recollections from Rodd's brother Jon

"Takes me back to all night writing sessions with Rodd. He'd take the original hand written poem and put the bar marks on it. (The office would give it to us with the envelope clipped to it too. We'd make up stories about who we thought these people were, based mostly on where they were from. I'm surprised they never got lost.) I'd copy the words onto staff paper following his bar marks while he did some more. Then he'd take what i'd done and fill in the melody and chords in pencil and then give it back to me to go over it with the 'staff notationists' pen to make it bold and readable.

This was stuff he had gotten a week earlier but waited till the last minute to do. We'd have long seen the sun come up and it would be time for the recording session and we'd still have some that weren't done. He'd just say, 'Bring em along. It'll be O.K..' At the session when he had finished all the stuff we had 'formally' prepared, He'd tell the guys the key, set a beat for the drummer and he would just wing it and expect the guys to follow him. It was amazing how well most of it came out.
Yes, we were all aware that studio time cost money, but there were times when nothing was going to stop the musicians from breaking up when they heard some of the lyrics. The engineer would just re-rack the tape and they would start again. It was easier for Rodd to not lose it because we had just spent the night breaking each other up when we saw the lyrics the first time. Those were great times. I'm glad I got what time I did."

A CD collection of Rodd's song-poem work:

"I DIED TODAY - Music of Rodd Keith"

compiled by Ellery Eskelin for the Tzadik Label's "Lunatic Fringe" Series.
Click here for ordering information.

Or contact: Downtown Music Gallery, 211 East 5th Street, New York, NY 10003-8520 USA.
They can be reached during these hours (Sunday though Thursday noon till 9pm EST, Fri. & Sat. noon to 10pm. EST) at:
Telephone: 212-473-0043
Fax: 212-533-5059

"I Died Today was the first release of Tzadik's Lunatic Fringe series, a category reserved for only the most unclassifiable recordings.
It offers 26 of the songs that Rodney Eskelin (who worked most frequently under the name Rodd Keith) recorded while
working in the song poem, or send-us-your-lyrics business during the '60s and early '70s. Keith composed the music for
these lyrics on the spot, and led a group of musicians through recording sessions of first takes. Regarded as a musical genius
by many who met him, Keith's song poem work is the only documentation of his output. This sampling includes
a range of rock styles from innocent sugar pop to garage rock, from the New Christy Minstrels to the Doors,
featuring Keith on various keyboards and on lead vocals for most of the cuts. His delivery on
"This" and "Waiting for the High Tide" is reminiscent of Scott Walker minus
the meaningful lyrics. In fact, there's a hilarious amount of awful
lyrics such as "Frankenstein was catching lightning bolts/
to save his soul," ("Graveyard Rock"); the pitiable
sentiments of "T.V. Love": "loving words don't
mean a thing, for you are always on the screen;
" or "Space"'s befuddling incitements to
"fly on little spacemen, fly on."
Almost parody, Keith does
what he can to stay true to
the lyrics' mood, as with
"General Custer's Story
Remains Legend" lyrics
(including "when Custer lay
so very still,/ his faithful horse was very sad,")
delivered in an appropriately exaggerated drawl and a
Kossoy Sisters-style backing harmony. Some of the other material
ranges from American-dream pathos, to inane Do-the-(fill in the dance name) ditties.
Unexpected moments of brilliance are scattered throughout, lifting this album out of the realms
of kitsch into that of full-blown cult status." -- Joslyn Layne, From the ALL MUSIC GUIDE