Monday, May 17, 2010

Todd On Monday : Honest Work (Todd As Producer)




Todd Rundgren's customers were kept satisfied between the years 1972-1983. There was little rest for the "wizard" or his listeners, as he seemed to always have something in the on-deck circle. If it wasn't a solo record, or a Utopia record, it was his new production project. Those years saw the following records released with Todd Rundgren behind the scenes--



Badfinger- Straight Up (1972)
New York Dolls- (1973)
Grand Funk- We're An American Band (1973)
Fanny- Mother's Pride (1973)
Grand Funk- Shinin' On (1974)
Felix Cavaliere- Felix Cavaliere (1974)
Daryl Hall & John Oates- War Babies (1974)
Hello People- The Handsome Devils (1974)
Hello People- Brick (1975)
Steve Hillage- L (1976(
Meat Loaf- Bat Out Of Hell (1977)
Mark "Moogy" Klingman- Moogy II (1978)
Tom Robinson Band- TRB2 (1979)
Rick Derringer- Guitars and Women (1979)
The Tubes- Remote Control (1979)
Patti Smith Group- Wave (1979)
Shaun Cassidy- Wasp (1980)
New England- Walking Wild (1981)
Jim Steinman- Bad For Good 1981
Psychedelic Furs- Forever Now (1982)
The Rubinoos- Party of Two (1983)
Cheap Trick- Next Position Please (1983)
Jules Shear- Watch Dog (1983)
Will Powers- Dancing For Mental Health (1983)
The Lords of the New Church- Live For Today (1983)



And let's not forget the man's own output.

Something/Anything?
A Wizard/A True Star
Todd
Todd Rundgren's Utopia
Initiation
Faithful
Ra
Oops Wrong Planet
The Hermit Of Mink Hollow
Adventures In Utopia
Deface The Music
Healing
Swing To The Right
Utopia
The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect


The guy managed to produce Grand Funk, Fanny, & Hall & Oates and STILL find the time and head to write "Fair Warning." (Bastard.)

At my count, that's over 40 projects in ten years.

(There are 14 hardcover books that are sitting in a corner of my living room that I haven't moved in 13 years.)






Todd Rundgren has been known to shake things up while in the producer's seat. He doesn't like to waste time. He tells his bands to show up ready. "This is not a rehearsal." Thanks to his vision, which has pissed many off at showtime, the artists who hired the man for his services, were rewarded with final product that became some of the most memorable and most successful releases of their careers.

XTC's Andy Partridge has famously torn Todd a new one for his mad methods, and then on several subsequent occasions, publicly apologized in various interviews, succumbing to the genius of "Skylarking," arguably the best record of XTC's career. Take a look at this clip from the insert which was included with XTC's 1991 release "Nonsuch." It was Andy himself, on XTC's catalogue:




The side long sequencing of "Skylarking" wasn't part of the band's design, but I'll bet dollars to donuts, whatever that means, that Todd knew what he wanted all along. He used the same method two years earlier on The Tubes "Love Bomb" release of 1985.

I won't be so reckless as to compare Side Two of "Love Bomb" with Side Two of "Abbey Road." But I will say that it is one of my favorite sides of music of all time; a suite of music featuring some of The Tubes' best songs--"Eyes," "For A Song," and the original version of "Feel It," which found its way onto Todd's "Nearly Human" LP of 1989---strung together with funk rhythms, samples, and mayhem. This could only be the work of Todd Rundgren, who co-wrote most of the record and can be heard singing and playing all over the album. Side Two is included here in its entirety.

(For the record, I'm still waiting for my "album lyrics and band credits" which was offered for a SASE on the the album jacket.)

I stayed away from the obvious, Meat Loaf's "Bat Out Of Hell." Though unintentionally hilarious lyrically, I'll go on record as saying that it is a masterwork. It's Todd, the E-Street Band, and Broadway all wrapped up in one. Big choruses, drama, cliches, Phil Rizzuto, guitar solos, sound affects, cliches, love songs (some bad, some worse) and a phalanx of pretension. You all know it and not all of you love it. But you have to admit, Jim Steinman wrote himself some ticket. I've included the single off of Steinman's solo LP, "Bad For Good" instead of anything from "Bat Out Of Hell." I like this track. The a capella coda gets me every time.




We have some early Sparks, when they were known as Halfnelson, Gong guitarist Steve Hillage with Utopia backing him, one of my favorite songs from Badfinger's legendary "Straight Up," Cheap Trick's, Rundgren-penned "Heaven's Falling," which is basically Utopia's "Cry Baby" a year early, and the anthemic closer from Rick Derringer's "Guitars & Women" CD, which features my first published liner notes. (Don't bother, they're lousy.)



TRACK LIST

IT'S ALL TOO MUCH- STEVE HILLAGE
(I am pretty sure this is Kasim Sulton's first appearance on record with Utopia)

IF I HAD YOU BACK- THE RUBINOOS

WONDER GIRL- HALFNELSON (SPARKS)

PERFECTION- BADFINGER

SLEEP COMES DOWN- PSYCHEDELIC FURS

THAT'S REALLY SUPER, SUPERGIRL- XTC

LIFE GOES ON WITHOUT YOU- JILL SOBULE
(Gorgeous ballad from the brilliant Miss Sobule. The production reminds me (in some ways) of "Flesh" from Rundgren's "Healing" LP.)

NIGHT PEOPLE SUITE- THE TUBES

WAITING FOR THE WORM TO TURN- BOURGEOIS TAGG

SHE'S SO YOUNG- THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
(TPOH'S "Love Junk", a lost masterpiece.)

70'S SCENARIO- HALL & OATES
(From "War Babies," and featuring one of my fave Todd guitar solos)

HEAVEN'S FALLING- CHEAP TRICK

DON'T EVER SAY GOODBYE- RICK DERRINGER

ROCK & ROLL DREAMS COME THROUGH- JIM STEINMAN

Enjoy!

ZIP FILE

STILL THERE IS MORE...

Here, because I love this clip so, so much, is...

well...

this clip.

From the brilliant, short-lived, NBC late night series, "Night Music," enjoy Todd, with Taj Mahal (Yes! F**king Taj Mahal) singing Gilbert & Sullivan's "Never Mind The Why & Wherefore," from H.M.S. Pinafore.



AND THERE IS MORE...

For those of you who may not be familiar with this bit of intensity from "Initiation," here is...

FAIR WARNING

15 comments:

misospecial said...

fantastic mix, fantastic post.

it's really jaw-dropping when you see it in black and white, that list of work from 1972-1983. and of course that's just the *studio* output for the period. worth noting that for most of those years he also kept a robust touring schedule, mostly with backup but starting in the early '80s, solo as well (adding yet another component, the solo show).

most artists, whether they're painters, writers, or musicians, if they're lucky enough to have a creative peak period when they're consistently doing good or great work, only stay in the zone for a few years. to work at this level for 11 years is staggering.

you outdid yourself on this one, sal. thanks!

steve simels said...

I'd forgotten that he produced Bourgeois Tagg. That's a beautiful record, actually....

Anonymous said...

Now this is the way to start off the week!
Thanks Sal!!!

Zippy Pedroia

soundsource said...

ok questions, first of all who's the woman singing? how tall is taj mahal if he's taller than todd ? and is that david sanborn on the sax ? great post

Sal Nunziato said...

The woman is Michele Gray, used to sing with The Tubes, currently Mrs.Rundgren. I didn't mention it in the post because I wasn't sure. Now I am.

misospecial said...

i love that clip! @soundsource: yes, it's sanborn. wish i could see the whole show—the closing credits cut off just as todd starts his guitar solo. night music was so great but so short-lived. it was like a US version of the old grey whistle test.

cmealha said...

Excellent post. Say what you will he's been highly productive and at a very high level and you didn't even touch on his video work which was groundbreaking. Success shouldn't be measured by chart numbers or the bottom line. He's been at it for so long and here we are discussing him and in awe of his output over the years. A true wizard indeed.

Noam Sane said...

Man, I remember playing that Hillage record on my college radio program in '78. Haven't heard it since. Never knew Todd produced it.

I'm with you on Love Bomb, that side of music is spectacular, and the first side of the record ain't bad either. Fee Waybill's semi-absence from that elpee actually turned out to be a blessing.

As the story goes, Fee was pissed because the rest of the band didn't want to schlep to LA to be produced by that twerp David Foster again.

Then I said "hey".

Thanx Sal.

Sal Nunziato said...

Noam, I hadn't heard that story before. Good one. And yes, Side One has some winners, as well.

Paul in Brentwood said...

And, to bump a year back to 1971, wasn't Todd the studio engineer on The Band's "Stage Fright"?

cmealha said...

I just finished listening to everything and I just had to come back and say what a great compilation of his production work this was. I'm just in awe of all the different artists he's worked with and the quality of everything here. Awesome, awesome job on your part. If you're not converting new fans then you're preaching to deaf people.

Sal Nunziato said...

That's great, cmealha! Very happy to hear that!

charlie c. said...

soundsource asked what i was gonna ask . . .
and this i learned today:
Stage Fright: Engineered by an up-and-coming Todd Rundgren, and produced by the group themselves for the first time, the album was recorded in their homebase of Woodstock, New York. // Two different mixes of the album were prepared, one in the US by Rundgren and one in the UK by Glyn Johns. The Johns mix was selected for the original LP release and all subsequent reissues on Capitol (included the expanded 2000 remaster), while Rundgren's mix was eventually released on a 24k gold CD reissue of the album by the DCC Compact Classics label in 2004.

Christine said...

Enjoying "Mr. Todd's Wild Ride"--what a trip this was! Excellent post Sal.

Anonymous said...

I have been a fan of TR and Utopia since who knows when. Great list here - pretty complete - I'm lucky to have most of these albums (replaced when available w/CD's). I always return to Todd Rundgren when music get stale. I have listening to TODD the last couple of days. I am blown away by the work he put into this. Can imagine the hours to get it right? What masterful writing, producing, recording and editing. Genius.
Peace in the world.