Sunday, July 22, 2012

Todd vs. Todd Part 2

Monitor owned by Bearsville.

So, as you can probably guess, I’ve been revisiting some of my past history concerning Todd Rundgren, and I can already tell that I’m going to have to revisit his 70’s material, because the garbage from the 80’s has really got me disenchanted with him.

At least the Utopia stuff was spread across a few members so that the bulk of the record wasn’t entirely on Todd’s shoulders.

And maybe that was the problem: Rundgren just spread himself around too thin and then relied on the synthesizer to help him fill out his arrangements. The thing was, the instrument was still in its infancy as a device that could adequately fulfill the tones that Rundgren was trying to achieve.

Here’s a few nifty things I learned from diving back in to Todd’s body of work from the 80’s:

  • He’s admitted that The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect hasn’t aged well, specifically, it was a rush job that now houses some of his least favorite material. Could you imagine being told you’re a genius for a decade and then having people bark “Play Bang On The Drum All Day!” at you for every gig? And Todd seems to have an ego large enough where things like this would seem beneath him. I mean, he once told an audience to shut up between songs because he was recording a “live” album but didn’t want to be pestered with all of those nasty audience noises that happens when you, um, play live.
  • Side one of Healing was nearly unlistenable to me. For real: I had to pause the thing and listen to a bunch of heavy metal just to get the gunk out of my ears. It’d been over 20 years since I’d heard that thing, and I thought for a moment that’d I’d been on dope for ever liking that album. Then I played side two and remembered.
  • Tortured Artist was even worse than Healing.
  • I think Rundgren is a pussy for devoting an entire album to the idea of spirituality and then declares on the shitass song “Chant” on the next album that “I’m not pushing some religion/Don’t get me wrong, I never mess with such things.” Kind of makes the entire credibility of Healing go out the window.
  • I was too scared to by whatever album “The Want Of A Nail” was on. The song rocks, but by this point, I’d gotten tired of spending good money on bargain bin Todd Rundgren albums when I could have easily been spending it on things like Human League 12 inchers or imported Yazoo dance remixes.
  • I’ve got a Utopia album…Utopia, the one with three sides…signed by all of the members of Utopia that I’ll sell to the highest bidder.
  • I read where Rundgren set up a quadraphonic sound system for one of his tours in the mid-70’s where he demanded to be in charge of the nightly audio testing. The crew members would have to work ahead just to get the audio equipment set up. When the other equipment arrived, they’d have to set up and do what’s called a pink noise test before any audience members arrived, then they’d have to do another with the audience members present, because the dynamics of the venue had changed, and they have to readjust the levels. The entire process drove Todd to the brink, never mind the audience who had to endure the annoying pink noise tests while they waited for the show to begin.
  • I used to want an equalizer with a pink noise generator when I was younger.  Do they even make equalizers any more?


Kiko Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kiko Jones said...

To make a baseball analogy, Todd always seemed to me like a slugger who doesn't want to be a DH but instead wants to pitch and be the GM.
As an artist myself I applaud those who take risks when following the muse. But sometimes you have to recognize, that no matter how talented you might be overall, you can't get away from what you're really good at. And what the Runt is king at is in those first 3 solo albums. But he turned his back on that. Which is fine. But don't bitch and moan when folks won't follow you. And even in that regard he was far luckier than the vast majority of artists. I can't think of a more talented artist with a catalog littered with so many missed opportunities.

Todd Totale said...

Agreed. And I think there's a bit of a realization now that all of that alienation has put him in a spot where he needs to do things like The New Cars and Ringo's All Star Band tours just to get a paycheck to pay the bills. Not that royalties mean much nowadays, but I'm sure he'd like to get a bit more than what those first few records consistently contribute to his bank account.

Kiko Jones said...

I was having a similar conversation w/ an old buddy who's a huge fan of the Runt; basically that he's had to do paycheck gigs as a consequence of turning his back on being the cool Elton John of the '70s.

And speaking of royalties, it's been said that some years ago Todd cashed in his future earnings from 'Bat out of Hell' for a lump sum, in order to build his dream house in Hawaii. (Which can be seen in an episode of 'Live from Daryl's House'.) So, I guess he got his money before those royalties became practically worthless, huh?