Todd Is God!
As a lifelong Todd Rundgren fan, I have posted a number of stories about Todd – and in the past few weeks, I’ve been amazed by the huge outpouring of fan support for Todd’s current tour! It inspired me to look at his music, and his career, in a different way…
When I read the terrific Todd biographies, I appreciated that Vol. 2 focused on the Utopia years. I was taken with the adversity the band endured – some self-inflicted, but much caused by a record label that didn’t support their efforts. The book delves into the struggles the band had in getting record label support from the very beginning.
The book is fascinating for another reason as well. The Author was able to get a ton of new interviews with everyone involved: musicians, record Executives, tour managers, friends and family I was struck by how the other members of the band were candid, honest, and in some cases, RESENTFUL of what Utopia was – and wasn’t.
The book was surprisingly honest and raw at times, as Willie Wilcox, Roger Powell and Kasim Sulton discuss what it was like to be in Todd’s shadow. There was also a surprising amount of honesty when discussing the personal and professional dynamics of the band. That said, Kasim wrote the foreword to the book, and obviously still plays with Todd all the time…so I don’t want to suggest the band was angry at Todd, but the book clearly points out concerns…
Utopia’s Biggest Hit!
Band members discuss how happy they were with the success of “Adventures In Utopia” – their biggest seller ever – only to see Todd decide to use Utopia to make a Beatles tribute album next…and “Deface The Music” brought the band’s momentum to a crashing halt.
I focus on this album because the book spends a fair amount of time discussing how Todd’s decision wasn’t popular with the other band members, and how the poor reception for “Deface The Music” was a “career killer” for the group. And while there was a lot of great Utopia music still to come, as a band they never regained their momentum – and the book captures the resentment that caused among the band.
The biography also has interviews with the record execs, who freely admit they never wanted Utopia’s music, and tried to convince Todd to just release more Todd solo albums! Clearly, the odds were stacked against the group…
That said, they released a ton of great music, as all fans know…including this “power pop” masterpiece, which you can read about here:
But the band ultimately couldn’t translate their fanatical fan base into mainstream success….
So, what IF – and let’s all just pretend here – what IF Todd never formed Utopia?
Todd’s “Lost” Solo Masterpiece!
Like an episode of “Star Trek”, I have decided to reverse the “space/time continuum” and imagine that Todd never formed Utopia. Everything he wrote and released with the band was, actually, some of Todd’s most acclaimed – and lost until now – solo music – and I found it!
So here is what I did: I took Todd’s Utopia songs and imagined them as a solo Todd album. A couple of caveats: I decided to make it a single album like “Hermit Of Mink Hollow” instead of a more expansive, experimental album like “Todd”.
I have also chosen to avoid most of the early Utopia songs – I will address that in my next post – where I imagine some other Utopia songs were actually a Todd solo album along the lines of “Initiation” – expansive and experimental, foregoing pop hits for a bigger message…but for now, it’s another Todd pop masterpiece!
Todd’s “Lost” Solo Masterpiece!
On “Hermit”, Todd got rolling with a fast, fun piece of pop called “All The Children Sing”. He begins this time with a piece of pure power pop. Let’s get started with the first single and first video from the “lost” album:
This is, of course, one of the last songs released by Utopia, from the “Oblivion” album, but I think it gets the album out of the gate fast and very catchy. It’s a perfect Todd hook.
A beautiful love song is next, very much along the lines of “Hello It’s Me” – with perfect Todd vocals and a killer melody…
UPDATE! Someone pointed out that Willie Wilcox wrote the music – and Todd wrote the lyrics…kudos to Willie for his part – a beautiful hook!
Either way, “Mated” should have been a hit single – it has beautiful vocals from Todd, a killer hook and much AOR possibility…much like the next song on the CD:
Todd’s career is full of memorable hooks and inventive song structure, and this is a perfect example of that. Here is Todd performing it on David Letterman in 1985:
“Love In Action”
Next up is a classic Todd song. Todd has created so much amazing music, it is simply shocking that he hasn’t been inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame…
“No place to hide
And no where to run
Nothing you can do because a change must come
You can’t stop it
You got your tail in the air
Your head in the ground
Money, money, money makes your world go ’round
You can’t stop it
You can’t stop, you can’t stop, you can’t stop, you can’t stop
You can’t stop love in action…”
After the rock and roll of “Love In Action”, Todd shifts into “blue eyed soul” mode…
Another great single. This should have been a hit – I’ve seen Todd perform it several times on his solo tours, and it’s a perfect pop song!
Here’s a great live version of the song:
After Todd’s journey into mellow soul, he ends side one with a great anthem of hope:
Side one ends with a terrific Todd anthem. As an aside: I think one of Todd’s most under-rated songs is from “Mink Hollow”, when he ends side one with “Determination.” It is a fantastic song, and “One World” is also a great side-closer…energizing his fans with a positive message.
Time now to flip the album and listen to side two:
Todd begins side two with an inspiring piece of progressive rock:
“The Road To Utopia”
I’d begin side two with this homage to the band that never was…one of his great progressive rock numbers with another memorable Todd hook. Here’s a great live version:
Up next is one of Todd’s most beautiful songs ever:
“I’m Looking At You (But I’m Talking To Myself)”
A beautiful love song, another one that inexplicably wasn’t a hit single. That is a constant refrain here – and the book asks that same question: why didn’t the record label push harder to get these songs out to the record-buying public? Here is the band performing the song live:
Todd wrote a number of beautiful love songs, and this was certainly one of his best…and he showed his anger at the folly of love as well…
“The Very Last Time”
After a slow love song, Todd decides to offer up a pure rocker, as Todd expresses a bit of anger at a love gone wrong…in one of his more aggressive rock tunes.
“Nobody knows how you push me around
Nobody sees how you treat me like I’m your clown
I never made a sound
It’s the very last time you will get on my case
It’s the very last time cause I won’t be a fool no more
It’s the very last time you will step on my face
It’s the very last time cause I won’t be a fool no more”
Yes, time to address the Beatles issue…
“I Just Wanna Touch You”
OK, it was an album that polarized music fans, critics and the band itself. But listen to “Deface The Music” now and guess what? It’s full of fun, catchy songs that captured the spirit and inventiveness of The Beatles, and Todd would have thrown a fun song like this on an album because he could, so I did it too!
After getting that out of his system, Todd ends the album with one of the most beautiful songs ever written:
“Love Is The Answer”
A gorgeous pop song, one of Todd’s best. Time to finally and forever take this pop masterpiece back from England Dan & John Ford Coley and make it Todd’s hit.
“Light of the world, shine on me
Love is the answer
Shine on us all, set us free
Love is the answer”
It’s another classic Todd anthem to end this album…one of his most powerful songs, and once again, a perfectly written pop classic. Here is a terrific live version of the iconic Todd song – as performed on The Mike Douglas Show in 1980 with Utopia:
Todd Is God!
So here is how the CD laid out for me:
Love In Action
The Road To Utopia
I’m Looking At You (But I’m Talking To Myself)
The Very Last Time
I Just Wanna Touch You
Love Is The Answer
So there’s my take on Todd’s best Utopia music – but as I mentioned, I have another album still to come – his more “progressive” side…please leave me a note and let me know what you think…
And thanks Todd for all of the great music – and for all of the great Todd fans!
Also, here is the link to my story all about the biographies: