((in a televangelist's voice:)) "Have you heard the Good News about Todd Rundgren?"
The sixty-three year old musician and producer started a tour last month, under the pique-raising event name "An Unpredictable Evening with Todd Rundgren". No big stretch. Reading a friendly blurb about Rundgren in last week's New Yorker reminded me of one summer in college when I became absolutely obsessed by his song "Hello, It's Me". Now, you can say it's cheeseball all you want, because I understand that hearing it for the umpteenth time in the dentist's chair on the lite rock station, or on the programmed in-store Walgreen's sound system, is enough to deaden even finely attuned ears to the solid musicianship and songwriting that particular ditty has to offer. HOWEVER. Get yourself a "best of", or hie yourself to the record store for his double album "Something/Anything?", and you'll be doing yourself a BIG favor.
A brief list of reasons you should do what I just told you to do:
1) THE BALM TO YOUR ACHING HEART: Best breakup song possibly of all time (at least the one that can offer the best "pick yourself up" attitude)? "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference". The lyrics take you through a few scenes of ugliness with tears, and apologies, and accusations, the very same as I'm sure almost all of us have been through at the end of a relationship. Sitting at his piano and looking over the facts, poor Todd comes to the conclusion that, in the end:
It wouldn't have made any difference/If you really loved me/You just didn't love me/Enough to believe me/Enough not to leave me/Enough not to look for a reason to be unhappy with me/And make me regret ever wanting you/But those days are through..."
Which, for some reason, touches my simple little Holly Hobby feltcloth heart. You're going, "Anybody could have written that! There's nothing TO that!" Well, listen to him sing it, and you tell me:
I feel like he means it. And I can't think of any other song that quite expresses the post-breakup "WHAT WAS I THINKING? Of COURSE it wasn't my fault! Why was [factor x in causing the breakup] even that big of a deal? Ohhh right...they didn't care enough about me". So. Breakup or no breakup, great, GREAT song.
2) THE SIGHT FOR YOUR SORE EYES:
Look. At. This. Man's. Stage. Costume.
Somehow, in spite of being as long faced as the Sons of Lee Marvin, Rundgren went after a Bowie-like, glamorous succession of stage costumes in the early to mid 1970's. My favorite is the feather ensemble, which included iridescent and spotted pieces attached to his eyebrows, a warrior like bandeau, and whimsical little epaulet flourishes at the shoulders. Oh, and the blue hair. Do you remember when blue hair was like a BIG thing? Not just something you saw on high school kids and cos play aficionados, but a serious "is that guy's hair really blue?!" thing, around the year 2000? Ok, now imagine someone doing that TWENTY-FIVE YEARS EARLIER. People must have been flipping their ever loving wigs. Can you see that square in the middle of his bandeau is a photo of, oh, HIM?
Wanna see the feather costume in a most incongruous display of image versus sound? Let's take a look:
((has to actually bite lower lip to keep from singing along at top volume)) What did I tell you?
3) THE GOSSIP THAT WILL SURPRISE YOU:
Todd Rundgren dated Patti Smith, producing her album "Wave" in 1979, which yielded the Springsteen penned hit single "Because the Night". She also did prose reviews of two of his albums in the early 70's, which you can read here and here. Todd Rundgren also dated Bebe Buell for a large portion of the mid 70's, during which she cheated on him/broke up with him/ got back together with him a number of times. During one hiatus, she fell pregnant, came back, and told Rundgren the baby was his, which was how they raised the resultant daughter. Who turned out to be Liv Tyler. I think you probably know who Liv's real father is. SHOCKING! You can read more about it in Buell's (pretty excellent, for a rock girlfriend memoir) Rebel Heart.
4) THE RESUME THAT'S BETTER THAN YOURS:
Producer credits for Todd Rundgren:
And there are more. The man is SICKENING.
Now, go listen to these albums and see what I'm talking about! Then report back here about what you've heard.
Wikipedia article on him (note his part in the psychedelic band The Nazz before embarking on a solo career!)
Til next time!