Another Reason To “Rock The Vote” For Todd!
How about an album that is all Todd – and nothing else!
Just one more reason to vote Todd into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. Let’s get him over 400,000 votes by next week!
The Hall of Fame plans to announce the inductees in December with an induction ceremony on March 29, 2019.
You can click here and vote once a day until Dec. 9th!
Here’s another reason Todd is worthy of this honor:
This shot of Todd Rundgren gazing at the microphone is apt: for he was about to do something unprecedented in the recording studio –
MAKING EVERY SINGLE SOUND YOU HEAR ON THE ALBUM!
Yes, Todd pushed himself once again, by recording an album completely using his own voice! “A Cappella” was released in 1985, and it is one of Rundgren’s most unusual because EVERY SINGLE SOUND YOU HEAR ON THE RRECORD is the product of Todd’s own voice. According to wikipedia:
“Rundgren employed overdubbing techniques and an E-mu Emulator (an early sampler), electronically manipulating the sound of his voice in order to mimic conventional rock instruments, handclaps, and other sounds.”
“A Cappella” was actually finished in 1984 and, according to wikipedia, “slated for release on Bearsville Records later that year. But with Bearsville’s slimming artist roster and lack of successful artists, Bearsville did not want to risk releasing an album that the label felt was too experimental and would not sell, so A Cappella was shelved. Bearsville filed for Bankruptcy in 1985 and all of its remaining master recordings were either released through Warner Bros. or shelved altogether.”
Todd remembers it different in the book “A Wizard A True Star: Todd Rundgren In The Studio” by Paul Myers – here he is discussing the actions of Albert Grossman:
“He lied to me and told me he had sent it to Mo Ostin, from [Bearsville’s parent company] Warner Bros., and that Mo had told him he didn’t like it. Only that never actually happened; it was a total lie. We were at to the end of a contractual period and Albert could never stand the idea of you going forward without him getting a piece of you somehow.”
“A Capella” ended up becoming Todd’s first album for Warner Bros. Records. As you can see, the way that happened bothered Todd a lot. With that said, it’s time to explore and enjoy the unique, experimental sonic majesty of “A Cappella!”
Let’s dig into side one, which gets off with a bang – a hypnotic song called:
You don’t immediately realize that Todd is doing all of the sounds, as the hypnotic quality of the song hooks you immediately…
“I want to hear my blue orpheus sing
I’ll know that life is a wonderful thing
Somewhere there’s love and perpetual spring
I’ll know life is a wonderful thing”
On youTube, “paul muadib son of duke leto the just” posted a beautiful video for the song:
Here is what this fan wrote: “The shear genius of recording a whole album with just the sound of the human voice, is an approach to music that only Todd Rundgren could make. The imagery associated with the myths and legends of Orpheous, lend themselves to a rhythmic, mystical, magical treatment. I hope I have done the song and the myth justice.
THIS IS A FAN BASED VIDEO . ALL RIGHTS ARE RETAINED BY THEIR RESPECTIVE OWNERS. THIS VIDEO WAS DONE WITH THE EXPRESSED PERMISSION OF THE ARTIST. thank you, Todd!”
Here is his terrific video:
“Johnee Jingo” was next, a tight, feisty song with a chorus that was barked out like a chant – a very catchy chant!
“Pretending to Care”
the above image is a stance Todd takes every time he performs this song – one of his most beautiful ballads…
“I’ll never know
If I was blind
Would you still be my eyes
Or hide everything you see
Pretending to care about me”
Here is a great live version from Todd – London 2005:
This album really allowed Todd’s voice to shine.
As pointed out in “A Wizard A True Star: Todd Rundgren In The Studio”, technological advancements gave Todd so much more creative freedom in the studio:
“I realized at a certain point”, he says, “that having a sampler would allow me to do this kind of record. It would have been a real pain in the ass previous to that, but the sample makes it easier, in some ways, even though I didn’t have a sequencer. The drums were voice samples, often played out of pitch or really overblown, but they weren’t sequenced, so I had to ‘play’ them manually, hammering on a keyboard all the way through a track like ‘Something To Fall Back On.'”
I have used excerpts from this book before, because it is one of the best books about music I’ve read. Paul Myers worked with Todd to tell the inside story of his producing work – from Hall & Oates to Meatloaf, Cheap Trick, XTC, New York Dolls, Patti Smith and more – you can read about those efforts here:
Back to “A Cappella” – “Hodja” is next, followed by one of Todd’s most beautiful songs:
This is another song where you don’t even realize that Todd is doing all of the sounds himself – the song is so hauntingly beautiful that you aren’t distracted by anything else…
“I’ve got so much to hope for
Dreams that I’ve never had
When you’ve got no one to share them
Hurts so bad
Ooh it hurt me so bad
I have an ideal I think is real
But I just can’t find it
I believe that one day
I’ll melt away into that lost horizon”
Here is Todd performing the song live this year in Beverly Hills, as part of his latest tour:
You can read my entire concert review of that incredible night, with more videos here:
So much great music, and that’s just side one!
“Something to Fall Back On”
Without a doubt, this is one of Todd’s best 80’s singles: a catchy, upbeat blast – should have been a huge hit for him. If you want to see him performing it live from 1990, check out my story about that amazing tour:
“Miracle in the Bazaar” and “Lockjaw” are next, the latter song a crunchy rocker – still using only sounds from Todd!
Here is the audio-only version of the song:
“Lockjaw” was followed by another beautiful song:
Todd sings a plaintive ballad, the strength of his voice carrying the tune…
“I’m not afraid to bend my back
I’m not afraid of dirt
But how I fear the things I do
For lack of honest work”
Here is a great “a cappella” version from David Letterman’s show:
Similar to “I Love My Life” from “Almost Human”, this song is a spiritual, almost gospel singalong for the fans…
“A mighty love
Can sometimes make you weep and moan
Said a mighty love
You sit all day by the telephone
‘Cause you’re all alone
You need a mighty love”
Here is a live performance from “Celebrate Brooklyn @ Prospect Park Bandshell – June 16, 2011” – Hal Willner’s Freedom Riders Project featuring Steve Bernstein, Rosanne Cash, Toshi Reagon, Lou Reed, Todd Rundgren and Catherine Russell.
This was posted to youtube by Ken Baierlein – thanks!
So there you have it, another great album from Todd, uniquely experimental yet accessible – and full of great songs and “should have been singles.”
I mentioned the tension around the album’s release – well, speaking of tension:
That’s right, Todd had just gone through a “tortured Artist” period – and ended up with one of his biggest hits! You can read all about that here:
Todd’s relationship with his record labels was volatile for quite a while, especially with this brilliant album:
Todd felt strongly that the label abandoned this masterpiece – read more about it here:
Todd was also working on new Utopia music, at the dawn of the 80’s, and with a great “power pop” vibe:
Here is a look at their terrific “Utopia” album:
Finally, if you want to see Todd’s musical changes over time, this is the place to go:
Ten years of Todd live on the BBC, solo and with Utopia! Check it out here:
Again, all great reason to vote for Todd.
You can click here and vote once a day until Dec. 9th!
Leave a comment to let me know what you think of Todd’s “A Cappella!”