Music

Todd Rundgren: Hello, It’s Me

When you read the endless list of accomplishments of Todd Rundgren, it’s nearly overwhelming. He has done nearly everything in the music industry and done it very well.

Rundgren grew up in Philadelphia and taught himself to play guitar at a very young age. He developed a love for music that grew first from his parents’ music collection, then added in his own tastes from the Beatles and the Stones to the Philadelphia sound of bands like the O-Jays.

His own personal brand of music has been called “sophisticated” and “unorthodox,” however the term “unique” seems to fit best. His stage shows are often lavish, and he was one of the earliest to adapt to technology such as the internet as a means of music distribution in the late 90s.

He was one of the first acts to be prominent as both an artist and producer. His notable production credits include Badfinger’s Straight Up (1971), Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re an American Band (1973), the New York Dolls’ New York Dolls (1973), and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell (1977), just to name a few. He’s an adventurer, an innovator, and a true renaissance man.

Hard to believe, but initially, the 22-year-old Rundgren had such anxiety about being a solo artist, that his first album Runt was not initially credited to him — instead, it bore the same moniker as the album title. Songs like the lead single, We Gotta Get You A Woman were not the songs of a 22 year old, but bore a level of seasoned maturity of someone older and wiser.

Rundgren’s industry reputation grew substantially as a result of his success with Runt, and he began using recreational drugs, such as marijuana. He said that the drug gave him “a whole different sensibility about time and space and order” and influenced the writing for his second album. That album did not meet with the success of Runt at first but has since come to be regarded as one of the great singer-songwriter albums of that era.

He went into producing for a time, working with Badfinger for their 3rd album, Straight Up. He also began experimenting with Ritalin to help him focus on his songwriting for his third album. Something/Anything?, the first album officially issued under the name “Todd Rundgren”, was released in February 1972. The album contained the hits I Saw the Light, and Hello, It’s Me, which would become among his best-known hits. Music critic Colin Larkin said “Something/Anything? has since been rightly regarded as one of the landmark releases of the early 70s.”

The subsequent album A Wizard, A True Star was radically different, shifting away from the straightforward three-minute pop formula that had proved successful on his earlier albums. They were also a result of Rundgren’s hallucinogenic experiences. While critical reception was mixed, the album has been regarded very highly by musicians in ensuing decades, declaring it “brilliant” and “cutting edge.”

Rundgren continued to produce other acts, and also record through the 70s, with his writing documenting events in his personal life such as Can We Still Be Friends after a particularly brutal breakup with Bebe Buell. Moving into the 80s, his writing continued to reflect his personal life, as well as the quirky Bang the Drum All Day.

Music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine has said this about Rundgren:

 “Todd Rundgren’s best-known songs – Carole King’s ‘I Saw the Light,’ the ballads ‘Hello, It’s Me’ and ‘Can We Still Be Friends,’ and the goofy novelty ‘Bang on the Drum All Day’ – suggest that he is a talented pop craftsman … but at his core, Rundgren is a rock & roll maverick. Once he had a taste of success with his 1972 masterwork ‘Something/Anything?’, Rundgren chose to abandon stardom and, with it, conventional pop music. He began a course through uncharted musical territory, becoming a pioneer not only in electronic music and prog rock, but in music video, computer software, and Internet music delivery as well.”

He continues to write, record, and produce to this day, and also has toured as recently as 2019. He also authored a biography A Wizard, A True Star, which he revealed he has self-diagnosed attention deficit disorder. After being nominated a consecutive three times in recent past, Rundgren will finally be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021.

Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected]