The review at the time of this album’s release said it all:
“demonstrates his command of the studio, unfurling his falsetto over a kaleidoscope of rock genres”
Time to dig into one of the greatest albums ever released, the epic four-sided majesty of:
Todd Rundgren’s “Something / Anything?”
Talk about hitting your stride quickly!
“Something/Anything?” was only Todd’s third solo release, but it was stuffed to the gills with music! “S/A?” was recorded in late 1971 in Los Angeles, New York City and Bearsville Studios in Woodstock. Three quarters of the album was recorded in the studio with Rundgren playing all instruments and singing all vocals!
Rolling Stone voted it one of the 500 greatest albums ever released – a double album that stands alongside Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti” as the best double albums of the 70’s…
Todd’s Musical “Second Nature”!
There are many fascinating stories surround the “Something / Anything” album. As Todd told Paul Myers for the terrific book “A Wizard A True Star: Todd Rundgren In The Studio”:
“By the time I had got to ‘Something/Anything’, my songwriting process had become almost two second nature. I was writing songs formulaically, almost without thinking, knocking out a song, reflexively, in about twenty minutes.”
This book is a must for Todd fans, and it dives deep into every album Todd worked on in the studio…let’s take a listen to the majesty of “S/A!”
Side one begins with “I Saw the Light”, which Todd told Myers:
“Songs like ‘I Saw The Light’…just came out of me in one piece a very short time.”
The first side of the album is the most perfectly realized collection of power pop ever released: beginning with the hit single “I Saw The Light”, followed by another hit, the soulful “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference.”
Here is “I Saw The Light” performed by Todd on his latest solo tour, in Beverly Hills in January 2016…
More than 40 years on, Todd’s voice is flawless.
To see my entire review of this incredible show, click on my story here:
The next song is Todd’s brilliant “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference”, one of his most beautiful ballads…here is a great live performance from 1997:
Next, Todd unveils the pure power pop of “Wolfman Jack” – the song is jagged, raw, feisty and fun – and well ahead of the power pop phenomenon that would take hold in the late 70’s and early 80’s…
Todd’s musical output in the 70’s and early 80’s was clearly ahead of its time…here’s a look at some of his power pop classics:
“Cold Morning Light”, “It Takes Two to Tango (This Is for the Girls)” and “Sweeter Memories” round out side one – all perfectly formed pop hits…which leads into Todd having a bit of fun to begin side two:
Side two has the funny “Intro” – where Todd gives you an audio tour of the studio and of common producing mistakes, then right into an instrumental, “Breathless”, and then the beautiful, haunting ballad “The Night the Carousel Burnt Down”.
Here is a music video created by a fan:
Special thanks to “qwerty2009ful” for posting this on YouTube!
That’s a picture of the double album’s interior – the many facets of Todd on this album…”Saving Grace”, “Marlene”, “Song of the Viking” and “I Went to the Mirror” close out side two, “Mirror” having very much an icy, “Nine Inch Nails” vibe…
Side three begins with one of Todd’s best rockers, with a screaming guitar solo: “Black Maria” – here is Todd performing the song on his most recent tour, when I saw him in Beverly Hills:
“One More Day (No Word)” is a gentle calypso-infused song, and another of Todd’s classic power pop rockers is next:
“Couldn’t I Just Tell You” is perfect power pop!
Here are Todd and Utopia performing the song live on “The Midnight Special” from 1974:
What a great performance!
“Torch Song” and “Little Red Lights” close out side three, the “traditional” sides of “Something / Anything?”
Time To Get Live!
The final side of “Something / Anything?” is fascinating: the songs are performed live in a studio without any overdubs! Among the Musicians sitting in with Todd are fellow Utopian Moogy Klingman, Guitarist Rick Derringer sits in for a song, Trumpeter Randy Brecker – a founding member of Blood, Sweat & Tears also played on the Record Plant sessions…an eclectic mix of musicians for what is an eclectic mix of songs!
Side four begins with “Overture–My Roots: Money (That’s What I Want)/Messin’ With The Kid”, then goes into a song that Klingman wrote – “Dust in the Wind”: here is a great live version that Todd and Utopia performed in 2011 to help raise money for Klingman:
All Rose Kicks Up “Dust!”
Here is some fun trivia: Guns ‘n Roses were huge Todd fans: Axl Rose declared in a 1989 Rolling Stone interview that:
“Today, my favorite record is Todd Rundgren’s Something/Anything”!
Here is a great video I found on Youtube, Guns ‘n’ Roses covering “Dust In The Wind”:
“Piss Aaron” is next, and I only recently heard what the song was about – and I heard it from Todd himself!
The recent release of Todd’s BBC performances in the 70’s includes a video of him explaining the story behind “Piss Aaron” – you can see it here:
Up next is a song that was originally recorded for Nazz, a much more somber version that Todd doesn’t even sing on!
The Brilliant “Hello, It’s Me!”
It’s arguably his best-known song, and one of the greatest songs ever written: “Hello, It’s Me” was also Todd’s biggest hit single, reaching #5 on the Billboard charts!
Todd is clearly having a blast in the studio, as he leaves a bit of chatter and warm-up as part of the song…
He has performed “Hello It’s Me” many times over the years, including with backing from Hall & Oates and Stevie Nicks on his “Back To The Bars” double live album…and here he is playing it again flawlessly on his most recent tour:
His voice is absolute perfection!
“Some Folks Is Even Whiter Than Me” and his ode to the danger of groupies, “You Left Me Sore” are next, before “S /A” closes with “Slut.” That last song, by the way, was actually recorded at a different session with original Utopians Tony and Hunt Sales.
So there it is, four sides of epic Todd music!
“Something / Anything?” was released in February of 1972, peaking at number 29 on the Billboard charts and was Todd’s first gold record, and still his best-selling album of all time!
Rolling Stone Raves! Todd’s Brilliance Endures!
In a review, Rolling Stone said the album:
“demonstrates his command of the studio, unfurling his falsetto over a kaleidoscope of rock genres”.
The critical acclaim of “Something / Anything?” has only grown over the years! In 2003, the album was ranked number 173 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time!
Todd Talks “Something”!
This great interview clip was uploaded on Sep 2, 2010 – it’s Part 3 of Rundgren’s Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture at DePauw University, in Greencastle, Indiana.
I love listening to Todd sharing his creative process. Of course we all know that “S/A?” was also something of a curse:
“AWATS” Must Wait!
Next up of course would be “A Wizard A True Star”, but the record company forced Todd to hold it so they could continue to release hit singles from “Something / Anything?”
The reaction to “AWATS” was very mixed at the time, but now, it is considered a masterpiece as well…you can read all about it here:
Let me know what you think of this “S/A?” retrospective!
Categories: 70's Music, Art, Awards, Books / Media, Classic Rock, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Memoirs, Music, New York, Obscure Music, Talent/Celebrities, Technology, Todd Rundgren, Uncategorized
Spot on commentary.I’ve always considered S/A as my ultimate ‘ if you were trapped on an island, what one album would it be’ album.
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Thanks for your comment! I love all of Todd’s work, and consider his double “Todd” album to also be great, but this is considered his greatest achievement by many, and I wanted to make sure it showed up in any discussion! Thanks for your comment!