August 12, 2008

Musing on Todd Rundgren

Several things come to mind when Todd Rundgren crosses my....mind, and he does cross it...err, my mind, from time to time, when I hear his music, etc.

MUSING #1: I think about the surprisingly nasty little war of words exchanged between Rundgren and John Lennon in the early seventies, which I found out about through reading Ray Coleman's Lennon.

Here's one quote from an interview Rundgren did with Melody Maker back in November of '73:

John Lennon ain't no revolutionary. He's a f------- idiot, man. Shouting about revolution and acting like an a__. It just makes people feel uncomfortable.

Them's fightin' words. And it didn't end there. Here are some of my favorite parts of Lennon's response, delivered (to Rundgren) via letter:

AN OPENED LETTUCE TO SODD RUNTLESTUNTLE. (from dr. winston o'boogie)

Couldn't resist adding a few "islands of truth" of my own, in answer to Turd Runtgreen's howl of hate (pain.)

Dear Todd,

I like you, and some of your work, including "I Saw The Light," which is not unlike "There's A Place" (Beatles), melody wise.

1) I have never claimed to be a revolutionary. But I am allowed to sing about anything I want! Right?

4) I don't represent anyone but my SELF. It sounds like I represented something to you, or you wouldn't be so violent towards me. (Your dad perhaps?)

7) Which gets me to the Beatles, "who had no other style than being the Beatles"!! That covers a lot of style man, including your own, TO DATE.....

Anyway, However much you hurt me darling; I'll always love you,

J. L.

That's just ugliness, however you want to look at it. Neither of them could have felt good about that later on.

MUSING #2: Other times, when it comes to Todd Rundgren, I think about my favorite XTC record, Skylarking. Rundgren was the producer/slave driver on that one, and things were reportedly contentious between him and the band. Whatever the situation in the studio was, it seems to have been the catalyst responsible for enabling the creation of what became arguably XTC's greatest album.

Liv Tyler's mom

MUSING #3: Sometimes, whilst contemplating that which is Todd Rundgren, I remember "reading" (in one of my father's extensive collection of Playboy mags going back to the earliest issues, many of which somehow ended up, hidden in my room...) about how he had one of the centerfolds as a girlfriend. And I knew exactly (link nsfw) what she looked like. Naked even. That seemed like the pinnacle of success to me as I entered my teen years - to know a Playboy centerfold, intimately. Like, knowing what her favorite color is and stuff such as. There are worse goals.

Rundgren on far right, with original Cars Easton and Hawkes, 2nd and 3rd from left

MUSING #4: I have actually spent time thinking about the bizarre melding of Rundgren and The Cars. I say bizarre, because I'm not quite sure why he did it, except for maybe being bored, needing the money, or wallowing in the throes of a mid-life crises. I must admit, as is visible in this video, they do in fact rock (and do in fact sound like The Cars), but it just ends up seeming kind of sad, really:

MUSING #5: And finally, and more typically, just as the harsh realities and responsibilities of real life push him far, far from my mind, when I think about Todd Rundgren, I think about what most people who have heard of him think about, which is his 1972 solo album, Something/Anything?. It's his best, commercially and critically. It's #173 on "The Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list, and it featured Rundgren's only major pop hit, "Hello It's Me." Here he is, rockin' the butterfly eyelashes, doing it live on a Four Tops-hosted edition of The Midnight Special (sigh) in 1973:

Dude's talented!


gilligan said...

Very interesting! I wasn't aware of the Lennon-Rundgren feud, and it seems rather odd that he would insult Lennon when his band Nazz was a carbon copy of the fab four. However,... if you allow me one muse of my own:

As someone who idolized The Beatles (and still do), Lennon's behavior immediately before and after the breakup (i.e. a naked album cover with Yoko, feuds with Paul, etc.) was somewhat disenchanting. Bye-bye "I am the walrus", and hello pompous TV interviews and lots of Yoko. In other words, I think someone like Rundgren, who patterned himself so much after Lennon/McCartney, was rebelling against the new Lennon.

Maybe I'm psychoanalyzing ol' Todd too much, but I think he was just basically saying, "Put some clothes on and give us another Strawberry Fields!"

I feel your pain, Todd.

Anonymous said...

Whoa, so informative! Great stuff, and very different from my Runt posting. Re: The Midnight Special, I deduced it was the Four Tops when one member calls another member "Duke" (Abdul "Duke" Fakir being one of the members. It's definitely not the Isleys, who I would recognize anywhere.

I love your blog.

Chris said...

You are right about The Nazz, gilligan. But Lennon was no doubt to groups imitating The Beatles. They sort of made the map, so it was hard for a while not to "borrow" something from them. The Nazz did seem to really go overboard though! I agree that John Lennon wasn't all that likable of a person during that period. His response to Rundgren is hilarious, but sort of mean. I also think Rundgren had a bit of a point.

Thanks, gentlebear! I'll change that to The Four Tops. Your "Hello It's Me" post gave me the idea for this one, no doubt about it. It was also very informative. I never knew about that Isley Bros. version, nor had I heard The Nazz version.