Apr 142015


Can somebody explain Todd Rundgren to me?


I am a fan of some of his songs, but even the highly praised Something/Anything I’ve found to be uneven. A Wizard, A True Star is frustrating – sounds really weird but has some amazing moments. I’ve sometimes sensed maybe a mismatch between his musical concepts and his presentation of himself, that he’s basically an earthy guy whose visual image often is disconnected from his musical concepts, or he’s trying to force something. He is clearly extremely talented, his sense of melody and harmony can be amazing. But somehow, all together it has never really clicked for me beyond a song-by-song basis.

Jan 312014

A lot of XTC fans (not I) feel that Skylarking is the band’s album. There are many stories of Andy Partridge‘s frustrations with the heavy hand of producer Todd Rundgren. This interview with Todd on working with Laura Nyro is telling. Man, it’s got to be hard to put your work in the hands of an equally driven, iconoclastic producer. Good stuff all around!

Dec 012012

Early ’70s folk is one of my biggest “rock blind spots.” Hoping to better understand the movement I did a little reading and Googling. I was prepared to come across the usual suspects (Fairport, Pentangle, etc); however, while researching into the British side of the scene I learned that Al Stewart was a significant player of the times. Was this the same Al Stewart who I only knew through the plushy lite-rock hit Year of the Cat? A little more digging revealed that Stewart tried to distance himself from the success of the song as well as the Alan Parsons produced albums of the late ’70s .


His return to a purer folk style later in his career would find little favor with record buyers but for his die-hard fans. For his live shows he would either drop it from the set list or open the show with the song.

He isn’t the first artist to find success with a song they would rather forget or was not representative of their “true” sound. Yet, I feel he shouldn’t have to disown something that certainly pays the bills or brought attention to his other albums. On that note the stuff on Time Passages, despite its execution and decent melodies, sounds horribly dated.

If it was your song could you live with “Year of the Cat”?

Oct 032012

Remember teen-hearthrob Shaun Cassidy‘s play for musical credibility, an album called Wasp? On this 1980, Todd Rundgren-produced album the younger half-brother of David (and star of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries TV series),covered songs by David Bowie, The Who, The Animals, Ian Hunter, Talking Heads, and more. Cool songs. Rundgren and Utopia back young Shaun.

As mind-blowing as the thought of this album was when it came out, I never heard a lick of it…until now. Have you ever heard the entire album? Check out the following tracks and let me know if Shaun Cassidy belated deserves credit where credit is due.

Oct 182010

Rundgren plays his symbolic guitar.

A recent discussion of Prock futurist Todd Rundgren got me thinking about well-known guitarists who play custom-shaped guitars. I’m not talking about guitars like B.C. Rich models that are a variation on a well-known guitar model, like a Flying V, but custom guitars made in a shape that especially suits the player’s identity. Also, the player needs to be an established pro guitarist, not some wacky dude who designed his own penis-shaped axe.

All entries must be accompanied by a link to an image of the player with his guitar. (Yes, bass guitars also count.)

Rundgren’s guitar, pictured above, is off the board. Play on!

Oct 182010

Granted, there’s much that needs to be explained regarding Todd Rundgren, but can anyone explain Utopia? I’ve heard the occasional good song by that band (eg, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now”), songs no different from and as enjoyable as the best Rundgren songs, but was the futuristic thing necessary?

This gets to a larger question: Excluding David Bowie‘s forays into space, which actually use space scenarios as a metaphor for the songs, has the futuristic thing ever been necessary or relevant? I’m not a sci-fi guy, so help me out. Has a rock band ever moved society forward by the powers of its space-rock-continuum concept album and/or offshoot band? Jefferson Starship was launched as one of these brilliant ideas, right? I feel like I’m missing some others. Although a totally different style of music, didn’t Sun Ra play the space card? Is it that much fun to wear sci-fi uniforms and play space-age instruments?

Sep 132010

I know most of you aren’t as mean-spirited as I am, and it’s great that most of you aren’t as tenacious and unforgiving about artists that bug you, but as you may know by now I’m no fan of Cheap Trick. Sure, they’ve got maybe 4 or 5 songs that I like, but for being a band with seemingly good intentions and a style of music that’s not too far removed from my wheelhouse they manage to bug me on a number of levels. A friend just passed along this clip by Fuse, a band Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson formed in the late-1906s, eventually recruiting remaining members of The Nazz and playing under either name, depending on which band was better known in a given region.

It figures. Yeah, yeah, it was “the times” and all that. Plenty of worthy artists went through their grandiose Deep Purple phase in 1968 and came out unscathed. But I’ve got multiple beefs with Cheap Trick, so I’m holding this part of their history against them.

This Fuse/Nazz alliance, however, does explain why some of those Cheap Trick guys landed in Philadelphia in the early 1970s. An old friend and music scene sage who still refuses to fly his freak flag in the Halls of Rock has told me about their stint tending bar at Artemis, a legendary Philly club from the early ’70s, where some of the founding members of Philadelphia’s late-’70s punk scene coallesced. So at least this exercise in continuing to collect dirt (ie, Fuse) on Cheap Trick has not been without merit. This is the life of a rock nerd.


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