Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rundgren Radio tonight 12/29/09: BEST OF SHOW


VIDEO: can we still be friends

Saturday, December 26, 2009


INTERVIEW: Todd interviews himself 1974

“Todd Rundgren Interviews Himself” (1974)
December 25, 2009 at 9:32 am (Music, Reviews & Articles, Todd Rundgren)

Todd Rundgren wrote this for Record magazine, March 1974, around the time that his double album Todd was released…

With the success of “Hello It’s Me” as well as his productions with Grand Funk, the New York Dolls and others, Todd Rundgren has become one of the most important figures on today’s pop scene. Recently Todd took time out to discuss his forthcoming album, Todd, and his plans for the future, with our New York correspondent Alan Betrock.

Todd was recorded mostly during July; actually July & August, 1973, and it was my usual hodgepodge approach to performance in the album. I did a lot of the tracks solely myself, and I guess on about half of them, there was a drummer, bassist, keyboardist etc… various combinations of personnel. There wasn’t any set backup band. I had some songs left over from my last album, but not any leftover tracks. If I don’t use a track on a particular album, it usually doesn’t have any relevance by the time the next LP comes around. I usually don’t have a specific concept that is fully realized when I start the album. It gets more realized as the record happens. I thought Todd was going to be a single album, but it just turned out to be too long, so I had to put it on two records. This was all decided before the plastic shortage. I don’t think. I’m going to have to compromise because of the energy shortage, but if I had known that there was going to be this shortage when I made the record, I would have made definite attempts not to exceed a single album’s worth of material.

I only once did an album by myself (Something/Anything), or at least a major part of it was myself. It was the only album where I had the attitude that I had to do it all. It was only because I was experimenting, not because I was establishing myself as a solo virtuoso artist. On this new album, it was just a case of hearing certain things, and if I couldn’t perform it, I’d get someone else to do it. You can only have so much technique, and I always hear things that exceed my technique.

The success of “Hello It’s Me” doesn’t bother me, but having to perform the song does bother me. Having to do anything bothers me when it’s not something I feel naturally inspired to do. I’m not really into singles; I don’t record records specifically to be singles. I may do it for somebody else, but I don’t do it for myself. If I do things that sound like singles, it’s just that that’s the way I think it should sound.

It probably seems to most people that I’m into ballads more, but I think that’s only because of the success of “Hello It’s Me.” And people also want to limit things. I don’t do what I consider to be a whole lot of ballads. I did one album that had a bunch of ballads on it, and that was the only one like that. There are some songs that people may think of as ballads that are not ballads to me — they’re pieces of music that have different ideas. Todd has the least number of ballads, I think, of all the albums I’ve done. It also has more guitar playing. It varies… I do what I feel inspired to do. If I don’t feel like playing that much rock ‘n roll, I don’t need another outlet — another band to play rock and roll. Being a producer in certain terms is just a job.

I’m starting to produce Grand Funk’s new album now. I went out to Flint and they played me some new material. We just make records together. For some reason they find me necessary to the production of their records, so we make ‘em together. With the Dolls, it wasn’t just my producing. They had spent so long trying to get a recording situation together, and had so many people involved, it was like the whole of NYC was producing the Dolls. Everyone had to get in and have their hands on the knobs, and I don’t particularly dig that. The band was the most laid back, of all the people involved. I don’t look back at that album at all. Just like Bobby Zimmerman said: “Don’t Look Back.”

“Heavy Metal Kids” is, in certain terms, a takeoff of the NY scene. It’s always a satire. I mean how serious can you get? I wouldn’t die for any of it. I still like to present it the way I want to present it — the alternative would not be to die — it would be not to do it at all — rather than change it. It’s mostly all satire, I guess – it’s only as serious as you can get about it. But people are always looking for something — a clear cut thing — when I make the music, I’m trying to be open to influences at the time it’s being made — not just straight musical influences, but all kinds — social, emotional, cosmic and things like that — and this is all supposed to be reflected in the music. If people walk around all day and make judgment after judgment, it gets to be a drag after awhile. Sometimes you just like to wander around and not make any judgments — just let it exist.

The kind of music that I do is supposed to be the kind of music that other people aren’t doing — because I don’t feel any need to do it otherwise. As soon as somebody or something becomes popular, like let’s say “space-rock” was becoming the big thing, there’s all of a sudden loads of bands coming up to me saying “well, man, last week we were into glitter rock, and now we’re into space rock.” Whatever is hip or the happening formula, they just change into that. Some people can recognize it after it happens; my whole thing is trying to discover it before it happens. Just because I like to hear different things — if no one else is doing something new, I have to come up with them myself.

I’m definitely lagged out now, being that Todd was recorded, and reflects where I was last July. I don’t know what the impact of the music will be now. It’s still probably a year or two ahead of where most people are at — at least.

The reason why I do any particular song in any particular way is just because there’s a whole idea. And what you try to do as effectively as possible is render that idea musically so that someone listening can understand that idea — some music is done so vaguely that the interpretation of it is left completely up to the person listening — but sometimes you’re trying to say something specifically in the most effective way possible. In doing that, you try to use recognizable styles — essences of recognizable performances. For instance, Jimi Hendrix. “Number One Lowest Common Denominator” is just about sex, and it seemed to me one of the most obvious musical inferences you could make along those lines, was to recreate in certain terms that Jimi Hendrix sound. Because to me that influence represented, from a guitar player’s point of view, that central attitude most effectively. I don’t listen to a song and then sit down and copy it. The guitar playing was obviously influenced — the whole thing really — the phasing, the trippy effects; in certain terms the song is a satire too. It’s really a pretty funny song as far as I’m concerned.

The last song on the album (“Sons of 1984″) was recorded live in Central Park and Griffith Park. We went in and taught the audience the lyrics and they sang it. I guess I was a little surprised that it really worked out. I thought the problems would be hideous. The microphones were hung out over the audience, and in Griffith Park, they were actually hanging out of trees. It was fed into a remote 16-track machine. It was a funny experiment. We were considering doing. a whole record that way, as part of our touring show. Teach the audience a song, then record it, and you have a whole album’s worth of these songs from different cities, with the audience singing on them. It would be really strange. But as it is now, on “Sons of 1984,” we have Central Park on one side, and Griffith Park on the other.

I’ve been offered a lot of production work, most of which I don’t want to do. Either because it’s with somebody that doesn’t need me, or with somebody I just don’t want to work with. But I am considering a couple of things.

Describing my new album is really a hard thing to do. It’s really impossible to render an accurate idea of where the album is at musically and lyrically just by trying to describe isolated moments of it. The only difference about this album I guess, from the others I’ve made, is in terms of lyrics. My lyrical attitude is a lot more unified, and different from what I used to write about. In the past, I usually wrote about boy-girl relationships, which at this point doesn’t interest me. I have very little to say about that — that might disappoint a few people, but they have all those old songs to listen to, if they want. The whole record (Todd) is about states of consciousness. The Wizard album marked a beginning of new forms of communication — basing my musical ideas on responses other than just purely physical or material. In the Wizard album I was just discovering a different language. In the new album, it is more of a discourse in this new language — telling what I’ve discovered with this new attitude — that is, out of directing my attention to things other than material – to other states on consciousness. It’s very hard to describe even that aspect of it. It’s more apparent if you listen to the record, than if I try to describe it — or use terms like “cosmic” or “astral.” It all has very little relevance in a conversational context.

Right now I’m working on an album with Utopia, which expresses other ideas. It’s a separate group that I’m a member of, where we do music written by all the members of the band — M. Frog; Moogy Klingman; John Siegler; Kevin Ellman; Ralph Shuckett; and me — six in all. The first original concept of Utopia seemed to be a little too far out for everybody, and we took it out on the road for about two weeks to mixed reaction, so we just decided it was a waste of energy. I had a lot of things to do at the time, and was having a change of attitude, so I decided to take it off the road for awhile. Now we’ve toured very successfully, with a change of personnel and show concept, and we’re touring again in March. I do a solo set first, which sometimes involves the use of pre-recorded tapes. Some people don’t get used to it too easily, but to me it’s like television — it’s really like a big TV show – then in the second half I come out with the whole band.

One of the things about the musical direction I’m moving in is to experience fewer and fewer limitations in terms of who you are and what you have to do. Things are becoming less and less stylized in any one direction. I also recorded a type of eclectic music in the past, but at the same time I was still writing within the “song style” — songs 3 – 4 minutes long, six on a side, etc. I was very involved in perfecting that style, and I just got fed up with that. Then I did the Wizard album where the song ideas ranged from 15 seconds to 10 minutes. A further refinement of that idea is represented in Todd, and the refinement is that I’m breaking down all these barriers — removing the six spirals – just saying there are no limitations as to what is sung about or what the music sounds like, or how long it is… or whether it is even music at all.

Todd Rundgren

Video:Todd Rundgren AWATS concert at the Majestic Ventura Theater 12/5/09

hi lights from Todd Rundgren AWATS concert at the Majestic Ventura Theater 12/5/09
upped by drucatti99

Thursday, December 24, 2009

RundgrenRadio this coming tuesday BEST OF SHOW

"Best of 2009" show this Tuesday night 12/29/09! We will be playing clips chosen by listeners of some of the best moments during the RR shows this year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

NO RundgrenRadio show tonight BUT......

next week is an interesting show. 37 volunteers have been asked to find the best of a particular show from the past and submit it for "a best of show" broadcast.
i choose eric gardner show... he talks about toddstock / patronet/ robert johnson/ and awats shows even before rundgren radio got involved.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

david fricke article from trouser press 1978

An early piece by David Fricke (before he went to Rolling Stone) on Todd Rundgren. Taken from the July 1978 issue of Trouser Press magazine…

From Here to Utopia

Todd Rundgren lies comfortably against a pillow on the living room floor of his Bearsville, New York retreat, located just off a winding, ill-paved driver’s challenge called Mink Hollow Road. Against one knee-high landing is a row of records encroaching its way across the room. The first one, front and center, is a copy of Rundgren’s first solo album, Runt, no doubt the result of a quiet stroll down memory lane.

“Actually, I just produced a punk album by Jean-Yves Labat – M. Frog – the original synthesizer player in Utopia. One of the tunes is a re-working of a song from that album called ‘I’m in the Clique.’ His new album is called Froggy Goes A’Punkin’.” Right there, in barely over 25 words, is the gist of Todd Rundgren’s stormy ten-year career as one of American rock’s most prodigious and, at times, petulant geniuses. Alternately a defiantly individualistic solo artist, a much-sought-after producer of hits for other occasionally less-talented folk, and the democratically inclined lead guitarist for a band and ideology called Utopia, Todd Rundgren is all things to only a few understanding people. His records with and without Utopia since 1973’s A Wizard, A True Star have sold at a modest but discouragingly fixed rate of approximately 200,000 a pop – enough to keep his commercial momentum at a respectable pace, but not enough to keep him from languishing in the shadowed obscurity that is the scourge of all cult figures. But Rundgren would seem totally unaffected by his inability to make a large-scale artistic impact on an audience he feels is brainwashed by the false promises of 70s pop and the insensitive record industry prophets that make them. Much like the Number 6 character portrayed by Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner, Todd Rundgren writes for himself the role of a man who consistently defies the powers-that-be who, in this case, would emasculate the creative potential of any single musical project he might care to name. He will cite such scurrilous activity as going back as far as his celebrated late ’60s stint with Nazz and then detail the problems he claims he faces in pursuing a musical career, either on his lonesome or in the company of fellow Utopians. Take, for example, his solo recording contract with Bearsville Records. “I deliver albums on approval. I’m not obligated to deliver any albums to them, but I can’t take an album to another label either. I just sort of do what I feel like doing and they have the option of putting them out or not putting them out. The way they behave when I deliver them, I don’t understand why they bother. You’ll have to ask them.”

I did just that, calling Bearsville’s California office to ask company head and long-time Rundgren confidante Paul Fishkin about Rundgren’s business circumstances and the company’s attitudes toward the music Rundgren says they have no commercial faith in.

“There is a certain level,” Fishkin replies, “on which Todd likes to think of himself as independent. He’s also a very – what’s the word? – mercurial personality and much to his credit he’s never wanted to be categorized. That’s what makes him so unique. But that also makes it very frustrating for us because we would like to sell more records.”

So would Todd, but for him, that’s not the bottom line.

“That’s another argument I have with the record company. They feel that selling 150,000 albums in this day and age makes you irrelevant, that it has to be a million and a half albums to be worth anything. Their whole attitude is like world conquest or manifest destiny where you’re just supposed to expand and expand and expand in the same way the economy does until you hit your recession and your economy collapses.

“I don’t particularly feel that way. I feel that it seeks its own level. I can’t force it any greater. I’m not attempting to be anyplace, underground or overground. I’m just attempting to do what I feel I should do in terms of making records.”

Fishkin, a week later and 3000 miles away, makes Todd’s point for him.

“He makes the music in his head at a given moment. And that music is the story of his life at that moment.”


The fourth largest music market in the country, Philadelphia nevertheless endures a perennially bad rock’n'roll reputation. The East Coast industry focus makes an occasional stop there, paying due respects to the bastard children of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand – that South Philly brigade of acne-free faces like Frankie Avalon and the imminently forgettable Fabian – with more recent tributes paid the R&B factory run by Philadelphia International’s Gamble and Huff.

As a result, the city’s young white rockers still fight an uphill battle trying to make even their own local audience aware of the talent developing there, only to find their fortune in a two-hour drive to the north. The psychedelic joyride we now know as the late ’60s found many of Philly’s aspiring rock bands coming about as close as they ever would. Mandrake Memorial, Edison Electric Band, Elizabeth, Sweet Stavin Chain, High Treason – they all snagged fleeting moments of recognition with albums of fair to excellent quality. But by 1968, there was no question about who reigned supreme, even if they didn’t gig with the same regularity and took a casual pass on hippie ethics. Nazz – generally through the services of the still-18-year-old Todd Rundgren – were unanimously, if begrudgingly, voted most likely to succeed. That, in the end, Nazz dissolved in a flurry of infighting and managerial mishaps, Rundgren attributes more to the times than the place.

“Nazz was certainly out of context in the sense that it wasn’t typical of what was happening at the time.”

Rundgren has been talking about his own musical tendencies at any given time vis a vis those considered in vogue at that given time. It is a theme he sounds throughout the conversation and Nazz is just another case in point.

“It wasn’t exactly out of context,” he submits, “because we were the premiere local band at the time. We did have a large following. But the Nazz was considered out of context because the music that was happening was not at all like ours.

“First of all, everybody was taking a lot of drugs. The whole thing was that late ’60s music evolved out of this street-level thing, like San Francisco and so on. Like, ‘hey, blues.’ Except I’d already gone through the blues trip with Woody’s Truck Stop.”

Actually, Rundgren had been through that and more by 1967 when Nazz first reared its Anglo-foppish head. He could count to his credit the usual Beatle-copy and Britrock cover bands like Money (the same heard at the start of side four of Something/Anything). As a young, impressionable lad growing up in the depressingly nondescript Philly suburb of Upper Darby, he ignored Elvis Presley (“A lot of people who emulated him were machismo-greaser-killer types who were always out to kill me.”), opting for what he describes as the “art school personality” personified by the Beatles, “wanting to be a little different and strange and still have people like you.”

Come 1966 and Rundgren fancied himself a budding white bluesman, heading for center city Philadelphia and joining forces with an early hippie configuration, Woody’s Truck Stop, which held forth at the bohemian Walnut Street hangout called the Artist’s Hut. Paul Fishkin, who managed the Truck Stop for a time, describes the group as “sort of the Grateful Dead of Philadelphia.” However, their few claims to fame were Todd, a marginally excitable album on Smash (post-Todd), and a guitar player by the name of Alan Miller who raised a court ruckus when his high school suspended him for not cutting his hair to a regimental length. Such were the times and the times were not with Todd because he was (depending on whom you believe) either tossed out of the Truck Stop for not taking drugs (Fishkin’s story) or because he didn’t like the band’s drug scene (Todd, natch).

His next stop was what he calls “high concept,” a very Beatle-y trip to include singer-organist Stewkey (from the group Elizabeth), bass guitarist, occasional songwriter, and old friend Carson Van Osten, and ex-Munchkins drummer Thom Mooney. Stewkey remembers that it was Todd and Carson who formulated the idea for Nazz, then recruited him and Mooney to complete the band. As Nazz, they eventually released the first so-called progressive rock record out of Philadelphia (“Open My Eyes” b/w “Hello It’s Me”) and, with the debut album Nazz, defined an entirely new 1967 sound that could be described in today’s terminology as “power pop.”

“Nazz was a high concept band,” reiterates Rundgren. “We emulated a lot of English bands like the Who and Small Faces and really wanted to be as big as the Beatles, so we conceptualized everything on that level. The music was designed to have more of a common denominator, play more of an eclectic thing – a lot more vocals than what was happening at the time. At the time, everything was endless guitar solos. We had long conceptual songs, but even those were a high level of composition, as opposed to dropping acid and jamming.”

But was it just guitar solos and acid? Few of the bands, local or otherwise, who played Philly’s psychedelic showplaces like the Trauma, the Electric Factory, and the Second Fret coffeehouse even dented the charts with their extended paeans to the new consciousness. A glance at any one of the Top 100 lists of the late ’60s would reveal the Beatles at the height of their power, the Who slipping in every once in a while, and American groups like the Grass Roots, the Union Gap, and Paul Revere and the Raiders taking their turns with alarming regularity. If anything, Nazz’s neo-Whoish energy wedded with Rundgren’s gift for writing inescapable melodic hooks should have made them prime contenders.

“Well, Nazz wasn’t really counter to things that were happening,” he’ll say, implying that maybe it was more the creative atmosphere which was at fault.

“As I recall, a lot of my influences at the time were popular, but in other aspects. Like Jimmy Webb and the type of things he was doing influenced me to write ‘A Beautiful Song’ (the extended orchestral opus on Nazz Nazz). It’s just that we were joining a lot of disparate influences in the Nazz and it was a combination that wasn’t necessarily accessible.

“It’s also conceivable that the Nazz could have been more successful if our management had been a little more realistic. If we had played around more consistently and had a chance to develop our performance to the extent that we were developing our recording, then things might have happened differently. But our manager had this theory that if we had played around too much, we would establish ourselves as having a ‘low’ price tag. He was very money-oriented, mostly because he spent money at an incredible rate.”

So even with the first album, Nazz were left to their own devises. Despite production credits for Chicago producer Bill Traut (Shadows of Knight, etc.) and, on “Open My Eyes” and “Hello It’s Me,” Michael Friedman, Rundgren says that Nazz went the whole thing alone. “He (Traut) just sat there and read the trades while we were working. Then he mixed the album and a couple of hours later flew back to Chicago. We wound up remixing the whole album anyway. Michael Friedman was the partner of our manager at the time and he just wanted to have his name on the record somewhere. But all he did was sit around…”

…and read the trades, no doubt. But the end result soon obscured any of the shit flying around in the managerial arena. Nazz was and still is a refreshing, uplifting experience, totally lacking in artistic pretension. The rock (“Open My Eyes,” “Lemming Song,” “When I Get My Plane”) is raw at the core with a distinctive and imaginative polish to complement the gentility of ballads like “If That’s the Way You Feel” and “Hello It’s Me” (still an undeniable classic reflecting the urban soul colorings of Rundgren’s musical upbringing). Only “Crowded” bears compositional credits other than Todd’s (“Wildwood Song” is a group effort), in this case Stewkey and Thom Mooney. So while Nazz was not totally a Rundgren showcase, it set an auspicious example for the future.

Somebody then had the ingenious notion of sending Nazz to London in the fall of ‘68 for recording purposes, sheer brilliance when you consider the wealth of English influences displayed on Nazz (the opening chords from “Open My Eyes” are straight out of the Who’s “I Can’t Explain”). Work permits being what they are, Nazz finished only one track in their two weeks there – a Carson Van Osten song called “Christopher Columbus” that later showed up in re-recorded form on Nazz III. (The original version of “Christopher Columbus” along with a different studio take of “Open My Eyes” can be heard on The Todd Rundgren Radio Show, a 1972 Bearsville promotional issue.) Nazz then headed for California’s sunny climes to do the second album and there the problems began in earnest.

“The Nazz always had internal problems, personality conflicts. For instance, the lead singer, Stewkey, was not inspired to do a lot except sing. Originally he was supposed to be an organ player, but he never practiced organ. I had been playing piano in the meantime and subsequently, by the time we got to the second record, I ended up doing most of the keyboard work.

“The drummer, Thom, and I had constant conflicts of an ego nature that had nothing to do with the professional direction of the band. We would get in the studio and if I were to say ‘play it this way,’ he would purposely play it another way, just to keep things going. By the time we got to the second album, we were just stomping in and out of the studio, fights all the time and shit like that. It was not the best set-up internally.”

Stewkey takes some exception to Todd’s criticisms, concurring that, yes, there were internal problems but Todd was just as much a part of the proceedings. As for his own role as organ player, “Todd knew that I didn’t play well. I never took piano lessons or anything. I just started to play as a music fill-in at the time. And I proceeded to get into the singing aspect of it. I never thought I was meant to be a virtuoso.” He does, however, play all of the ivories heard on Nazz.

When queried about Todd’s domineering role as composer, arranger, and de facto producer, Stewkey claims that ‘Todd always felt like he was the only one anyway. It got to a point where we weren’t even important anymore. On the second album, for instance, there are some tunes that I’d never heard before I even got into the studio. He would be off by himself and we didn’t even know what he was doing. A lot of hassles went down with the band and he just separated himself from them.”

For Rundgren, though, the breaking point came with a controversy involving the group’s second album, released in 1969 as Nazz Nazz. As he explains it, all of the material found on both Nazz Nazz and Nazz III came from the same 1968 Hollywood sessions, done after Nazz returned from London. Together they would comprise a double album – at least, he thought so – entitled Fungo Bat. (“We were really getting out there…” – Todd.) But the real bone of contention for Todd was the fact that on most of the Nazz III tracks he, not Stewkey, had originally sung lead vocals.

“I wanted that record to be a double album, including all the material. In fact, we had a whole double album mix. Somewhere around here” – Rundgren gestures casually across his living room – “I have the lacquers or the master tapes of it.

“But they (meaning a combination of band members and record company higher-ups) decided to make it a single album and on the songs I sang removed my voice from the master tapes and put Stewkey on instead. That became Nazz III.”

Yet Stewkey was just as surprised to see Nazz III in a record store in Madison, Wisconsin almost two years later. Regarding the erasure of Todd’s voice from the tapes he comments, “They just didn’t sound good as far as I was concerned.” “First of all, I didn’t want a double album. I thought it was bad timing – we had a hard enough time selling a single one. And a lot of that material on Nazz III shouldn’t have come out.”

If that was the case, why bother to overdub the new vocals? “They – the record company and the people involved in it – wanted me to.”

While Rundgren claims that was only one of the points of dispute within Nazz, the Nazz Nazz controversy was his last. He and Carson Van Osten took their leave almost simultaneously. “Carson was a pretty mellow, easy-going guy and just didn’t like the situation,” says Todd. “I split shortly after that.”

Stewkey and Thom Mooney kept a version of Nazz alive until mid-1970, when Mooney split for California (only to resurface briefly on albums by the Curtis Brothers and Tattoo with ex-Raspberry Wally Bryson). Carson retired to a promising career as an animation artist, Stewkey eventually hooked up with Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen for a couple of short-lived projects, and Todd set his sights on production work. With hardly more than two years and three mildly successful records to show for them, Nazz dissolved without a whimper. Easily years ahead of their time, they swam upstream in a river of sonic psychodaisical jive that, with their Marshall stacks and tie-dyed shirts, had no time for classic pop melodies. Today, the rock’n'roll pundits would call it power pop and “Open My Eyes” would be a Top 10 charter all over again. Or would it?

Stewkey: “We went too fast. I think if we had played around and functioned like any band that takes two or three years to get up the ladder, we would have hit really big.”

Todd: “If Nazz were together now, it would be really sick!”

Promise ‘Em Something, Promise ‘Em Anything, But Give ‘Em the Hits

Ironic, isn’t it? Todd Rundgren’s latest solo opus, Hermit of Mink Hollow, currently garners more airplay and public attention within a month of release than most of his recorded output since the puzzling Wizard. Both the solo and Utopian Rundgrens have been making undeniably curious if not totally accessible music for nigh on those ensuing five years and while even Todd admits to certain flaws in the flow, he won’t even recognize criticisms of his refusal to follow the pop path laid out by the gold record success of 1972’s Something/Anything. Add to that a prestigious track record of hits produced for other folks and you wonder where one – Todd, Runt, Utopia, etc. – ends and the other begins. They all, in fact, begin in 1969.

More interested in “developing a musical style without having to deal with someone’s reaction to it,” Rundgren passed on both forming a band and going solo in order to acquaint himself with the wonders of the studio. It would be fair enough, then, to say that Rundgren’s decision to head straight off for the console instead of the microphone has colored his solo and group activity since. Although his voice has become almost immediately recognizable, all Rundgren records possess a studio gleam, a definitive “sound” that can only be his, and the same goes for, among others, the Hall and Oates, Grand Funk, and Meatloaf records he has produced with variable success. Whatever the content, however recorded, they all literally scream “Rundgren.”

About his “sound” Todd says, “It’s very hard for me to describe it in words, but I know the difference between the way I produce and the way other producers work. For instance, my main area is in terms of the sound and the arrangements can vary very broadly. For example, I probably do the widest variety of types of production of almost any producer – country, blues, jazz-rock, straight-ahead rock’n'roll, nearly MOR, and then my own albums. That’s opposed to, say, Richard Perry who only does a certain MOR-type of album. He uses the same musicians, exact same drum sound – it sounds like a Richard Perry record with a different lead singer on it.”

Todd describes his first production assignment, a Philly band called the American Dream, as a “chance to learn certain basics” which proved beneficial in more ways than one. With the 1969 job came the opportunity to christen the just-opened Record Plant in New York. A brand new console and similarly shiny new equipment presented considerable deterrents for the three or four engineers who tried their hands at the Dream album. Finally, Todd took the matter into his own eager hands, working the board and subsequently learning the most advantageous thing you could possibly know as a budding young producer – how to engineer.

That ability allows him maximum control when recording himself or Utopia. Still, he insists that recording all by your lonesome – instruments, vocals, the works – is no big deal if you know your way around the limitations. Most of the instrumental and vocal work on his first two solo works, Runt (1970) and The Ballad of Todd Rundgren (1971), were his own with only rhythmic help from the Sales brothers (Hunt and Tony), some guys from the Band, and on one Runt track, from the American Dream.

In fact, Runt was recorded on speculation by Todd after Bearsville Records, for whom he was staff producer, gave him a budget (“as a concession”) and told him, literally, to go make an album. Prior to this, Todd had done some writing, little outside playing, and a lot of session-engineering, including the Band’s Stage Fright. Apparently Bearsville expected nothing much above the ordinary because, as Todd tells it, “when I brought back Runt, they were more or less shocked that I had actually done it and that it displayed a certain amount of originality. So they signed me up after the album was finished.” Nine months later, Bearsville figured they had some hot property. Through the good promotional offices of the aforementioned Paul Fishkin, “We Gotta Get You a Woman” (written for and about Fishkin) went Top 10 and everybody waited with baited breath for the follow-up. But The Ballad Of… spawned no hits, even if the stuff of which they are made was there in spades, and went on to an all-time sales dive for Todd. “That was my least successful album in terms of sales, although people say it is the most coherent in terms of songwriting and nowadays could be one of your across-the-board MOR-type records. But at the time it wasn’t fashionable. Nothing I do is fashionable at the time I do it.”

But if The Ballad of Todd Rundgren is an album Billy Joel would kill to call his own, then Something/Anything is the best album Paul McCartney never made and, in retrospect, it is easy to see how S/A can be singled out by (generally former) fans as the quintessential Todd, the absolute height of his melodic and lyrical powers. Here was a four-sided, 24-song declaration of independent genius, further set aside from the mainstream by two common denominator hits, the extraordinary “I Saw the Light” and a re-recording of “Hello It’s Me,” and, as Todd calls it in the liner notes for side one, “a bouquet of ear-catching melodies.” Besides, recording it was a cinch.

“I originally planned to do Something/ Anything all myself because on the previous albums I did everything except the bass and drums – the bass just being sort of a big guitar and the drums I had sort of fooled around with to some extent.

“The only challenge in doing that was playing the drums. Since everything was so highly arranged, it didn’t amount to a lot of complexity. It was essentially just arrangements, which was no problem for me. Y’know, sit down, take a half hour, and work out the part. After that, it was easy. “You usually start with the drums and it’s hard to play the drums to nothing, the reason being that halfway between the song you forget where you are. It’s hard going through the song, trying to sing it all to yourself, the whole arrangement, and keep it in your head without getting lost. And a lot of times, I would have to use an edit or two to get through the song. I’d forget and stop, but the first part would be so good that I couldn’t do it over again. I’d start in the middle, edit it together, and overdub everything from there.

“Since then, I’ve been influenced by a lot of R&B drum players, so the style’s a little different, a little more syncopated, more complicated turn-arounds and things like that. On Something/Anything, for the most part, I was playing rhythm, whereas on my new album, I’m playing, to some degree, what they call “melodic rhythm.”

“The operetta (‘Baby Needs a New Pair of Snakeskin Boots’) only took a day or so to do – three songs in one session and the rest in another. The other three sides only took like three weeks to do. I would essentially do a track a day, working on some stuff at home on the 8-track. I did ‘Breathless’ and ‘One More Day’ at home.

“I can’t remember, but I think Something/Anything was conceived as a single album and just turned into a double. I was writing material so fast that it became a double album. That was one reason why I changed my style so radically on the next album – because it just became too simple to write songs like that, almost mechanical. I would sit down at the piano and there would just be standard changes and combinations and lyrically it was the same subject matter. I had to break out of that rut. I didn’t feel I was doing myself creative justice.”

Ooops! Wrong Rundgren!

“In terms of cycles, I guess my apogee is their perigee and vice versa. I’m just cyclically 180-degree off from whatever else is happening. But it’s a big world and there’s a lot of people in the same boat as me and somebody’s gotta appeal to them.”

If only by default, that somebody is Rundgren, a rationalization that accounts for the continued release of records bearing his name, even if the general public and press corps eye each waxen item with the suspicion that there is something on that record they want little or no part of. To some, it’s the frantic instrumental deluge marking “A Treatise on Cosmic Fire,” a 30-minute epic from Initiation which Todd admits will appeal “to very few people that aren’t musicians. It appeals to musicians who want to hear something different as well as on a technical level, particularly people who are more or less removed from the mainstream of pop music.”

To others, the idealistic sociology coloring his Utopian lyrics should have nothing to do with the business of making popular music, a criticism that Todd vehemently denies. In again referring to the roundly panned Initiation, he insists that, like with any record or song, “I was determined to write lyrics entirely about something I believed in, rather than something I simply speculated about or had idle thought about.” The success and subsequent constant critical referrals to Something/Anything drained him, at least temporarily, of the urge to write love songs of the moon-June-spoon variety. A Wizard, A True Star and Utopia were the almost disastrous result.

“After doing Something/Anything, I had become deeply involved with production and sound. From that, I conceptualized this whole recording studio and built it from scratch. That was Secret Sound in New York and Wizard was the first album done there. The studio was designed to be able to produce all these sonic illusions and the whole Wizard album was an attempt to do that.”

A collection of songlets ranging from the fluid electronic backdrop of “International Feel” to the hard pull of those Philly-soul roots in the “Cool Jerk/Smokey Robinson/Curtis Mayfield medley, Wizard was certainly, as Rundgren indulges in characteristic understatement, “the most radical departure that I’d made up to that point.” His follow-up to Something/Anything, it could not help but alienate his substantial singles-buying audience. And the album scarfers had a time of it, too, something for which the aborted first Utopia tour can be properly blamed.

Undertaken in the spring of ‘73 and lasting no more than three gigs, the first Utopia tour was an unmitigated bomb. Even in his hometown, Rundgren found few believers and while he admits that not a lot of folks had yet made the transition from S/A to Wizard, he feels it might have worked if his manager at the time, Albert Grossman (Dylan, Band, etc.) had shown a little more faith in financing the stage extravaganza. Still, survivors of the Philadelphia show opened appropriately by King Crimson can only babble about lengthy Mahavishnu-like jams, a large dome under which M. Frog conducted extensive business on synthesizer, and the black outfits offset by shocks of white fur on top of each and every head. It was trouble enough telling Rundgren from Moogy Klingman, much less sitting back and trying to catch a few bonafide songs.

Since then, Utopia – now a streamlined four-piece with Todd the only original left, in the company of Roger Powell, Kasim Sulton, and John Wilcox – has developed a stage show so high on P.T. Barnum showmanship that it’s no small wonder that Utopia’s tours are underwritten by record advances and royalties. Despite that, Rundgren says that all the Utopia records have been performance-inspired. “In all cases, the material was either performed live first or was designed to highlight the stage show, as with the Ra album and the sphinx and pyramid staging that went with it.”

But for every Utopia album, there is a solo Rundgren issue, a pattern to which he has no explanation. “Actually, Faithful preceded Ra by a considerable stretch of time and then after Ra, there was Ooops! Wrong Planet! which was another Utopia album. You see, I’d been pretty much totally involved with the Utopia road concept and, as a result, didn’t record a Todd Rundgren record in something like two years. We’ve been touring extensively, so our records have reflected our touring experience, whereas my solo albums are more or less closed environment things.”

The latest in the lengthening line of Rundgren solo projects, Hermit of Mink Hollow takes that assessment to its logical conclusion. Where Todd, Initiation, and Faithful were all recorded with a variety of Utopians and sympathetic outsiders, Hermit takes Something/Anything that final step further – it was produced, arranged, written, played, and sung by Todd R. with the unsolicited help of absolutely no one. What that has to do with the fact that it is his most immediately accessible album since S/A is anybody’s guess. Even Todd’s.

“In my solo albums, except for a few instances, I have always dealt in song styles. Initiation had at least one side of songs. Todd was very song-related, too, although it incorporated the instrumental stuff that came to a head on Initiation. Wizard was more like songlets, an attempt to break certain restrictions in songwriting. Faithful was all songs as well. In fact, Faithful was the penultimate song album in a way because I took archetypal songs of the ’60s like ‘Good Vibrations’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and reviewed those with a ’70s approach. Then on the ‘original’ side, I did my interpretation of those ’60s influences. So, for me, that was the ultimate song album, totally self-conscious song stylizations.

“As for the recent album, I wrote songs as an opportunity for me to sing as opposed to playing, which is what I mostly do with Utopia. It is a chance to do a number of different styles of singing and essentially highlight my voice.”

Case in point is the opening track, “All the Children Sing,” a light, harmonic exercise of vocal expertise overlaying a rhythm track of guitars, basic bottom, and harpsichord. The choral break in the middle, though, is a classic example of Rundgren’s studio methodology. You think you hear about a dozen little Rundgren’s ooh-aahing in the background when, in fact, Todd has overdubbed himself maybe three times to achieve the effect. And the same goes for the lead vocal harmonies. “When I do vocals, I essentially have a lead voice and three background .voices. The way that they are arranged is what gives you the impression that there are more or less. Essentially, it’s studio dressing. I used to double each voice in the background vocals. Now I just do them all with one voice. So there are actually less voices than there have been on previous albums. But the point is that I have different vocal control now and there is different technology for creating sound…” Here he pauses, as if to think of a way to summarize the recorded effect, “…sound-picture sound.” Technology not withstanding, Hermit of Mink Hollow literally glows with melodic light, a vivid aurora borealis of lyrical changes, high harmonies, and instrumental gloss. “Hurting For You,” “Bag Lady,” “Bread,” and “Fade Away” are all living testament, not only to Todd’s wizardly control of the mixer, but also to write songs that, despite possessing the obvious hooks upon which commercial success is hung, are head and shoulders above the AM and FM wallpaper against which Rundgren incessantly rails.

“Any record company executive now will tell you that people don’t listen to music and that’s what music now is designed to be — not listened to. It’s essentially wallpaper and people don’t want to hear music that puts them through an emotional trip, some kind of spectrum of feelings.”

On that account, notice the legend appearing on each side of your copy of Hermit. Side one is tagged “The Easy Side,” side two “The Difficult Side.” Be not dismayed because Todd assures you that this is merely a clever “in” joke. He explains that when he first delivered the album to Bearsville for release, the twelve songs were in an entirely different order. However, the company felt that demographic theories on such matters made a difference in his case (“These different theories on such matters made a difference in his case (“These different theories about listener response are supposed to override whatever it is you intended, the mood you want to create.”). Bearsville prexy Paul Fishkin feels that Rundgren “could make those changes and not affect the album as a whole, but he considers it meddling.”

In any case, Bearsville presented Todd with a list of songs they felt would program better together on one side (“Those tunes acceptable on the MOR crossover theorem…”) with the ones they figured were too challenging – in other words, annoying and grating” on the other. Hence, “Easy” and “Difficult.”

“The funny thing is that it makes no difference to me whatever. The only reason I did it was because, in that particular instance, it made no difference to me. I don’t know what the fuck they were talking about. So I did it, figuring it was their particular wank and they can think what they want.

“You see, record companies just sell the record, so they say it can be done. But it’s not their obligation to play it and then live with it once they do. That’s what is so hypocritical about the business. The artist has to live with what he creates. In that way, most things that record company people say to me goes in one ear and out the other.”

Todd’s relationship with Bearsville and the industry at large cannot be all that bad since he still makes records and at least gets them on the street, which is more than a lot of other die-hard idealists can say. And Fishkin admits to an undying respect for Todd’s independent stance. Still, respect doesn’t count in the $7.98 retail race.

“I guess,” he says in conclusion, “I’ll always be a revolutionary because I don’t want to be part of the establishment. I don’t care who the establishment is, either. I just want the option to be exactly who I am and, as a result, I will always be on the outside.”

Meanwhile, Back in Philly…

What, I’m sure you’re all asking, happened to that post-Rundgren Nazz that went to Dallas and eventually went the way of all has-beens? And what does Cheap Trick have to do with it?

Yes, these are questions to which you no doubt want the answers and ex-Nazz lead singer Stewkey was more than happy to oblige.

“After Todd and Carson quit the band, Thom Mooney and I went to Dallas bringing two people with us from Philly, a bass player named Greg Simpler and a guitar player named Craig Bolan, who used to play with Thom a long time ago in the Munchkins. As the Nazz, we played around the Southwest. We tried to hook up with some management people out there, but that didn’t work out. So we finally disbanded the group after about six or seven months. That was in mid-1970.

“Thom went to California, while I stayed in Texas. Maybe a year or so later, I got a phone call from Rick Nielsen. He wanted to know if I wanted to come to Illinois to sing with his band. So I went up there and sang with his band – it was called Fuse at the time.”

This version of Fuse came together after their lone Epic album (of which Nielsen has little good to say), was recorded. According to Stewkey, Thom Mooney played with Fuse for a time in Illinois, but left again, and eventually Fuse headed to Philadelphia and were rechristened Sick Man of Europe. The personnel changed with some regularity, with the band including at times Nielsen, Stewkey, Tom Petersson (also of Cheap Trick), and Philadelphians Hank Ransome (longtime Philly drummer) and Cotton Kent (jazz-rocker and Sigma Sound session regular). As Sick Man of Europe, they recorded a number of demos which have since turned up on a bootleg album, Retrospective Foresight, as a collection of Nazz out-takes, although most of the tracks actually aren’t. It actually features Nazz III tracks, a live take of “Open My Eyes” that Stewkey thinks might be the Texan Nazz, and rough takes of “Lemming Song” and “Train Kept a ‘Rollin’.” The Sick Man of Europe tunes on the record are “I Ain’t Got You” (a Stewkey original), “He Was” (another Stewkey comp), and Nielsen’s “So Good to See You” (billed there as “Ready I Am”).

In any case, Sick Man eventually brought in a drummer from Illinois (not Bun E. Carlos) whose name Stewkey can’t remember. And then…

“I don’t know. I left again. Actually, I got fired. I just had bad luck with two bands.”

Stewkey is now living in Philadelphia, doing sporadic writing and, for awhile, was gigging acoustically in a duo. When asked about his personal relationship with Todd during the Nazz period, he refers back to Todd’s aversion to drugs.

“When I was playing with Todd when Nazz was first together, I’d like to go out and get high. And he didn’t like that. I thought Todd really got impossible after awhile. If we weren’t working and I wanted to go out and see a chick or get high with a couple of friends, he’d really get upset about that. Which I didn’t understand. Y’know, people like to have fun, Todd.”

David Fricke

Friday, December 18, 2009

Todd to perform in a future show in Australia 1/28/10


Sydney Opera House

January 28 at 8.30pm
Gates open at 7pm
Sydney Opera House

2hrs, no interval

Save up to 20%

Sydney Opera House
Book Online or phone
02 9250 7777

Sydney Festival
Book Online or phone
1300 668 812

Book Online or phone
1300 723 038

Marianne Faithfull / Tim Robbins / David Johansen / Todd Rundgren / Gavin Friday / Baby Gramps / David Thomas / Norma Waterson / Sarah Blasko / Katy Steele / Peaches / Glenn Richards / Liam Finn / Camille O’Sullivan / Kami Thompson / Marry Waterson / more to be announced!

A Hal Willner production

Leave terra firma behind and cast off on a pirate adventure.

In an Australian exclusive, a stellar line-up of over 20 rock and folk icons, actors, punk rockers and more take to the stage on the Forecourt of the Sydney Opera House, along with an exceptional house band, to bring the lore and fables of the pirates and sailors of the high seas to life. The songs chronicle a life at sea - from sailors, convicts, travellers and pirates - and all the hardships, horrors, lusts and romance that went along with it.

Following hugely successful concerts in the UK and Ireland, producer Hal Willner (Came So Far for Beauty, 2005) brings another all-star line-up to Sydney. Rogue's Gallery was conceived by actor Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean. The result was a compilation CD featuring a veritable who's who of contemporary music performing pirate ballads, sea songs and chanteys.

The Rogue's Gallery artists:

Marianne Faithfull Quintessential rock survivor, connoisseur of songs and charismatic interpreter
Tim Robbins Hollywood superstar and musician
David Johansen member of the seminal American proto-punk band The New York Dolls
Todd Rundgren legendary purveyor of deft pop gems and producer for Meatloaf, Patti Smith and New York Dolls
Gavin Friday Irish singer, songwriter and member of the post-punk group The Virgin Prunes
Peaches Canadian shock-rocker
Baby Gramps American roots revivalist, vaudevillian and raconteur
David Thomas founding member protopunkers Rocket From The Tombs
Norma Waterson English folk-royalty, original member of the Watersons and Waterson:Carthy
Sarah Blasko ARIA Award winning Australian songstress
Katy Steele Little Birdy front woman
Glenn Richards one of the finest songwriters of his generation and front man for rock band Augie March
Liam Finn singer-songwriter and rising star of indie-rock
Camille O’Sullivan Irish chanteuse
Kami Thompson daughter of British folk duo Richard and Linda Thompson
Marry Waterson daughter of English folk luminaries Lal Waterson and George Knight

Stay tuned for further line-up announcements in January!

'A serious exercise in musical archaeology and a lot of fun – mournful, bawdy, gory and daft by turns.' - The Guardian

'Stuffed to the rafters with unexpected msydoments and collaborations that don’t add up on paper, but make perfect sense on the stage. Sail on, sailors.' - The Independent

The Rogue's Gallery band:

Kate St John (musical director/oboe/cor anglais/accordion/saxophone)
David Coulter (saw/fiddle/banjo/mandolin)
Leo Abrahams (guitar/hurdy gurdy/bouzouki)
Martyn Barker (drums/percussion)
Rory McFarlane (acoustic/electric bass)
Roger Eno (piano/keys/harmonium)

Originally commissioned by the Barbican Centre, London.
Contains coarse language.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Bob Lefsetz reflects on musician/producer and "heavy metal kid" Todd Rundgren's finer moments.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

rundgrenRadio Billy James vol 2 of todd rundgren bio

Book Release Party!

Author Billy James will be our guest this Tuesday night as we discuss his new book, "A Dream Goes On Forever: The Continuing Story of Todd Rundgren Volume II". The book covers the time period of 1977-87.

Show starts at 8:30pm ET! www.RundgrenRadio.com

Saturday, December 12, 2009


upped on youtube by arkanjul
nice blend of fractal images created in apophysis 2.0 and graphics from the Cinema marquee game Space Rangers 2 : Rise of the Dominators put to Todd rundgren's "future" from the Liars album, these are all great stuff, the music, the fractal generator and the game!!!

either use this link to see HD version or click on standard link below


Friday, December 11, 2009

BOOK A Dream Goes On Forever - The Continuing Story of Todd Rundgren vol. 2 is to be published by Golden Treasures Publishing on December 15, 2009

Second Installment of Todd Rundgren Biography To Be Published

12/11/2009 - Asheville, NC - After a seven year gap, much to the anticipation of Todd Rundgren fans worldwide, A Dream Goes On Forever - The Continuing Story of Todd Rundgren vol. 2 is to be published by Golden Treasures Publishing on December 15. 2009. There is no more consumate musician than Todd Rundgren. There is no more complete collected account of his sonic accomplishments than A Dream Goes on Forever. This second volume of the biographic series tracks his history from the triumphant mid-'70s atop the golden pyramid to the challenging mid-'80s when he faced the demise of Utopia. Follow the album-by-album coverage from Todd's landmark 1977 production of Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell through to the persistence of vision which allowed him to continue creating music after the end of his video studio, record label and band. From Utopia to Oblivion and beyond.

No account of Todd Rundgren's second decade of creativity would be complete without extensive coverage of his pioneering efforts in music video. From his first forays into live TV to the founding of his state-of-the-art $2 million studio, Todd poured as much energy, money and talent into the advancement of music video as he did for his audio adventures. Relish the highs such as when "Time Heals" becomes the second video ever played on MTV, or Utopia presides over the channel's first birthday celebration with Nina Blackwood. Be there as Martha Quinn and Todd announce results of a Basement Tapes session, and when the band produces award-winning videography for "Feets Don't Fail Me Now". Follow along on the rollercoaster ride as Utopia's TV show plans get foiled by lost RCA satellites, and the studio ultimately and tragically goes up in flames.

Learn how, despite it all, Todd continues to forge ahead producing his own landmark solo albums along with pop gems like Skylarking by XTC and Forever Now by the Psychedelic Furs. It's all here, disc by disc, frame by frame, covering all the developments in unparalled detail. It's the continuing story of the one - the only - Todd Rundgren marching boldly through the Utopia years.

A Dream Goes On Forever vol. 2, featuring a foreword by Utopia member Kasim Sulton, is available through Amazon as well as directly through Golden Treasures Publishing (who, along with publishing the first volume of the Todd Rundgren biographic series, has released Beyond &Before - The Early Years of YES by Peter Banks).

For more information:

Press Inquiries:
Glass Onyon PR

Thursday, December 10, 2009

official todd rundgren twitter page

Its official.. I have officially handed over the twitter page that i started a while ago to Lynn at Panacea Entertainment. It was always my intention to protect that name so it would remain in good hands. Recently i allowed a promotion company to use it to help with the West Coasts AWATS shows and i was going to take it back. But my dedication is to my blog. I never enjoyed twitting. So im here to stay.

So its my pleasure to have http://twitter.com/TODDRUNDGREN in great hands for good.

Videos :by sob451... AWATS Live, Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA, December 1, 2009

upped on youtube by sob451

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Article: spinner.com Todd Rundgren Discusses Connection to John Lennon's Assassin


Todd Rundgren Discusses Connection to John Lennon's Assassin
Posted on Dec 8th 2009 2:00PM by Pat Pemberton

When Todd Rundgren performs the song 'Rock and Roll Pussy,' he touches upon a bizarre connection to John Lennon's murder. Mark David Chapman, the man who assassinated Lennon in 1980, was intrigued by the song, which many believed was critical of the ex-Beatle. The delusional Chapman also believed Rundgren -- who was involved in a feud with Lennon around that time -- was beaming messages to him.

Still, while Chapman was supposedly "obsessed" with Rundgren's music, the songwriter and producer says he tries not to think morbid thoughts about his unintentional connection to Lennon's death.

"When you're in the public eye, you never know who the hell is looking at you," Rundgren tells Spinner. "You would like to think you have some influence over the people who are fascinated with you, but they are casting you as some fantasy caricature they'd like to see as opposed to what you're trying to be."

Rundgren wrote 'Rock and Roll Pussy' -- a song about celebrities who talk about change but don't actually participate in it -- for his 1973 album 'A Wizard, a True Star,' which he has been performing live in its entirety. Since the song specifically mentions the word "revolution" and references lying in bed, many assumed it had to be about Lennon, the 'Revolution' songwriter who held famous "bed-in" protests with wife Yoko Ono.

"I've never actually averred that the song was about John Lennon," Rundgren insists. "I think that was an assumption because at the time there was a press conflict about us."

Soon after the album was released, Rundgren was quoted in Melody Maker magazine saying Lennon was an attention seeker out to help himself more than any cause. Lennon responded with a sarcastic letter in the magazine, saying "I never claimed to be a revolutionary. But I am allowed to sing anything I want! Right?"

Rundgren, a Beatles fan whose early music was clearly influenced by the Fab Four, said the lyrics were meant to be more general. "One can say that John Lennon was guilty possibly of some of the finger-pointing that the song evinces," he says, "but it's mostly the whole idea of talk versus action and not specific to any one person."

On Dec. 8, 1980, Chapman constructed a tableau at the Sheraton Centre hotel in New York , consisting of a bible, a 'Wizard of Oz' poster and an album, 'The Ballad of Todd Rundgren.' Later that day, he shot Lennon outside the Dakota apartment building.

"I recognize it as one of life's more unfortunate occurrences," Rundgren says of the murder. But any time you become famous, he said, scary people are going to take interest in you.

"You're just lucky if you don't meet them most of time."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

RundgrenRadio.com airs TONIGHT at 8:30pm ET. 12/08/09. post AWATS CALI SHOW

www.RundgrenRadio.com airs TONIGHT at 8:30pm ET. 12/08/09.

No guest, but plenty of post AWATS Cali discussion to include perspectives on the opening act and the shows and reviews AND your phone calls

Video Is It My Name? Ventura theater 12/5/09 + "Stop Breaking Down" from TR's Johnson

upped on youtube by minders1960

Todd's international crowd of groupies at the front for 'A Wizard A True Star.' Live at the Majestic Ventura Theatre, Ventura, California 12.5.09.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Photos: by jim Snyder

Photos: Taken by Sheri Goldstein Sanders.... Orpheum marquee and poster

click on image to see full size

Review: Los Angeles Todd Rundgren concert now offered as a souvenir book

Los Angeles Todd Rundgren concert now offered as a souvenir book
December 6,

this article has been deleted due to the authors desire to not have it posted on this site.. GO FIGURE !!! this makes no sense!!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

Concert Review: Sacromento Press: Wizard Rundgren remains a truly weird star at Crest

Wizard Rundgren remains a truly weird star at Crest

The title of Todd Rundgren's 1973 concept album, A Wizard, A True Star, always seemed half true: A studio wizard he may have been, a one-man band with eclectic influences and an ear for a great hook, but he was never quite the star he aspired to be.

Indeed, Rundgren, who made his recorded debut as a member of The Nazz in 1967, always seemed just a year or two behind the true trendsetters, and a bit ahead of the curve when it came to stardom. Despite several early hits -- "Hello It's Me" and "I Saw the Light" positioned him as a singer-songwriter in the mold of Carole King or Elton John -- his tendency to go off in five directions at once and a healthy skepticism about stardom itself seemed to push him in the direction of cult star rather than rock star.

Forty-two years and dozens of albums later, Rundgren remains a cult star, occasionally releasing albums but rarely selling many. But his cult is devoted and passionate, and Wednesday night he drew a half house of ravenous fanatics to the Crest Theatre in downtown Sacramento. The crowd of about 600 was fanatical, calling out to the singer between songs. One loutish fan even walked up to the apron of the stage to address Rundgren, who was in a mid-song vamp.

The draw wasn't just Rundgren. The concert was promoted as a chance to hear him perform, start to finish, that same 1973 album, A Wizard, A True Star, known in its day as the longest single album ever released on one vinyl long player, at approximately 50 minutes. Most albums of the time topped out around 40.

More a collection of electronics-mad moments or melodic flights of fancy than fully-realized songs -- one string of five songs are barely a minute each -- it was a curiosity then and remains so now. Wizard came out the same year as The Dark Side of the Moon, Quadrophenia, Aladdin Sane, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Band on the Run and Houses of the Holy; any album would have a hard time standing out. That Wizard, with its dye-cut cover (a Dali-esque portrait of Rundgren) and lacking a hit single, did even reasonably well was no mean feat.

Wednesday night, 36 years after its release, Wizard got another chance. The music, now extending well over an hour, came across powerfully. Freed of studio wizardry and abrupt edits, and of the density of the original studio sound, the music had a chance to breathe, and Rundgren's six-piece band, featuring old Utopia bandmate Kasim Sultan on bass and vocals, as well as Tubes drummer Prairie Prince, managed most of the tricky changes and bizarre shifts in tempo and tone.

That wasn't always easy. Rundgren's tastes, rooted in The Beatles' psychedelia and the orchestral soul of his native Philadelphia, had become informed over the years by the weird time signatures and tonalities of Frank Zappa's work -- "Cool Jerk" in 7/4 anyone? -- as well as the burgeoning glam rock of the early '70s. And then there was that whole singer/songwriter thing.

And Rundgren's rather dour sense of humor and irony (one refrain goes "You want the obvious/You'll get the obvious") tends to undercut much of what he does on an emotional level. Though he sang such soulful numbers as "Sometimes I Don't Know What to Feel" and a soul medley that included the chestnut "La-La-La Means I Love You," Rundgren maintained an emotional distance that verged on cold at points. One is always aware that he is performing, most likely with tongue in cheek.

In that respect, Rundgren didn't help himself with the frequent costume changes that struck this viewer as something out of community theatre gone wrong. He emerged during the opening "International Feel" in an astronaut's spacesuit, and subsequent songs saw him in a red fat suit (inflated on one song, deflated on the next), an orange leisure suit and a Isaac Hayes-inspired satin-and-skin ensemble that looked ridiculous on Rundgren.

Still, the costumes were part of the fun, and evocative of the crazy-quilt of Wizard. A studio-inspired and electronically-created album, it came off better live than might have been expected. The pacing of the album, played mostly in its original sequence, lent itself to live performance. Musical peaks and lulls came through beautifully. Even the odd little between-song instrumentals and sonic tangents served to give Rundgren time for costume changes, and a chance for the band to show off.

By the time he and the band got to the soaring refrain of "International Feel" and then to the album's closing number, "Just One Victory," the evening was complete. A powerfully emotional anthem to hope, the song is free of irony and self-conscious wit, going to the core of '70s soul's optimism. It has long been Rundgren's show-closer, but set in its original context at the end of Wizard, it was even more moving.

Rundgren may remain mostly a cult star, but to have maintained that cult for three-plus decades is quite an accomplishment. And it should be said that Wednesday night's show, as rich as it was, neglected at least a dozen classic Rundgren songs. Even as part of the very short tour of Wizard, Wednesday night was a chance to celebrate not just an album, but the career of a man who, while perhaps not a wizard, is certainly a talented magician.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

TV interview abc tv





Todd Rundgren introduces his band and performs Just One Victory from "A Wizard, A True Star" AWATS - Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, 12/1/09

opening setlist for the AWATS show on the west coast

Todd premiered the Todd Rundgren's Johnson material as the opening set for the AWATS show on the west coast

kasim / prarrie / jesse and todd performed the following set..

Todd Rundgren's Johnson setlist!

Dust My Broom
Stop Breakin' Down
Walkin Blues
Love in Vain
Sweet Home Chicago
Red Hot

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

LAist interview

LAist Interview: Todd Rundgren

the boundary-defying musician, vocalist, composer, producer and original Zen Master of computer technology applied to music, embarks on a very special mini-tour this week, performing his 1973 release A Wizard, A True Star in its entirety in four California cities. This Friday at the Orpheum Theater, Todd and his band will reprise an album so full of music, the pressing required narrowing the grooves so that it could all fit. Covering just about every rock/pop genre even a journeyman fan could imagine, even inventing a few more in the process, it has over time been proclaimed Rundgren's White Album, OK Computer and Pet Sounds.

Acknowledged to be a musician’s musician - on 1972’s Something / Anything, he played all instruments - for this unveiling of A Wizard, A True Star Rundgren has enlisted some phenomenal support players. His touring band for this jaunt consists of drummer Prairie Prince (The Tubes, skinbasher on the Rundgren-produced Skylarking by XTC); bassist Kasim Sulton from Rundgren’s 70’s-era band Utopia; Cars keysman Greg Hawkes; guitarist Jesse Gress (Tony Levin, Robbie Dupree, Adrian Belew); saxophonist Bobby Strickland (The Band, Grateful Dead, Dick Dale), and pianist Ralph Schuckett (another Utopia vet whose session ledger includes James Taylor, Lou Reed, and George Benson though unfotunately not all on the same session). Expect a higher than usual turnout of studio technicians and Musicians Institute grads.

Backed by this fiery group of players, Rundgren will open with a set of “other material”, including songs he has never performed live, before launching into what is sure to be one of the highlights of LA music for 2009. Promising something more than a note for note duplication, he playfully remarks “This is not that”. Expect staging, costume changes and songs fully brought to life with Rundgren making use of his own theatrical sensibilities and Prairie Prince’s talent with set design. (You have to wonder what the visual motif on ‘Rock and Roll Pussy’ - Runt’s purported jab at John Lennon from Lennon’s year of exile in LA - is going to be).

Rundgren spoke to LAist on the phone from his home in Hawaii shortly before heading to LA to begin tour rehearsals.

The album that you’re performing at the Orpheum, A Wizard A True Star, came out in 1973, the same year as Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re An American Band and the New York Dolls’ debut album. Can you tell us what it was like having so many projects happening in such a short amount of time?

Well in those days the entire industry was a little different. It didn’t take months and months to make a record. I guess people didn’t have the idea of “perfection” that they do nowadays, where the idea is that enough perspiration can makes up for inspiration, uh, I don’t know. But it was not incredibly unusual for a producer, which I principally was at that point in time, for a producer to do three, four, as many as a half a dozen projects a year. Because they all took, more or less, an average of a month to record. Also it was just a time in my life where I had no other preoccupations but music. I also built a studio in New York, and that facilitated a lot as well, in that I could record some of my projects in my own studio or even produce from my studio. And that was a situation where we weren’t really under any kind of time limitations, in terms of what time we could come in to record, and how long we spent working. So that made our use of the studio time, I think, more efficient. And, I had no family to demand that I spend time with them. So I could spend all this time, you know, traveling or doing these productions in studios around the world, to record these various records.

Of all the albums that you could have chosen to give this kind of “live in entirety” treatment, why did you pick this one?

I didn’t choose it, and that’s how. I was on tour in England about a year ago, and our promoter approached me with the idea of doing the album once, in London. And he was inspired by the fact that a generation of younger musicians had begun to discover A Wizard A True Star, the record. And exactly how, I don’t know, how they discover that album from 1973 is mysterious to me. But in any case, a bunch of younger musicians were mentioning the record, and it was being sampled on records as well. So he thought it’d be a great way to introduce me to a younger audience in England by essentially doing a special event that would possibly feature some of these younger musicians. When word of that possibility got back to the United States, a group of fans decided that England was too far for them to go, and they wanted to see that album performed. So essentially, they found a venue in Akron and started promoting it themselves. By the time word of this got through the internet to all the fans, we wound up doing seven shows in five cities during the first ten days or so of September. So it went from being a single special event to being a series of dates and because the production is more elaborate than what I usually do, we can only do it in limited runs anyway. So we’re also doing these four dates in California, and we’ll finally make it to London in the beginning of next year, we’ll play a date in London and then a date in Amsterdam.

With all the different styles and textures on the tracks on A Wizard A True Star, how did you approach the recording? Was there a standard method of doing tracks live in the studio and overdubbing from there, or did that approach change with every song?

Well, in those days I had been working in a couple of contexts. One was the Something/ Anything context, which was me playing everything. And then there was the fourth side of Something/ Anything, and this is the record I did right before A Wizard A True Star. And the fourth side of that is all live sessions with a band. So I was not locked into doing things one way or another way. But this was the first project we did at the studio we built in New York called Secret Sound. We were still wiring up the console and stuff like that when guys were turning up to the first session. We’re frantically trying to get everything working while they were rehearsing the songs. So in some cases it would be like that, it would be live and very much resemble a live session, and in some cases it would be just me, by myself, and the biggest difference there was that I was essentially the engineer. We had no engineer to really operate the tape machine, I would have to turn it on and then run out and play whatever I was gonna play. Or, we did do a lot of recording in the control room.

So, much of our approach was out of the fact that we had our own environment to work in, and were freed of the usual limitations. I was… I could do anything I wanted that other studios might frown upon, like running it too hot or wiring things together in these weird configurations that they were not comfortable or familiar with. So it was really a different record from the stand point of how we worked. It was more like a college project or something. It wasn’t a typical kind of studio thing. Although I imagine that the Beatles had a similar kind of freedom in the studio, where you could take over a studio for a month and not have to share it with anyone else. So that was a principal element, the complete freedom to ignore the usual constraints of being in the studio.

There’s a very unique bass sound on some of those tracks, that’s kind of a quavering, wobbly bass sound. How did you achieve that effect?

We had a limited number of effects available to us in those days because it was all analog, you know, pre-digital. A lot of the vocal effects, nowadays they would use what would be referred to as a digital delay. Well there was no such thing in those days. If you wanted that kind of delay, you had to do it by an analog method. So we had a thing called a Cooper Time Cube which essentially was a couple of long pieces of hose inside a box, with a funnel speaker on one end and a microphone on the other end. So you would get this synthetic doubling effect, And one of the pedals we used to depend on a lot was called the Univibe, It’s essentially a classic effect that a lot of people used, Jimi Hendrix used it a lot on his guitar. Not so much on the bass. But we were working from a different kind of ethic, that whole idea that there were no rules that we were compelled to follow. So we would apply things that probably people didn’t think of. But using the Univibe on the bass, was, it wasn’t that unusual for the way we were working. Let’s just plug everything into everything else and see what it sounds like.

You were one of the first prominent musicians to offer a direct to consumer model for purchasing music over the internet. What did you find rewarding about that experience and, do you plan to continue working that way?

Well it was not exactly….it wasn’t based so much on sales. It was called Future Net. And the idea was that artists would get underwriting to create new music, and that the underwriters would get the chance to kind of look over the artist’s shoulder and peek at what they were doing. And so it was not a standard consumer model, it was supposed to be for people who were particularly devoted to certain artists.

And it was great for a while but the problem was, it was always a technological burden, and I needed to have the participation and the help of other entities. And at some point we sold it to someone who then proceeded to dismantle it. Put no money into it, starved it to death and essentially brought the whole enterprise to its knees. And it hasn’t recovered since. I would like to go back to the concept again, which is different from the standard, record sales. More sort of long term underwriting, and a different sort of relationship between the artist and the people who listen to the music. But at this particular point in time I’m too involved in musical things, I suppose, to get back into the whole technology trip. But that doesn’t mean I won’t get to a place where I will revisit the concept and try and re-prog.

Regarding the 2004 album Liars, did you begin with the concept before writing the songs or did you notice that you had a lot of songs with a common theme?

The concept evolved… I had done a little bit of recording but at the time, I was very sort of unfocused about it. I wasn’t really thinking I was ready. I was just… writing songs and recording them. And eventually I got to the point that I thought, I’ve got enough basic groundwork done, I should start to think about finishing a record. And I realized I wanted to do something that was conceptual, which I hadn’t done in a while. And I realized that at least some of this stuff I had been writing about was on the topic of, not just truth, but also reality and surreality and all these sort of glamours and things like that that I discovered, after ruminating, seem to be almost endemic in human character. And so after that, it almost started to write itself from a lyrical standpoint. Eighty minutes worth of music, all of it about that central topic. It turned to out to be a real goldmine, I guess, of ideas for things to write about. Once you realize and acknowledge the fact that this weird relationship that human beings have with the truth creates so much conflict, how much conflict and turmoil… that’s where most music comes from. It comes from turmoil. Most art is the product of some kind of turmoil deep inside that artist’s soul.

Working as a producer, have you ever worked on a project that ended up having an effect on your own music?

Almost all of my productions have had some eventual effect on my music. In many instances, I’m only interested in doing artists that present a kind of challenge. Production means a lot of things, and one of the things I don’t really feel should be in the category of production is simple babysitting. So if the producer is not making some of kind of contribution, and conversely becoming more and more educated about the act that he’s working with, then there’s not enough music in it for me. So I tend to choose artists that I’m not necessarily 100% comfortable with, and even then I’m trying to challenge us to come up with something beyond the mundane. And so in that sense, I’m always ideally learning something and getting something from the people that I’m working with, even if I don’t directly incorporate that into anything that I do. I mean, I did produce a country album once. I haven’t really done any country music. But in that sense, the answer is yes, I do get affected by the people I work with.

Are there any production jobs that you’ve passed over and later wished that you’d accepted?

Well, there are jobs that just, for whatever reason, just don’t happen. Because many artists are on a schedule, you know, they’ve gotta get a record done so they can go on the road and tour it, often can’t wait for you to finish another project that you’re working on and you lose the opportunity. I was working on a Tubes album when I was approached to do a Talking Heads record. And I was a big fan of the band and I was always disappointed I never got to do that. But ce’st la vie, you know? That’s the breaks. And there are other things that you get to do that make up for it. You know, I did an XTC record that was a Herculean task from a psychic standpoint. It was a very satisfying record to do, and a finished product that only I would have done. And those are the kinds of records that you’re waiting for, the ones that are the perfect match for you.

It was interesting reading XTC’s interviews in response to the production of that record, and, well, you’ve read them too...

It comes with the territory, I guess. You hope that your time with an artist will be pleasant and fruitful. And if it can’t be both of those, it can at least be fruitful. We helped their career, and beyond that, the turmoil just comes with the territory. Put it this way: it would have been horrible if we’d gone through all that AND the record sucked.