Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Rundgren was a founder member of the 1960s band Nazz, who gained minor recognition with the songs "Open My Eyes" and "Hello It's Me" (which Rundgren later re-recorded). For most of the early Seventies he alternated production work with his career as a solo artist.
Rundgren rapidly developed the ability to play numerous instruments, and married to his skills as an engineer and producer, he was able to record a number of superb albums on which -- like Stevie Wonder -- he wrote, played, sang and produced almost everything. He had a brief flirtation with commercial success circa 1972, scoring a US Top Ten hit with the classic pop single "I Saw The Light". Much of his work of this time was heavily influenced by soul music and R&B and by the harmony pop of The Beatles and The Beach Boys.
Although he had eschewed drugs prior to this and reportedly quit Nazz because of his bandmates' drug use, Rundgren underwent a radical transformation in the mid-Seventies after experimenting with LSD, adopting an outlandish space-rock image and creating a large new repertoire of extended works that can best be described as progressive rock. His new music addressed cosmic themes and showed a strong interest in spirituality; musically, the lengthy, highly-arranged and dazzlingly performed works displayed the musical influence of contemporary acts such as Mahavishnu Orchestra and Frank Zappa and on tour they were presented in a lavish stage setting that echoed the spectacular space-themed shows of acts like Parliament/Funkadelic. During this period Rundgren regularly played the eye-catching psychedelic Gibson SG guitar that had been once been played by Eric Clapton in Cream.
To present his new music, in 1975 he formed Utopia , a musical project that began as a large progressive rock ensemble including multiple keyboards, synthesisers and brass. The larger ensemble premiered on 1975's Utopia, which opened with a dazzling performance of the title track recorded live in concert; Uptopia Mk 1 also featured on the impressive live album Another Live , which mixed three new original songs with covers of The Move's "Do Ya" and "Something's Coming" from West Side Story.
Over the next few years, as punk and New Wave reshaped pop music, Rundgren refined Utopia, scaling it down to a tight, disciplined four-piece contemporary rock group which many consider one of the best peforming and recording bands of its day. This core Utopia lineup featued Roger Powell on keyboards, Kasim Sulton on bass and Willie Wilcox on drums. All four played multiple instruments and could sing both lead and harmony vocals.
As well as his work with Utopia, Rundgren continued to write and record material which he released under his own name, including the transitional 1976 LP Faithful, which contained one side of original songs and one side of covers of significant songs from 1966. It was followed by The Hermit Of Mink Hollow (1978); this included the hit ballad "Can We Still Be Friends", which was accompanied by an innovative self-produced music video. Subsequent solo releases included the album-long concept work Healing, the eclectic The Ever-Popular Tortured Artist Effect and A Capella, which was recorded using only Rundgren's multi-tracked vocals, and accompanied by arrangements constructed from programmed samples of his voice. The song "Bang the Drum All Day", from Tortured Artist Effect, later became an unofficial anthem of the Green Bay Packers, being played over the Lambeau Field sound system after Packers scores.
Rundgren disbanded Utopia in the late 80s and after a short hiatus he resumed his solo recording career with two critically acclaimed albums, Nearly Human and 2nd Wind. His first to be released on CD -- these were cut totally live in the studio, and each song was recorded as a complete single take, with no later overdubbing. 2nd Wind also included several excerpts from Rundgren's musical, Up Against It, which was adapted from the screenplay (originally titled "Prick Up Your Ears") which British playwright Joe Orton had originally offered to The Beatles as the screenplay for their never-to-be-made follow-up to Help! .
Rundgren's music video for the song "Time Heals" was the second video to be aired on MTV. He has had a pioneering involvement with music video and computing and was the co-developer of the computer screensaver system Flowfazer .
In recent years Rundgren has severed his connections with major record labels and now offers his new music direct to subscribers via his website, although he also continues to record and release CDs through independent labels.
Discography as solo artist
- Runt (1970) ("We Gotta Get You a Woman")
- Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren (1971) ("Be Nice to Me," "A Long Time, a Long Way to Go")
- Something/Anything? (1972) ("Hello It's Me" [originally recorded by Nazz in 1968], "I Saw the Light" -- see 1972 in music)
- A Wizard, a True Star (1973) ("Sometimes I Don't Know What to Feel," "Just One Victory")
- Todd (1974) ("A Dream Goes on Forever," "Sons of 1984")
- Initiation (1975) ("Real Man," "Initiation")
- Faithful (1976) ("Good Vibrations," "The Verb 'To Love'")
- Hermit of Mink Hollow (1978) ("Can We Still Be Friends," "You Cried Wolf")
- Back to the Bars (1978) (live album)
- Healing (1981) ("Time Heals," "Healing Parts I, II, III")
- The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect (1983) ("Hideaway," "Bang the Drum All Day")
- A Cappella (1985) ("Pretending to Care," "Lockjaw")
- Nearly Human (1989) ("The Want of a Nail," "Parallel Lines")
- Second Wind (1991)
- No World Order (1993) (companion CD-ROM allowed the user to remix the songs)
- The Individualist (1995) (enhanced CD included a video game)
- With a Twist (1997) (bossa nova remakes of earlier songs)
- One Long Year (2000)
- Liars (2004)
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