Friday, June 22, 2018

Bornutopia: Todd Rundgren 70

Let's keep the fun flowing with the 70th birthday of one of the true originals of the music of our age.
He began in the 1960s with The Nazz, a classic psych outfit, and after two years in the charts with them, he broke out on his own both as artist and in-demand producer.
Through each record he's made, his music has gotten 1) way more out there and 2) even more popular and influential. If you had to term what he does or categorize his oeuvre, you might call it American Progressive Rock.
How many people can say they produced Bat Out Of Hell for Meat Loaf and have songs that are perennial PA tracks at sporting events? This guy produced the New York Dolls and still had time to bang on his own drum nearly all day.
He's also a tech pioneer, credited with helping invent what today are called tablets, where you draw onscreen with a pen tool. In 1981 he designed the first of these to feature a color display. This device was licensed to Apple and after decades of refinement, we now call it the iPad.
After 50+ years at the forefront of it all, it isn't any wonder his fans call him Todd the God. If anyone integral to the musical developments of the last five decades has earned that appellation, it's got to be Todd Rundgren, turning the superb 70 today.
His songs are at once thorny and difficult, yet simultaneously infectious, memorable and catchy. He's always been that sneaky Progger type, flying in the high concepts on the wings of the accessible and familiar.
His biggest and most famous song is as standard as any tune you could name, with a chord progression that somehow serves as its hook. He always has a curveball approach in store, and he always paints the corner with it in fascinating and eloquent ways.
A drummer friend of mine once had a band and was lucky enough to land TR as producer. His lads trekked up to Bearsville and for the next week, they were treated to the Rundgren Production Manifesto. 
According to my friend, he was told that Todd doesn't bathe until the LP is in the can... this, to keep the run-throughs and endless takes in search of mythical perfection to a nauseated minimum! After 7 days of this, they were ready to go home with their finished record, believe you them.
To celebrate this People's Eccentric with eyes and ears on the forever future, Hello It's Me! with a stellar concert taped at the ever-legendary El Mocambo club in Toronto, Canada for the King Biscuit Flower hour on Halloween 1978.
This is a composite complete show from two consecutive nights of TR's classic Back to the Bars Utopia tour, but doesn't feature the large guest list that the live record does... it's just the four core Utopians doing their deepest in front of a bonkers audience.
It's dubbed from the original pre-broadcast reels from CHOM-FM and IMO surpasses the officially-released SF Old Waldorf set from earlier in the tour, both for performance and sonics.
Todd Rundgren & Utopia
El Mocambo 
Toronto, Canada 

01 Real Man 
02 It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference 
03 Love of the Common Man 
04 Trapped 
05 Abandon City 
06 The Last Ride
07 The Seven Rays 
08 Can We Still Be Friends? 
09 Death of Rock and Roll 
10 You Cried Wolf 
11 Gangrene 
12 A Dream Goes On Forever
13 Black Maria 
14 Eastern Intrigue
15 Initiation 
16 Couldn’t I Just Tell You 
17 Hello It's Me 
18 Just One Victory

Total time: 1:31:35
disc break goes after Track 09

Todd Rundgren - guitar & vocals
Kasim Sulton - bass & vocals
Roger Powell - keyboards & vocals
Willie Wilcox - drums & vocals

master KBFH pre-FM reels
I didn't alter the thing at all except to move one track marker to better accommodate the disc break, plus I smoothed the spiky splice in the thunderous encore applause. No alterations to the (nearly impeccable) sound were made.
I shall return as we keep this influx going with a full slate of stuff lined up for the weekend, including the first time I have ever done two (wildly divergent, don't worry) posts on the same band back to back.
For now, however, we insist that you latch onto this wild and woolly 90-minute visit to Utopia, courtesy of today's wild and woolly 70th birthday lad!--J.