Friday, 22 June 2007

A Wizard, A True Star

It’s a lonely life round here being a Todd Rundgren fan. Since I "discovered" him in the late 70’s I have failed to convert any friends or family members to the cause. The weird thing is I think to myself “what’s not to like?” Great singer, composer, arranger and producer, multi-instrumentalist, encompasses many musical styles including pop, blue-eyed soul, prog rock, psychedelia, electronic, heavy rock, even comedy songs. I think maybe that’s his problem – many of the fans of Something/Anything were baffled by the follow-up A Wizard, A True Star and many fans of his heavier proggy stuff probably found the poppier material too lightweight. Me – I like it all (nearly), especially the albums where he mixes all the above styles (Wizard and Todd are good examples). If you bear in mind that his main influences appear to be British invasion bands, Stax & Motown and psychedelia I think it’s easier to understand his music. Of course, there have been some less successful efforts but no-one can accuse him of resting on his laurels.

Since his highly prolific 70’s heyday there have been some lean periods but just when people are thinking of writing him off he comes back with another winner (Nearly Human in 1989 and Liars in 2004).

If you want to know more look here and here.

Today is Todd’s birthday so I thought I would celebrate by featuring some of my personal favourites. As with me previous post I am not attempting to sum up his whole career – just offering a few highlights.

mp3: Todd Rungren - Love Of The Comman Man (1976)
A classic track from the Faithful album.

mp3: Utopia - Communion With The Sun (1977)
Prog Todd. Somewhere I’ve got a brilliant 1977 review of the Ra! album by a pompous Charles Shaar Murray type who hates it with a passion (mainly because it’s not punk) and was particularly upset by the line “Ra! Holy synthesizer” which admittedly is a bit daft but, you know, lighten up, man!

mp3: Utopia - Lysistrata (1982)
An anti-war Greek comedy, written in 411 BCE by Aristophanes summed up in a two minute pop song.

mp3: Todd Rundgren - Something To Fall Back On (1986)
From the A Cappella album. Read the story of this album here. For some reason this failed to be a huge hit.

mp3: Todd Rundgren - The Waiting Game (1989)
Melodic song from Nearly Human.

mp3: Todd Rundgren - Sidewalk Cafe/Izzat Love? (1974)
Electronic and pop Todd combination. In 1978 I wanted to get £25 from my dad for some headphones (a lot of money in those days) so I took my Todd album to the shop and played these tracks to him. He liked the stereo trickery and left the shop with his wallet £25 lighter.


Anonymous said...

I suspect you're right about his eclecticism being one of the reasons that he hasn't achieved the status that he probably deserves. I think that having such a wide ranging canon of work can operate in two ways. Yes, it can demonstrate your versatility, and when you can turn your hand to just about any style/genre almost at will, there’ll be something for everyone. So, as you say, ‘what’s not to like’.

The problem is that people generally have a fixed range of styles that they enjoy, and tend to like the artists that fit within those boundaries. And when an artist constantly flips out of your comfort zone, you may not follow.

Also, by changing styles, you’ve a fair chance of churning out some stuff that people actively dislike, thus alienating them further.

Still, I’m sure he’s made a good living and is happy, so Happy 59th Birthday.

chris fish said...

Todd rules! He even managed to make prog sound good. If it was me doing this I'd have posted "Couldn't I Just Tell You", "Chain Letter" and "Sons of 1984", but one of the great things about TR is that everyone's favourite songs of his are different ones. I can even forgive him for launching Meat Loaf. . .

Mick said...


Couldn't agree with you more. I could easily have posted 20 tracks but I have to watch my bandwidth. These songs weren't meant to represent the best of Todd, or even my faves, but just some good tunes I felt like posting this afternoon. The only rule I gave myself was not to post "I Saw The Light" or "Hello It's Me" even though I love those songs, because they are too familiar.

I also wanted to post Sidewalk Cafe because it's an enduring memory watching my dad (who was more into Jim Reeves) being astounded by the swirling synths on the headphones (as I knew he would be - what a manipulative teenager I was).

So It Goes said...

If you watch E.R., you'll probably remember when Mark Greene died of a brain tumour in season 8. He liked Todd Rundgren and had 'Hello It's me' on his car stereo, but failed to convince his bratty daughter Rachel of how good this guy was. Well, I liked the song, for the record.
What is this with dads buying their sons headphones for £25? That's what I did, too! (tho in my case I had to wait until dad got a new music centre to twist his arm).