Buyer’s Guide

Todd Rund­gren

Classic Rock - - Contents - Bill DeMain

Where to start to ex­plore the dis­tin­guished cat­a­logue from a rest­less and pro­gres­sive artist.

Song­writer, pro­ducer, singer, multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist… His is a di­verse and dis­tin­guished cat­a­logue from a rest­less and pro­gres­sive artist.

Amore ap­pro­pri­ate ti­tle for Todd Rund­gren’s sig­na­ture 1972 hit Hello It’s Me might have been Good­bye,

It’s Me. That would have pre­pared fans for the 45-year, 30-plus-al­bum rest­less quest for mu­si­cal rein­ven­tion that fol­lowed. If he has taken a few ques­tion­able turns and gone down cre­ative cul-de-sacs along the way, one thing is cer­tain: Rund­gren’s ca­reer has never been bor­ing, and for him that’s suc­cess. “I don’t like for­mu­las,” he once said. “And I’m per­son­ally in­ca­pable of fol­low­ing them any­way.”

Born in 1948 near Philadelphia, and steeped in that city’s soul­ful sounds, Rund­gren said he was “fated to be­come a mu­si­cian”. His ap­pren­tice­ship with The Nazz and two low-key singer-song­writer al­bums quickly gave way to a wildly pro­lific run through the 70s and 80s, dur­ing which he re­leased land­mark records such as Some­thing/Any­thing?, A Wizard, A True Star, Her­mit Of Mink Hol­low, Ad­ven­tures In Utopia and Nearly Hu­man.

The con­stant in his evo­lu­tion – from pop to prog to new wave to elec­tron­ica

– has been his mas­ter­ful song­writ­ing. No mat­ter if he was writ­ing beau­ti­ful bal­lads such as It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Dif­fer­ence, 30-minute ex­per­i­men­tal suites like The Ikon, fe­ro­cious rock­ers such as Trapped, or silly pop dit­ties such as Bang The Drum All Day, he couldn’t hide his enor­mous gift for melody (Rund­gren once wrote in the fore­word to a song­book col­lec­tion: “These are songs that would’ve been hits if I hadn’t sub­verted them…”) and lyrics that ad­dressed the hu­man con­di­tion with a cu­ri­ous mind and heart.

Aside from his prow­ess as a com­poser, Rund­gren is one of rock’s most orig­i­nal pro­duc­ers, with a ré­sumé that in­cludes Badfin­ger, New York Dolls, Grand Funk Rail­road, Cheap Trick, XTC and his biggest suc­cess, Meat Loaf – Rund­gren says the multi-plat­inum Bat Out Of Hell al­bum helped fi­nance a decade’s worth of his own au­dio and video projects.

Rund­gren was also a pi­o­neer for en­hanced CDs and on­line de­liv­ery. His 1995 al­bum The In­di­vid­u­al­ist, for ex­am­ple, was one of the first to be of­fered for sale over the in­ter­net, where sub­scribers could down­load the mu­sic be­fore it was re­leased in stores.

Rund­gren, who turned 70 in June this year, re­mains ac­tive, and is re­unit­ing with the orig­i­nal mem­bers of Utopia for a world tour.

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