Todd Rundgren

Top Ten Todd (Rundgren)

by Ruth Shields

 

toddrundgren

 

Spotify playlist: Top 10 Todd

Todd Rundgren has always been high on the list of musicians I admire. So, I decided to sit down and come up with my top 10 Todd songs as of right now. I believe all 10 are solid tracks that are worth a listen. I purposely did not include the typical hits that people would immediately think of. We all know them and I thought it was important to discuss some of his lesser-known work. These all tend to be more on the soulful or thought-provoking side.

10. The Verb “To Love”
In 1976, Todd released Faithful, an album made up partly of covers and partly of original material. The players on this album were all members of Utopia, so this is sort of a Utopia record. Todd’s soulful side is in full force on this song and it’s wonderful. Of course Todd gets all the attention here since his name is on the LP, but I especially have to give props to Roger Powell for his rainlike keyboard solo.
I’m looking for a love with no strings attached. Take me like I am, that’s the only catch.

9. Change Myself
The opening track on Second Wind was recorded live in June 1990 and was released in 1991. This song describes the inner struggle towards becoming a better person and wanting to have a positive effect on the world around you. Todd was involved in the pioneering of early computer animation around this time, which featured in the video for this song.
How can I change the world when I can’t change myself?

8. Love of the Common Man
Besides The Verb “To Love,” one of the other standouts from Faithful is Love of the Common Man. Todd really shows off his guitar chops here on what is basically a perfect ‘70s pop song.
Take a dive from your ivory tower and fall on everyone, we’ll catch you.

7. Fair Warning
A musically dense track, featuring a meandering saxophone amidst layers of vocal overdubs and synthesizers. At the end, Todd throws in a several lines from previous songs such as A Long Time and a Long Way to Go, Just One Victory, and I Saw the Light, ending with a reprise of Real Man.
I’d rather live by a dream then live by a lie. You can say what you will about me, talk is cheap and I don’t mind.

6. Love is the Answer
Technically, this is a Utopia song, but I first heard it on a Todd Rundgren best-of, so I’m going to include it. This song came out in 1977 on their album Oops! Wrong Planet, which is my favorite Utopia album. The background vocals on this track show just how beautifully the four-piece version of Utopia could harmonize. England Dan and John Ford Coley covered Love is the Answer on their 1978 album, Dr. Heckle & Mr. Jive.
Tell me, are we alive, or just a dying planet? What are the chances? Ask the man in your heart for the answer.

5. Real Man
This synth-heavy prog-pop song goes back to 1975, and can be found on the Initiation album. When I was first getting into Todd’s music, as a teenager, I remember walking around the halls of my high school with this song going around in my head.
Got my head in the sky, and my mind knows what it wants but my body just drags me down.

4. Just One Victory
This crowd-pleasing anthem is the closing track on 1973’s A Wizard, A True Star. Todd still often ends his shows with this song, leaving the audience on an adrenaline high. I was fortunate enough to be at Todd’s first-ever live performance of AWATS, which was a dream come true for many longtime fans. That was an experience I won’t soon forget.
If you don’t know what to do about a world of trouble, you can pull it through if you need to, and if you believe it’s true, it will surely happen.

3. Fade Away
The final track on 1978’s Hermit of Mink Hollow, on which Todd wrote all the music, played all the instruments, and sang all the vocals. This song lyrically reminds me of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, which is also a favorite of mine. One thing this song is notable for is Todd’s interesting use of a reversed cymbal crash, which is not something I hear very often.
And in a million trillion years when the stars all disappear, you and I will stay and watch it all fade away.

2. Hawking
Originally featured on the 1989 album Nearly Human and later on Live in Japan, this song is an elaborate, ambitious tribute to Stephen Hawking. I especially recommend the version from Live in Japan. Todd’s wife Michele, who sang on this album, considers Hawking to be her favorite TR song, and I can definitely understand why. Todd is in fine voice here, and this is in my opinion his most moving song.
I see time without beginning, space without an ending. I see bodies strong and running, with minds not comprehending.

1. Compassion
This song comes from Todd’s most spiritual and also my favorite album, Healing, released in 1981. I have long considered this song my all-time Todd favorite. Musically, the song is not overly complicated, and the message is pretty straightforward. Todd performed this album live several years ago with a large band and a choir singing the background vocals. It was a tremendous experience just like AWATS was.
What are riches untold in a life without compassion?

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5 thoughts on “Top Ten Todd (Rundgren)

  1. Thanks Ruth. Very much enjoyed your choices here and hats off post to a major figure who’s almost ridiculously talented. Focussing that talent not always proved so easy for him! Regards from Thom at the immortal jukebox (plugged in now).

  2. Remember seeing Todd’s first ever UK gig at Birmingham Odeon and him climbing the speaker stack while singing Real Man. And just as an aside, went to see Kate Bush on Tuesday night at the Eventim Apollo with a huge Kate Bush fan – Wendy Smith!!!

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