Lukas Kendall recently announced that he was discontinuing his FSM line of CD releases. This is after producing 240 titles and promising 10 more. As someone who actually owns all 240 releases, my mind races to feelings akin to a death in the family.
Certain things are supposed to be consistent and bring order and balance to our existence. THE SIMPSONS, taxes and FSM releases have become part of the fabric of our lives. Leave it to Lukas to disturb the natural order of the Universe.
Somehow, I know it wasn’t always that way. Back in the Dark Ages Varèse Sarabande was the lone wolf consistently offering up soundtrack releases on a regular basis. But even Bob Townson couldn’t get around to doing everything (the slacker just released his 1,111 title). Like plastic targets in Whack-a-Mole, every few years a new label would pop up, release a few titles to the increasingly fickle fans and get hammered by the cruel realities of the market.
It was with Lukas that The Age of Enlightenment came upon us, first in form of the Holy Scriptures… those early Xeroxed issues of Film Score Monthly produced out of Amherst College while Lukas was still a snotty-nosed student. For film music fans, it was the Burning Bush. Not since Elmer Bernstein’s Film Music Collection had an American publication existed on a regular basis to explore the facts, figures, people, personalities, scores and soundtracks that comprise our sphere of rather obscure interest. Over time his magazine grew slicker and more professional and the Gospel according to St. Lukas spread.
It was Basil Poledouris who gave me my first issue of FSM. He was really taken by this brash young fan that had stones of steel and was willing to work his ass off to create a magazine despite no background in journalism, publishing or business. I loved that magazine, but not a fraction as much as I loved the young punk who was behind those pages.
Lukas Kendall is the scrappy, pushy, smart-as-hell kid one reads about in Philip Roth fiction. I remember when I first met him he had a stinging opinion about everything, and could convincingly back it up with solid, if a bit-cynical, arguments.
I have always been a bit baffled by Lukas’ snarky demeanor. Snarky is usually the domain of Outsiders who sit on the sidelines and do nothing but attempt to shoot down the Doers. But Lukas is actually a bigger dreamer than almost anyone I have ever met. His visions of the unseen, the unproven and the invisible have manifested themselves time and time again. First in a magazine, then a video (a feature length documentary on Basil Poledouris), then a website, then a message board, and, most memorable, a magnificent and legendary series of CD releases.
Like all great hustlers, hucksters and conmen, Lukas Kendall is actually a romantic. Harold Hill in THE MUSIC MAN really did have visions of forming a boys’ band somewhere in the back of his scheming mind. And Moses Pray in PAPER MOON really did good by shilling those bibles to those unsuspecting widows. Running a small soundtrack label is part hustle, part shell game, part sleight of hand. Despite his façade of pessimism, Lukas can jive with the best of them. He has convinced composers and record companies and studio music departments and lawyers and writers, editors and engineers and distributors to believe in his vision and join his circus.
The depth of Lukas’ output is staggering. Never in my most fevered fantasies did I ever think I would be able to listen to CDs of ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, THE GREAT SANTINI, THE GYPSY MOTHS, THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT, OUR MOTHER’S HOUSE, RICH AND FAMOUS, BELL BOOK AND CANDLE, 100 RIFLES, THE FLIM-FLAM MAN, HAWKINS, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., RIO CONCHOS, ROOM 222, THE LONER, THE OMEGA MAN, THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER, THE SWIMMER, JOY IN THE MORNING, ON DANGEROUS GROUND, RASCALS AND ROBBERS, TESTAMENT, CROSSED SWORDS, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN, LILI, DARK OF THE SUN, WAIT UNTIL DARK, JEREMIAH JOHNSON, THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, DAYS OF HEAVEN, FIVE MAN ARMY, HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE, THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, BIG WEDNESDAY, DEAD RINGER, THE LONG SHIPS, TIME AFTER TIME, THE POWER, KELLY’S HEROES, THE BIG BUS, FAREWELL MY LOVELY, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE, PRINCE VALIANT, BLACK SUNDAY, GUIDE FOR THE MARRIED MAN, JOHN GOLDFARB PLEASE COME HOME, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, and THE TOWERING INFERNO, Where else but in some crazed, deluded world would I have ever imagined owning the scores to both THE 7 FACES OF DR. LAO and THE 5000 FINGERS OF DR. T. (as a 3 CD set, no less)?
It is hard to single out my favorites among the hundreds, but I do hold a very special memory of WILD ROVERS. Jerry Goldsmith was at Todd AO Studios recording his final film score, LOONEY TOONS BACK IN ACTION (ugh, what a horrible title to have as a swan song credit!). The unspoken truth between Jerry and me was that this was probably going to be one of his final recording dates. The air was thick with awkward conversation trying to mask his physical discomfort and the nagging reality that he was soon to be saying goodbye to his favorite stage, beloved musicians and his life as a creator of film music.
In attempt to brighten up the situation, I brought along Lukas’ WILD ROVERS CD. In the control booth during a break it started to play. Jerry closed his eyes and took in the music he had composed decades before. The voice of his daughter Ellen performing on some of the tracks made the moment even more special. I read into Jerry’s reaction to Lukas’ CD a reconnection to something he loved so dearly and also an acknowledgment, understanding and acceptance that his music was going to live on and last past his own time on earth.
During FSM’s extraordinary run as a soundtrack label, Lukas would sometimes ask me for suggestions. I was obsessed with Arthur B. Rubinstein’s score to WHOSE LIFE IS IT ANYWAY? As a personal favor, Lukas tracked down the music and released it at a great financial loss just to amuse me and the 17 other people who may have wanted it. While taking a bath on this release, Lukas never complained to me about the monetary hit he had taken on my behalf, instead he thanked me for introducing him to a marvelous score.
Recently, when I decided to temporarily jump back into the soundtrack producing biz for the intentionally excessive DANNY ELFMAN & TIM BURTON 25TH ANNIVERSARY MUSIC BOX, Lukas was a wonderful sounding board. Among the things he did was prepare me for the onslaught of negativity I should expect on his message board. And when he finally held his copy of the box in his hands, he called me with praise and offered up a quote from Steve Martin in MY BLUE HEAVEN, “It’s not tipping I believe in. It’s overtipping.” Lukas really got me and what makes me tick and found the perfect words to capture what I was trying to achieve.
Frequently Lukas would bitch to me about the burden of running a magazine and then putting out CDs. I usually ignored his bellyaching until one day he just stopped publishing Film Score Monthly. Looking back, it made sense. Lukas was a young guy working in a dinosaur industry. Magazines were a dying breed and he had the smarts enough to bail right before he got stuck in the tar pit.
When Lukas was kvetching about the headaches of putting out a steady stream of CDs I just wrote it off as him loudly venting steam. I was as shocked as everyone when I read he was shutting down his label. It was like Santa closing down the North Pole (actually worse, since Santa has a pretty shitty track record when it comes to releasing old Miklós Rózsa scores). But again, Lukas had caught the end of an era. CDs were going the way of the dodo and he knew it.
Part of me really respects Lukas and wishes him well in his next endeavors. And part of me wants to get a court order issued demanding he stay in production. Fortunately, there is a new round of gluttons-for-punishment at Intrada and La-La Land and Kritzerland willing to pick up the reigns. And Bob Townson and Varèse keep on rolling along. How long they will last in the face of disappearing record outlets, oversaturation in the market and illegal downloads is anyone’s guess.
The good news is that Lukas has proven he is far from being a one-hit-wonder. He has come up with multiple bright ideas and pulled them off against incredible odds.
His brass balls will serve him well in whatever he tackles next.