Todd Rundgren Has Done Many Good Things
Todd Rundgren, now there is a name.
Try saying it five times fast out loud. Not in your head because that would be cheating.
Who is the Todd meister I hear you say?
Well he isn’t the tiler who did such a nice job on the new bathroom in number 37. And he isn’t that guy that was friend of your sister who came to the barbecue and passed out on your bed with only Holden Dealer Team racing team jocks on.
He is a strange and unlikely link between the following artists of fine but very, very different musical output.
Which is another way of saying what do the following acts have in common?
Lets begin with Meatloaf. That fevered creation of Jim Steinman, Meatloaf is a man hard not to like but that performance at the MCG will live in memories forever.
Bat Out Of Hell produced and with lead guitar by Todd Rundgren.
TR produced The New York Dolls and their self titled definitive first album. Imagine your backline at your local footy club in drag but able to approximately play like the Stones circa Sticky Fingers.
One of those records much loved much later when everyone is either dead or drug fucked so the label takes all the coin. They came from lower east side Manhattan so therefore influential as all get out.
XTC, those Pommy songsmiths extraordinaire with a bigger love for the English countryside than that TV show that’s on late at night usually after the footy is finished on that channel that supposedly provides you the viewer with more free to air choice but really just more ad revenue for the network. Todd produces and everyone hates the process, but like sausage making, it might not be pretty but look at the results.
Dragon, the first NZ band that Australian claimed. Dark and nasty on the inside but pretty on the outside, Dragon wrote better songs than Skyhooks, rocked harder than Sherbet, took way more drugs than anyone that was ever on Countdown except for Iggy and were at a pub near my work last week. Legends.
Todd tried to produce an album for them as it all came apart. I wonder who footed the bill.
Hall and Oates probably the biggest selling duo of the 80s whose white boy soul could raise hackles or hopes depending on time of night. Another TR produced band.
Also he produced records for Patti Smith, The Band, Bad Religion and for those of us who can remember, teen idol Shaun Cassidy. And there is even more. The Pursuit of Happiness were a Canadian band that played a great gig in Brissie during the 90s. TR produced their breakthrough album.
Could you get a more diverse range of artists?
At the same time there was his own work
In 1974 Todd Rundgren released a double album, which was of course quite the thing to do back then. In fact in the 70s Todd released a lazy eight albums. On the double album Something/Anything Todd wrote, arranged, sang, played every instrument and produced every track on three of the four sides.
Maybe he got tired on side four, he only wrote and produced it and had some friends over. Chock full of great songs and mighty in a power pop/classic radio kind of way; you should give it a listen. You might know Hello It’s Me [in the karaoke movie Duets] and I Saw The Light featuring some nice floor tom work [I think, I am sure some drummer friends will correct me if I am wrong].
He is great at writing ballads too like the wonderful Can We Still Be Friends that the late Robert Palmer covered.
I know there were plenty of other behind the scenes guys who made a big big difference to rock and roll during rock’s coming of age in the 60s, 70s and early 80s.
George Miller with one band [look them up, I think they are called the Bugs no, that’s not the right, the Beatles]
Mutt Lange with hard rock and Tony Cohen and Mark Opitz for most Australian bands worth listening to i.e. from Renee Gayer to Cold Chisel and The Go Betweens to The Beasts of Bourbon.
Or another of my personal faves, Mike Chapman, a Queensland boy born in Nambour who rose above such humble beginnings, almost unbelievably, to work with Susie Quatro, Smokie, The Sweet, The Knack and many more.
Mike Chapman co-wrote the The Ballroom Blitz and produced Blondie’s Heart of Glass.
So sorry Kevin Rudd, Nambour’s other homegrown talent, you got nothing.
But Todd Rundgren, seemed to be able to move around and over different genres.
Also along the way through the 70s he dyed his long hair in multi colours, toured his prog rock group Utopia and got into video before most.
Like most incredibly talented people in a field he seemed to enjoy reeling off exact copies of benchmarks like note perfect recreations of Good Vibrations and Beatles homages.
So Todd had his fingerprints on lots of stuff through the 70s and 80s and good upon him. I hope he doesn’t up and die next week because I will have nothing left for the tribute.
And guess what, he is touring now. As I write he is playing with Ringo Starr at Planet Hollywood in Vegas and will tour his own band next month in the states.
So enough of the bromance go check him out on YouTube, he ain’t that pretty but talent is far more than skin deep.
He deserves to be far better known even if it isn’t for his jocks or bathroom tiling.