For those of you who are unaware, Todd Rundgren is one of the most underrated, underappreciated, and generally unknown to the mainstream musicians of the rock era (click on his name to see his amazing self-maintained website). He began his career as the leader of Nazz (they had 3 albums entitled Nazz, Nazz Nazz and Nazz III – Todd evidently cared little about catchy album titles), and he later recorded under the name of Runt. An accomplished musician, Rundgren can play virtually every instrument. His style really can’t be classified, but it’s been said that his early 70’s stuff was an early form of power pop that was profoundly influenced by soul music and 60s rock, especially The Beatles and The Beach Boys. His music also featured sophisticated chord progressions unlike most songwriters of his day, or today for that matter. He sometimes demonstrated an interest in other genres as well, such as hard rock, progressive rock and experimental music. In other words Rundgren is all over the charts musically. In the mid 70s he fronted another group on the side called Utopia that was more of an anthemic, progressive rock type of band. Rundgren is well-known in the biz as a great producer as well, having produced albums for Badfinger, The New York Dolls, Grand Funk, Meat Loaf (“Bat Out of Hell” no less), Cheap Trick, The Band, and scores of others. And oh yeah, his music video for “Time Heals” was one of the first to air on MTV. Suffice to say the cat’s been on the cutting edge of rock music for quite some time. If I haven’t snagged your attention yet, maybe this will do it – Todd also produced music for both Pee Wee’s Playhouse and the movie Dumb and Dumber. Oh yeah, so NOW he’s cool, right?
My support for Todd’s induction into the Rock Hall has been well documented. I mean, ABBA’s in there? For realz? Have mercy.
Anyway, I tell you that to get to this – Rundgren’s 1972 masterpiece, Something/Anything? is simply one of the greatest albums in history. It’s a double album, and it came with some of the coolest liner notes I can remember. Liner notes are a thing of the past in this day and age of digital downloading, but trust me when I say there was nothing better than peeling the wrapper off a double album, opening it up like a book, and reading all the informational tidbits contained therein. It’s hard to get the same vibe with those digital “interactive booklets” that come with iTune album purchases, ya know?
On Something/Anything? Rundgren played every instrument on the first three sides. The fourth side was something entirely different but I’ll get to that shortly. The album contains a wide variety of music, from the pop musings of “Hello It’s Me” and “I Saw the Light” to the rockin’ “Some Folks is Even Whiter Than Me”, “Slut”, and “Wolfman Jack.” Throw in the whimsical “Piss Aaron” and the raunchy “You Left Me Sore” and “It Takes Two to Tango” and this album’s got it all. The real treat for me, however, was the aforementioned side four. It consists of seven songs that were done live in studio, complete with false starts, goofing between songs, laughter, and general insanity. Imagine you’re sitting in the corner for 30-minutes listening to Rundgren and the band jam away. That’s what I did on many a cool summer night in the summer of ’72 and ofttimes since. Believe me when I say that it’s a must-listen for any true rock music aficionado.
Something/Anything? was ranked #173 on Rock’s Greatest All-Time Albums by Rolling Stone magazine. In my opinion they missed the mark by about 150 spots. With its mix of beautiful pop confection, pristine production, lighthearted sense of humor, live in-studio spontaneity, and flat-out rock and roll, this album has everything you need in one beautifully crafted musical masterpiece.
Shoe Note: I was casually walking through City Center in C-Bus a few years ago when I literally ran into the man himself. My hands flew to my face as I yelled, “TODD RUNDGREN!” Immediately his hands flew to his face as he responded, “YES!” Bastard was mocking me. After a couple minutes of my blathering on about his music and what it meant to me and him realizing not only that I wasn’t a lunatic but I in fact knew what I was talking about, we had quite the in-depth conversation about the state of music in general. Nice life-moment for me I must admit.