Todd Is “Tortured!”
Time to look at another Todd Rundgren classic. Here how Todd describes this record:
“I knew that the label was not taking, or promoting, my records seriously, so I thought, ‘why don’t I do an album where I don’t try so hard, and let’s see if it makes any difference?'”
Todd Fights Back!
Here is the setup to that incendiary quote. Todd was responding to Bearsville, his record label…who Todd felt had been unwilling to support his music. His previous album, “Healing”, included one of the first songs ever shown on MTV, but the label still didn’t support the album!
See the story of the brilliantly hypnotic “Healing” here:
After that, Todd managed to wrest this band Utopia away from the label, and they signed a deal with Network records…
Their first album was being recorded and ready for release, so Todd just had one more thing to do: fulfill his contractual obligation to Bearsville, and release one last album!
The story Behind “The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect”!
It was Todd’s 10th solo album, released in 1982. That’s right – ten studio albums! This one, however, was bittersweet – fulfilling a contract and planning to move on…one book tells the inside story of this time in Todd’s career – make sure to read the incredible book about Todd Rundgren in the studio:
In the book, Todd explains how he was feeling at the time:
“I knew that the label was not taking, or promoting, my records seriously, so I thought, ‘why don’y I do an album where I don’t try so hard, and let’s see if it makes any difference?'” Thus the reference to a ‘tortured artist.’ I had to deliver an album, but I wasn’t totally excited about the prospect.”
Todd’s Lack Of “Excitement” Still Delivers!
Even with Todd frustrated by his label, and focused on a new Utopia album, he still delivered one of his most enjoyable, pop-infused records! And of course, he did it alone!
According to Utopia Sound house engineer Chris Anderson, Todd liked working alone at that time.
“Typically, on the solo albums, I would set up the machine for him and make sure that everything was working right, then I’d just leave him alone.”
Here’s a look at the great songs on “The Ever-Popular Tortured Artist Effect”:
It’s an effortless pop classic – strong hooks, great lyrics and a smooth Todd vocal. Here is Todd’s original music video – a great song with a very creative video to back it up!
Classic Todd wordplay, with an easily repeatable hook.
Here is a great live “With A Twist” version!
“Don’t Hurt Yourself”
Another song that should have been a single…a beautiful ballad of regret…
“I’ve done some bad things
This I know
If I can’t change things
Tell me so
It does no good to break your toe on the wall
I know you’re angry
That’s all right
I said I don’t care
Well, I lied
But I don’t care who wins the fight after all
As long as you don’t hurt yourself
Don’t hurt yourself
It’s bad enough
Don’t hurt yourself
I wouldn’t want to see you make
Trouble for yourself over
Here is just the audio for the song, with a heavily-infused early 80’s sheen:
“There Goes Your Baybay” ends side one, another nice Todd pop song…for a contractual obligation, Todd has delivered another side of great pop tunes…
Side two begins with a cover song, “Tin Soldier”…as Todd relates:
“With ‘Tin Soldier’, I was starting with a song I’d always loved…I suppose it could have been tired on Faithful, but it was perfect for the mood I wanted for this.”
“Tin Soldier” is Todd’s cover of a song by The Small Faces. Here some great trivia about the original song:
According to wikipedia, when “Tin Soldier” was released in 1967, the BBC demanded the band change the ending, mistakenly believing that Songwriter Steve Marriott sang “sleep with you”, although the lyric is “sit with you”. Marriott explained that the song was about getting into someone’s mind — not their body!
Todd said he could have included it on “Faithful” – his album that included one entire side of “covers”:
Here is a look at the songs he did cover on that brilliant record:
“Emperor of the Highway” was next, one of Todd’s goofy larks…which led to a “goofy lark” that has proven to be one of Todd’s biggest hits!
“Bang the Drum All Day”
It’s the “go to” song at all major sporting events in the US – Todd’s iconic anthem to goofing off instead of working!
Here is a great live performance from the show I saw with him in Beverly Hills in January 2016:
The song actually entered the Billboard Top 40 when it was released! As Todd says in the Paul Myers book:
“It may have turned into a cash cow in the end as a sports anthem and the like, for better or worse.”
Todd didn’t want the song to define him, and I understand his point of view at the time. With a record label refusing to promote him, classic songs like “Hideaway” were being ignored, and “Bang The Drum” was almost a hit in spite of the record label.
Here is the entire review of his 2016 Beverly Hills show:
For me, Todd ends his “contractual obligation” with two of his strongest anthems. Here is a great live version of “Drive” from 2012 – Todd showing a ton of energy:
Thanks to “Walkerbrothersmusic” for posting this great live version on youtube.
Todd ends the album with this great song:
A positive chant that ends the album on a high note:
“We can’t turn back the clock
But we can chant for love
Let’s cut the idle talk so we can
Chant for love”
Here is a terrific live performance:
The album was his last official release on Bearsville Records, but the label did a nice job with the packaging. The cover was lots of fun, especially when you opened it up – lots of fun imagery!
So this was the end of Todd’s musical ride with Bearsville. He focused on his work with Utopia, but he wasn’t finished releasing great solo music.
Todd ended the decade with another masterpiece:
“Nearly Human” is more classic Todd, and here is a look at some of the album’s great songs:
Todd is still recording and touring – wrapping up his solo tour to prepare to hit the road with this guy:
Here’s a look at the next installment of Ringo’s “All-Starr” Band:
Leave a message to let me know what you love about Todd’s “Tortured” work!