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Just where one picks up on Todd R. is a clue to an understanding of one of rock’s most engrossing, fickle chameleons: artists always one step ahead of the glut of mass commercial acceptance.

Todd produces records to earn a living: Todd makes records to let his audience keep up with his progress and maturation, musically and spiritually. When he was thoroughly rebuked for his electronic dabblings from “A Wizard/A True Star” on through “Initiation,” there was little choice left but to stick it down his critics’ throats :hence: “A Treatise on Cosmic Fire”). Even forming a band-of-bands, sardonically called Utopia. brought further chastisement. The radical change between top pop-tunesmith and tuned-in electrodynamics-maestro is merely one album (“Todd” to “T.R.’s Utopia”)—but how many days/nights/nights/days of decisions went into perfecting his direction, who knows? Just The creator, no doubt. . . “There’s something at the heart of it that’s simply awful . . A man who makes a living off a plastic waffle. . . .” (Todd on “Todd”) Todd started out with a buncha of Angloid-manics with west-coastian harmonic tendencies (the Who meets the Beach Boys—not so outrageous as it may seem) and a couple of hits: the band—Nazi; the big hit— “Hello It’s Me,” the minor hit—”Open My Eyes.” From the very start of the very first song, on the first LP the listener knew these boys had their (recorded) act down, both as intelligent entertainers and spirit-de-corps rock&rollers.

Todd, of course, was their main writer and arranger—something of a major achievement for an eighteen year old, considering the unpretentious flow of natural energy. (Why, shit, even THE critic, Jon Landau, wrote their liner notes!) “Nazz Nazz” followed with Todd in complete control (even though the entire band is credited with production and arrangement, I suspect otherwise . . . ssshhh) writing some quite amazing tunes (i.e.—”Forget All About It, “Under the Ice!!!,” “Letters Don’t Count,” and the mini-suite “A Beautiful Song”). Unfortunately, their live appearances were not up to the level of their discs, a fact that haunted Todd until the formation of Utopia; but those records—oh those magical albums still sound fab today. . . .

“. . .And how much I love you, you’ll never know you join me within my dream. . .” (Todd on “Todd”)

And then came “Runt!” Early editions of the LP carried this sticker: “Todd Rundgrens in it for the music. He would much rather be in the public ear than the public eye. So we’ll just introduce him to you and flash his credentials. The album will take care of the rest. . . . Todd formed the Nazz when he was eighteen. He wrote and arranged all their material, played lead guitar and produced most of their records. . . . Since leaving the group about a year ago, he has produced albums and sessions with the Butterfield Blues Band, the Great Speckled Bird (Ian   Slyvia’s band), James Cotton, and the American Dream. After he engineered Jesse Winchester’s album, the Band asked him to help out on their next LP (“Stage Fright”). . . . But Todd has always been a performer, and this album is all Todd Rundgren. On it are a dozen songs he wrote and arranged; he played all the instruments except drums and bass, did all the vocals, and produced it. . . . We know Todd couldn’t care less about getting into “Who’s Who,” but this album will at least get him out of “Who’s He?” .. . amen! amen! The LP even had a hit single to boost the boy: “We’ve Got to Get You a Women,” one of the decades finest pop-rock ballads. Onward and

upward. . . .

“Somehow, someday, we need just one victory and we’re on our way.”

(Todd on “A Wizard/A True Star”)

The Ballad of Todd Rundgren” contains just that—some of his beautiful croonings (especially “Hope You’re Around,” “Be Nice to Me,” and “Wailing Wall”) as well as his usual pop singles approach (“Long Flowing Robe”) and get-down rock-outs (“I’m Only Bleeding” and “Parole”). And again Todd was still mastering his techniques in/of the studio, preparing for his ascension to pop-rock heaven… .

Of course, as everyone should be aware of, this came

with the release of the double-LP “Something/ Anything?” (with its wunnerful center picture of Todd as Prez Dick Nix . . . cute huh?): a virtuoistic display of one man’s vision of how rock& roll should be written, arranged, produced, and recorded (complete with the “sounds of the studio” sample) . . . well, if this disc has eluded anybody’s sequestered ears, they most certainly should be chained to a mountain as an appetizer for the disco-vultures. Suffice to say, Todd did everything on three sides (everything!) and grouped with his cronies (Rick Derringer, Mark Klingman, John Siegler, the Brecker Bros., etc.) for a one-take (ha!) side four, so as to not hog the show completely (as in, become a target for the press). His publicity campaign for the album stated simply: “Go ahead. Try and ignore me!” Todd was pictured holding a match to the fuse on a stack of TNT. Cute . . . huh? . . . With the pop-rock song format tucked safely in his heart, Todd set out for that international feel. . . .

“Here we are again, the start of the end, but there’s more

1 only want to see if you’ll give up on me, but there’s always more-

. . .Interplanetary Deals . . . Interstellar Appeal .. .

Universal Ideal … International Feel”

(Todd on “A Wizard/ A True Star”)

It may not be hard to ascertain Todd’s attempt at social orientation within his music, or his almost-avatarish approach to consciousness uplifting. It was 1973 and there was the demoralizing effect of Watergate (and its many tributaries). The levity of music, of entertainment, of life in general had been crushed under the weight of political pollution. The effusive bombardment on the American culture laid waste to Todd’s head, philosophically and chemically. Obviously, by not ignoring the changing conditions of his country, and even opting to run for president when of age. Todd was born to synthesize . . . to energize and catalyze . . . and the music he has produced from “A Wizard/A True Star” to “Another Live” bears this relevancy. He is fortunate enough to have a podium (or rather. a stage) from which to project positive attitudes completely contrary to prevalent moods he sees and feels around him. His concerts, once awkward in prompting accurate response. now are naturally joyous events (again: musically and spiritually), fully reflecting Todd’s increasing maturity and professionalism. By continuously presenting himself in such a way (as friend, confidant, and teacher), Todd remains a controlled, logical, and brilliant composer of modern rock music. . . with hardly any lapses in taste or humor. In the rock-public’s eye forever and always in the inner ear .. . hoorah… .

“Worlds of tomorrow … Life without sorrow

Take it because it’s yours: Sons of 1984″ (Todd on “Todd”)

His latest LP, “Faithful” (as well as “Another Live”), continues the search for human respectability in the face of daily fares. It must become apparent to his true fans that Todd has found his worth in life, despite any cynicism that may crop up in his songs. The thin line between tongue-in-cheek approach and outright beliefs may be a hit paradoxical, but Todd moves stolidly thru both areas with relative ease. With a basic grip on right and wrong, Todd maneuvers words and sound to suit his needs. Thus, a song like “When I Pray” comes across sincere, yet light-heartedly irreverent. Balance is perhaps the key to Todd style, songs. and production technique. Quite a position to maintain . . . unless his initiation hadn’t been so well prepared. Sequentially, then, Todd could be one of music’s most illuminating forces . . . a real man with a keen insight into humanity. . . . “I’d love to change the world!” (Todd on “Todd”)

And yes, if all this falls on deaf eyes. just give a listen to “Initiation,” wherein Todd is most crystalline throughout the entire first side. To reiterate: he is the wizard, he is the true star . . . don’t ignore him!!! .. .

—Mr. Curt