Todd Is God! Todd Rundgren’s Brilliant Music and John Lennon Feud!

TODD IS GOD!

Yes, I am a long time Todd Rundgren fan – and it drives me crazy that more people don’t have his greatest hits on their iPods – his music is a great mix of pop hits, classic songwriting, and passionate eccentricity! Look at some of these classic songs:

Hello, It’s Me!
A Dream Goes On Forever
Just One Victory
Can We Still Be Friends
Bang On The Drum All Day

I mean, c’mon man! Let’s show you Todd in all his glory, with this classic performance of “Can We Still Be Friends”:

todd rundgren

Todd Is God!

Todd’s fans know that saying, and it is true. He is a musical genius, as I will show you, and he also has a very unique, sad and tragic personal story as well..more on that too…

Todd Rundgren was born on June 22, 1948, and is referred to by wikipedia as “an American multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and record producer.” That sounds very generic, as he is a brilliant, innovative Singer-Songwriter who also produced some of the most acclaimed music of the rock era…

Todd first broke into the spotlight with his gold solo double LP “Something/Anything?” in 1972. This double album included the smash hit “Hello, It’s Me” as well as “I Saw The Light” and “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference”…as you can see from the back cover photo below, it was a studio full of crazy ideas and energy, and it was recently acknowledged on Rolling Stone’s list of the best one hundred albums of all time!


On The Road To Utopia!

He has released more than a dozen solo albums, and during the seventies and eighties he formed the successful band Utopia, releasing a number of classic hit albums. He has also been prolific as a producer and engineer on the recorded work of other musicians – which is the subject of a GREAT book.

A Wizard, A True Star: Todd Rundgren In The Studio – by Paul Myers and Todd Rundgren – published in 2010.

First, I find it amazing that many people know him for the classic tune – a goofy throwaway song – that is now played at every sporting event – “Bang On The Drum All Day!”


“I Don’t Want To Work, I Just Want To Bang On The Drum All Day!”

He may have written those words, but he is a very prolific musical artist – as you can see by this look at his career in the studio – a great book that captures the professional life of one of music’s great artists.

Hailed in the early stage of his career as a new pop-wunderkind, Todd produced a wide range of Artists, in many cases delivering their best work ever. Let’s take a look at some of the creative collaborations captured in detail in the book.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Rundgren engineered and/or produced many notable albums for other acts, including “Straight Up” by Badfinger, “Stage Fright” by The Band, “We’re an American Band” by Grand Funk Railroad, “Bat Out of Hell” by Meat Loaf, and “Skylarking” by XTC. In the 1980s and 1990s his interest in video and computers led to Rundgren’s “Time Heals” being the eighth video played on MTV!

So about this book…here is how Amazon describes it: “Throughout his career Rundgren has ping-ponged between the worlds of producer and recording artist with varying degrees of critical and commercial success. After learning his craft as a songwriter and arranger with Nazz, Rundgren gained attention by engineering recordings by The Band.

His reputation was cemented by a string of noteworthy productions beginning in 1971 with classic albums for Grand Funk Railroad, including the mega-hit “We’re An American Band”.

Todd also produced the follow-up album “Shinin’ On”, which was released with a 3D album cover!

Todd also produced Hall & Oates – and yes, arguably the least commercial album ever released by the duo. On “Live From Daryl’s House”, the two discuss the album, and Daryl Hall is really unhappy at the opinion critics have formed that Todd was responsible for the non-commercial tone of the music…and then they sing a gorgeous version of “Wait For Me”.

If you go to the “Live From Daryl’s House” podcast, you can see both of Todd’s appearances on it – here they are performing “I Saw The Light” together from the second show they did together – which is great because Daryl’s entire production rolls up to Todd’s house in Hawaii…

As you saw, Daryl Hall fairly bristles when hearing that many blamed Todd for the album’s hard/experimental edge. The closest thing to a single on the album was “Too Much Too Soon”, but the title track is great, and the album as a whole is a terrific, energetic and very hard-edged mix of musical styles…considering Hall & Oates were the bestselling duo of the 80’s, it no doubt surprised fans to go back and find them singing a song call “Johnny Gore & The ‘C’ Eaters”….

Todd also produced Meat Loaf’s legendary “Bat Out Of Hell” CD – one of the best-selling albums of all time. While this book isn’t really a “tell-all”, Todd is brutally honest about the artists he produced, especially if they didn’t get along…stories about XTC and Cheap Trick, for example, are hilarious.

Todd also produced The Patti Smith Group – an album including the classic song “Dancing Barefoot”.

And of course, Todd produced dozens of his own albums, including a sonic masterpiece called – of course, “A Wizard A True Star”. This brilliant album includes his classic “Just One Victory.”

Researched and written with the cooperation of Rundgren himself, “A Wizard A True Star” is a fascinating authoritative account of four decades of making magic in the recording studio.

If you are into music, and how it is created, then this is the book for you. Read it, and also download Todd’s music from iTunes!

LET’S GET PERSONAL…

Todd’s brilliant musical career is what I wanted to focus on, but there are two aspects of his personal life that must be touched on as well:

This is a picture of Todd with his long-time girlfriend Bebe Buell, and their daughter Liv. Actually, it’s movie actress Liv Tyler, daughter of Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler…

For the first nine years of her life, Liv Tyler was raised by Rundgren and her mother, Bebe Buell, as though Rundgren was Liv’s father. At Liv’s birth, Buell had claimed, that Rundgren was Liv’s biological father. At age nine, Liv Tyler discovered, that she was Steven Tyler’s daughter.

Todd and the John Lennon Connection

This story is tragic – and started out as a case of a young hotshot artist mouthing off about a musical legend….it’s Todd versus John Lennon, and it all began with these quotes in the music magazine “Melody Maker” in 1973…

“Rundgren: all or nothing” by Ailan Jones
Melody Maker 11/73
These are selected Todd quotes about John Lennon from the story….

“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.”

“All he really wants to do is get attention for himself, and if revolution gets him that attention, he’ll get attention through revolution. Hitting a waitress in the Troubador. What kind of revolution is that?”

“He’s an important figure, sure. But so was Richard Nixon. Nixon was just like another generation’s John Lennon. Someone who represented all sorts of ideals, but was out for himself underneath it all.”

These quotes drew an immediate and angry response from Lennon…

Here is John Lennon’s Letter to Todd Rundgren published in Melody Maker in response to Rundgren’s interview in the same magazine.

john lennon

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?

2) I never hit a waitress in the Troubador, I did act like an ***, I was too drunk. So shoot me!

3) I guess we’re all looking for attention Rodd, do you really think I don’t know how to get it, without “revolution?” I could dye my hair green and pink for a start!

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?)

5) Yes Dodd, violence comes in mysterious ways it’s wonders to perform, including verbal. But you’d know that kind of mind game, wouldn’t you? Of course you would.

6) So the Nazz use to do “like heavy rock” then SUDDENLY a “light pretty ballad”. How original!

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…

Yes Godd, the one thing those Beatles did was to affect PEOPLES’ MINDS. Maybe you need another fix?

Somebody played me your rock and roll pussy song, but I never noticed anything. i think that the real reason you’re mad at me is cause I didn’t know who you were at the Rainbow (L.A.) Remember that time you came in with Wolfman Jack? When I found out later, I was cursing cause I wanted to tell you how good you were. (I’d heard you on the radio.)

Anyway, However much you hurt me darling; I’ll always love you,
J. L.
30th Sept. 1974

This could have been the end of the Todd/Lennon connection, but then this tragic turn:

On the day Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon, he left an eight-track tape of Rundgren’s album “Runt:The Ballad of Todd Rundgren”, along with other artifacts, in his New York hotel room in an orderly semicircle on the hotel dresser. I have read that Chapman had also targeted Todd with his deranged obsessions…

Some authorities on Rundgren’s music have suggested that his very personal and spiritual album “Healing” was recorded partly as a therapeutic exercise in reaction to Mark David Chapman’s obsession with Rundgren’s music.

Here is Todd performing “Healing Part 1” live in 2010…it is a beautiful album…

todd rundgren healing

According to wikipedia, Rundgren himself says he didn’t learn of Chapman’s obsession with him until years later, when books about Chapman were published.

These two stories are not touched upon in the book I recommended, but they do help form a better idea of who Todd is, and what he has lived through. I hope you check out his great library of music, as he truly is “A Wizard, A True Star!”



Categories: Books / Media, documentary films, Music, Politics, Talent/Celebrities, The Beatles, Travel Memoir, TV Show, Uncategorized

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7 replies

  1. I have been meaning to get hold of a copy of Todd’s book. I will have to go onto Amazon if they still have it. Love his music for 35 years and always will. Going to see him for the first time with the Ringo Starr allstars band in February downunder. I knew he had been targeted after John Lennon. Thank God he never had a chance to follow through.

    • Thanks for the note! I was torn about including the story, but it’s part of history unfortunately, and chilling to know after the feud between Lennon and Todd. The book is terrific, Todd was an active participant in it, and it really captures his brilliance and working style in the studio!

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