Taking a look back almost five decades to one of the most unique and iconic albums of the 1970’s, Something/Anything? by Todd Rundgren, that proved an album of incredibly diverse styles, almost all written and performed completely by the artist himself, could prove a template for all lo-fi, indie and self-produced and self-performed albums in history. #toddrundgren
It’s often cliché and easy to state that someone marches to the beat of their own drummer; it is quite another when that same artist rises to the occasion and not only becomes their own drummer, but can also do everything else with seemingly such ease as to literally put everyone else around them to shame.
Case in point: wunderkind Todd Rundgren, originally from Philadelphia. One of the countless many who were mesmerized by The Beatles in 1964, he decided early on that this could actually be a career for him. He wasn’t raised by Rock and Roll as much as he was by his father’s love of opera and classical, which would inform his work tremendously, even in the most subtle of manners.
After being in several bands that went nowhere, he was a key player in The Nazz, a proto-Power Pop outfit that should have been the “next big thing”, if press reports of the time are to be believed. He tired of the formula rather quickly, switching gears to a Pop and Blue-eyed soul sound. This rapid transformation would be a key trait in Rundgren’s professional career.
By the time of Something/Anything? in 1972 on independent label Bearsville, his third release and his first true solo album (following two releases as Runt), music critics were literally falling over themselves to describe how one person, who, but all for a handful of tracks, could perform every single instrument on an album, write the bulk of the material, produce and even help engineer the entire thing and how such a thing could have not existed prior.
The album went from Power Pop, lovelorn ballads, Progressive Rock, an electronic instrumental, spoken word passages, rough archival recordings, psychedelic music, heavy rock, Boogie Rock and to even flirting with early Rock and Roll styles, it seemed Rundgren could do no wrong. Even the final side of the release was completed with an ad hoc group of musicians assembled that performed live in the studio by Mark “Moogy” Klingman, who would become a main collaborator of his.
Even in an era of excess, where double albums ran about 70 to 74 minutes in length, this one ran over an hour and a half long. Some of it was recorded at his rented home using new advances in technology, including portable synthesizers manufactured by EMS. The one thing that has always made the album stand out wasn’t just his confidence in playing and writing, but a sly sense of humor and an anything goes attitude that keeps it fresh without talking itself too seriously.
Strangely, due to the success of two major bona fide hits from the album, the Pop song “I Saw The Light” and the Blue-eyed soul classic “Hello, It’s Me”, the latter replete with enough melancholy to keep the daytime TV soap All My Children afloat for a year in just 4 minutes, Rundgren hated the manner the press attempted to pigeonhole him into and he radically changed styles immediately with his next album.
That follow-up record was cheekily titled A Wizard, A True Star; the strange thing is, no one was arguing that he wasn’t.
- Wolfman Jack
- I Saw The Light
- Overture – My Roots: Money (That’s What I Want) and Messing With The Kid
- Couldn’t I Just Tell You
- The Night The Carousel Burned Down
- Little Red Lights
- Black Maria
- Hello, It’s Me
Love to you all.
Ben “Daddy Ben Bear” Brown Jr.
Host, Show Producer, Webmaster, Audio Engineer, Researcher, Videographer and Writer
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