item??

tokyo nursery school: afternoon session (rosemary), Saturday, 3 December 2005 13:17 (sixteen years ago) link

"time of desire" (later re-released as "desire has no special time")

Hahahahahaha!!! Were the new liner notes a big apology for the first title?

nickn (nickn), Saturday, 3 December 2005 20:33 (sixteen years ago) link

nine years pass...


pelvic slang (GOTT PUNCH II HAWKWINDZ), Friday, 30 January 2015 09:17 (seven years ago) link

We had joy we had fun. RIP

Number Nine Meme (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 30 January 2015 12:08 (seven years ago) link

seven years pass...

Andy Zax did a killer PopCon presentation on Rod some years back and now he's got a podcast appearance today on the subject. Have a listen!

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 3 August 2022 02:26 (one week ago) link

Excellent overview! I could probably listen to 10 hours of examination of the particulars in American culture that lined up to make stuff like this and Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Keane paintings and piña coladas possible

Jaqueline Kasabian Oasis (bendy), Wednesday, 3 August 2022 13:28 (one week ago) link

In response to this episode my friend Ian Wade (very happily and openly gay) described In Search of Eros as 'the fruitiest album ever' and listening now, he's not wrong.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 3 August 2022 21:04 (one week ago) link

McKuen was extremely big in the Netherlands in the early 1970s, scoring two consecutive number ones in 1971, just when I started to become pop-conscious, with “Soldiers Who Want To Be Heroes” and “Without A Worry In The World” (another cover of a superior French original, not Brel this time, but Moustaki).

This is him in 2004, talking to Dutch TV about that anti-war hit:

(lots of “fibbing” here as well: the “I’ve written songs with Madonna” bit refers to her sampling a San Sebastian Strings track from the 1960s that he co-wrote on “Drowned World/Substitute for Love”)

big movers, hot steppers + long shaker intros (breastcrawl), Wednesday, 3 August 2022 22:07 (one week ago) link

Aaron Freeman AKA Gene Ween's McKuen covers album was pretty dang good.

Cow_Art, Wednesday, 3 August 2022 22:09 (one week ago) link

his (ever so vaguely discofied) version of the old chestnut “Amor, Amor” was a top 10 hit here in 1978:

it’s from his criscodisco album Slide… Easy In, the tutti-frutti-aw-rooty gatefold sleeve of which has to be seen to be believed:

big movers, hot steppers + long shaker intros (breastcrawl), Wednesday, 3 August 2022 22:15 (one week ago) link


Cow_Art, Thursday, 4 August 2022 02:16 (one week ago) link

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