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March 2nd, 2010

Rodd Keith

My most recent musical nirvana. Rodd Keith was a song-poet in the late 60’s who effortlessly channeled multi-genre melodies and had songwriting chops that would have made Scott Walker or Joe Meek blush. Rodd Keith seemed to single-handedly and simultaneously embrace and shirk the notoriously gritty and sleazy connotations of the song-poem business long known as song sharking where people would respond to want ads in the back of newspapers requesting you send in your poem to be set to music. Once your music was sent in they often sent letters asking for more money to cut the 45 and usually implied that there were labels interesting in releasing it. What made Rodd Keith stand out was his ability to take the lyrics sent in and create surreal songs that transcended the pastiches found throughout the late 60’s and early 70’s  L.A. music scene. His conservative upbringing and subsequent move to L.A.  where he fell into the rougher aspects of the music scene doing psychedelic and amphetamine drugs eventually leading to his  increasingly alluring yet bizarre musical output til the end with his mysterious death after jumping off a freeway overpass in the early 70s in L.A.

With his output being so diverse it’s hard to say where the best place to start is. Try these songs for a first taste:

Rodd Keith – Little Rug Bug

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The chamberlain (early mellotron found on a lot of his recordings) solo in this song is so effortlessly cool. Not to mention how Keith is able to transform the bizarre lyrics into the no sleep for a week half drunk crooned masterpiece it is.

Rodd Keith – Ecstasy To Frenzy

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A musical menagerie of everything L.A. late 60’s, but done so much better. Love the chopped up self-backup vocals Keith employs on the song.

Rodd Keith – First Comes the Rain

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Another smoggy psychedelic morning in L.A.

Rodd Keith – Somebody Else

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I feel way cooler than I actually am driving around to this song. Not sure who it is that lends the female vocals to this track, but they work so well.

Rodd Keith – This

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Pretty John Maus-y. A cheesier/dirtier Serge Ganisbergesque (if that’s possible?) tune.

Both of the compilations of his output are worth purchasing. Click to buy Ecstacy to Frenzy and I Died Today

6 Comments »

  1. Great post – several of these Rodd Keith tunes i’ve never heard before, thanks!
    Never knew such a tortured persona existed behind his catchy oddball tunes.

    Comment by thudlike — March 12, 2010 @ 6:28 pm
  2. My dad John M Kurzawa, a vietnam vet. wrote ecstasy to frenzy, he won a contest and Rodd Keith sang the song. I have the orignal sheet music and 45 to prove this. So, to say Rodd is a the poet is slightly incorrect.

    Comment by Mary K — April 11, 2010 @ 2:38 pm
  3. I just got really mad when I saw the beginning of this article wish I would have read further…My dad fell victim to song sharking. He passed away January 20, 1995. It was just heartbreaking to see that his small accomplishment in life was a scam. But know that he was original songwriter. I bet he would be proud to see that the album is title with his song. He wasn’t trying to become famous, it was a way for him to vent about his experience in Vietnam…and especially all the backlash when he returned.

    Comment by Mary K — April 11, 2010 @ 3:01 pm
  4. Mary – don’t feel bad – it’s really an amazing piece of work. Rodd Keith, despite the limits of the industry he was in, made some great music – and your dad’s song is one of the best things he did.

    Comment by Mike G — June 20, 2010 @ 5:44 am
  5. Thanks a lot for this post!

    Somebody Else ! Dame What a track…Does anybody know some more about lyrics and singer ? Is it somebody else…?

    Comment by Alex — July 5, 2010 @ 12:33 pm
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    Comment by Cathy — July 20, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

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