The Sunday Dozen: Todd Rundgren

I made two decisions when I started this post. One made it easier: I stuck to 20th Century Todd and didn’t delve into his rich 21st Century catalog. I’m not quite as familiar with all of it whereas I’m well-acquainted with his pre-millennium output.

Here’s how I made it hard on myself.  I cover Todd’s complete 20th Century catalog including his albums with Utopia. That made it doubly hard but that’s what the dozens are about: hard choices for no particular reason.

Todd turned 74 this year. That makes me feel older than the proverbial hills, which are nowhere near New Orleans. I’ve been listening to his music for most of my life and have seen him in concert many times most memorably for my 21st birthday:

Now that I’ve outed myself, let’s continue.

Todd Rundgren is one of the most interesting artists in rock history. He’s dabbled in many musical genres and succeeded in nearly all of them. His eclecticism is one reason he’s been more of a wizard than a big star, but it’s endearing to hardcore fans such as myself. It’s also why Todd wasn’t inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame until last year. He never cared but many of his fans did. I did not.

Todd is way up the list of my favorite vocalists. He can croon, belt it out, and even shout. Is it just me or does anyone else thinks he sounds like his fellow Philly area product Daryl Hall?

Todd is a veritable one-man band as well as a great lead guitar player. Shorter Adrastos: Todd does it all.

I have most of Todd’s albums, but my favorite period is the Utopia era. Todd is a collaborative person at heart and his Utopia bandmates brought out the best in him. It was positively utopian. Besides, how can I not love someone named M. Frog Labat?

As to the winnowing process, it was well-nigh impossible, but somehow I prevailed. I started with 40 songs and ended up with 6 Todd solo numbers and 6 by Utopia. I don’t include all the hits, but some made the cut. I hope I don’t sound like Heidi Klum. I don’t know how Tim Gunn puts up with her.

The Utopia catalog complicated matters considerably. I excluded songs with lead vocals by Kasim Sulton and Roger Powell. That’s why two of my favorite Utopia tunes didn’t make the cut,  Swing To The Right and Caravan; both served as Saturday Odds & Sods theme songs. I did, however, cheat by embedding the links to 1992 live versions in the titles. Crafty thy name is Adrastos.

As always, the list is arranged in chronological order and reflects my personal taste. My only concern is that my friend Todd superfan and Egg Yolk Jubilee lead guitar player, Mike Hogan, will disapprove. Of course, we always bust each other’s chops, so how would this be different?

We begin near the beginning with a classic track from Todd’s fourth solo album. It’s a fixture at his live shows regardless of the backing band.  I’m not usually big on uplift: Just One Victory is an exception to the rule.

Utopia Theme introduced a new sound to Todd fans. I became even more of one after hearing this Mahavishnu Orchestra/King Crimson influenced number. To this day, it sends shivers down either my spine or timbers. I’m not sure which.

Todd Rundgren is not only a Real Man, he’s a mensch in real life; just ask Liv Tyler.

Love Of The Common Man contains some of Todd’s finest lyrics. I’ve always loved this opening couplet: “Well I’ve been burned in my prime. Simple things in life seem so hard to learn sometimes.”

Love Is The Answer is a great song that’s best heard live. It’s blue-eyed soul at its finest.

I used Can We Still Be Friends for the Friday Cocktail Hour last September. Why? Todd’s music was the soundtrack of my life after Hurricane Ida turned me into a giant sweatball. Besides, it’s one of Todd’s loveliest songs. Hell, it’s even uplifting but I still like it.

Lysistrata is an anti-war song that evokes the policies of the early Reagan administration before Gorbachev tuned the hawkish president into a semi-dove. That’s right, Todd Rundgren is a lefty. Anyone surprised? I would hope not.

Hammer In My Heart is a pop-prog rocker. It is not, however, about Thor. I’m uncertain what Todd’s position is on the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe. Me, I’m with Marty Scorsese.

Crybaby is NOT about the Impeached Insult Comedian although he is the biggest crybaby in American history.

Play This Game begins with chunky power chords then rocks out. It’s one of my favorite Utopia songs. What’s not to love about a song with these lyrics: “Play this game, take the prize but not before you realize that win or lose, it’s all the same. Then maybe we can play this game.”

Parallel Lines was written for a musical production based on Joe Orton’s unproduced screenplay for The Beatles, Up Against It. It’s perhaps my favorite solo Todd tune. It was a Saturday Odds & Sods theme song in 2016.

Can’t Stop Running is another gorgeous Todd tune with terrific lyrics. It’s also the last of the Todd Rundgren Dozen.

This week’s lagniappe is full of Rundgrenian cheats. First, we have Todd reinterpreting his own music with two of his biggest hits, bossa nova style,

Finally, Todd and Utopia covering The Move at a show that I attended:

That’s it for this week. This sketch was on Todd’s Twitter feed so I swiped it and added some text.

4 thoughts on “The Sunday Dozen: Todd Rundgren

  1. I’m surprised you didn’t include the “Crybaby” video version. I know it’s kinda silly, but when it gets to the end and Todd’s character throws himself through the dome’s wall, and his girl stars crying, I cry right along with her. I just want to hold her and comfort her. And Willie Wilcox’s spinning drumcycle is a wonder to behold.

  2. The only Todd tune that really grabbed me was Black Mariah. Still a favorite and hope to have a band that will cover it.

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