A man who stands at the forefront of rock and roll and technology, Todd Rundgren has been experimenting with different recording and delivery methods that have brought us the best of both worlds. Check out some of the highlights from his career in rock, including killer collaborations, innovative technology, and his years as a powerhouse of production.
1. He Took His Creative Vision into His Own Hands
Not many artists have the ambition or determination to deeply delve into the intricacies of production, but after being unhappy with past recordings, Rundgren educated himself in audio engineering and production, subsequently becoming one of the most sought after and acclaimed producer-engineers of his time.
2. He’s the Engineering Mastermind Behind Rock’s Finest
During the ’70s and ’80s, Rundgren engineered and/or produced many notable albums for other acts, like the New York Dolls’ self-titled debut (1973), Hall & Oates’s War Babies (1974), Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell (1977), and XTC’s Skylarking (1986). Along with these impressive records, his best-known solo songs include the 1972 singles “Hello It’s Me” and “I Saw the Light,” plus the 1983 single “Bang the Drum All Day.”
3. Prince Was Allegedly a Huge “Toddhead”
Rumor has it that the legend tried to visit backstage at one of his shows. According to Rundgren, one of his most interesting experiences with Prince was on Saturday Night Live in February 1981: “I was wearing a slightly racy costume in which my, er, package was prominently displayed. And there were some complaints. Then Prince came on for his first national TV appearance and he wore a pair of tighty-whities and a big cape. So no matter what anyone had to say about my costume, it became all about Prince in his underwear.”
4. He Has More in Common with David Bowie Than You’d Think
In 1973, David Bowie and Todd Rundgren produced seminal proto-punk albums for the likes of the New York Dolls and Iggy and the Stooges. Both of them formed bands with the Sales brothers and were known for their dyed hair and tight-fitting spacesuits.
5. He’s a Member of Ringo’s All-Starr Band
6. He Opened Our Eyes to the World of Interactive Live Music
In 1978, Rundgren was responsible for the first interactive television concert, broadcast live over the Warner/QUBE system in Columbus, Ohio. The home audience got to choose each song in real time, during the show, by voting via a two-way operating system. Later that year, he was the first to nationally broadcast a live stereo radio concert (by microwave), linking 40 cities around the country.
7. He Created a Tribute Album to ’60s Hits
Rundgren kicked off 1976 with Faithful, an album split between original pop material and re-creations of ’60s hits from the Yardbirds, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and the Beach Boys. His resurrection of “Good Vibrations” brought him a Top 40 hit. The first side of the album is dedicated to “faithful” re-recordings or near replications of some classic psychedelic-era songs, while the second side consists of original material.
8. The Creation of PatroNet Paved the Way for Multimedia Exploration
Rundgren founded PatroNet, an innovative device that let users subscribe to music offered directly from his site — with no record-company middlemen at all. Fans no longer had to wait two years for a new CD and would be able get the music as soon as Rundgren recorded it. The device also included live and taped concert Webcasts, games based on Rundgren’s music, and a photo archive of his colorful stage costumes.
9. He Has a Sixth Sense for the Future of Technology
In 1995, during a speech at SXSW, Todd Rundgren — an innovator who was using CD-ROMs to deliver songs and videos to fans — said that the CD-ROM was dead and that everything is going to live on the Web. This upset those in the crowd who were developing media for CD-ROMs, but Rundgren couldn’t have been more on point.
10. The Producing Reigns Were Handed to Rundgren from George Harrison
George Harrison had been producing Badfinger’s Straight Up album for Apple Records, but when he dropped the project, Rundgren was asked to step in as producer to finish the album. Straight Up became a critical and commercial success, but there were conflicting opinions as to who was credited for the success since Harrison and Rundgren were both sited as producers on the album.
11. Rundgren Was a Music Video Pioneer
In 1981, “Time Heals,” was the first music video to utilize state-of-the-art compositing of live action and computer graphics (produced and directed by Rundgren), and was the second video to be played on MTV, after “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
12. Today’s Rock is Shaped by Todd Rundgren
Countless artists have taken tips from Rundgren inside and outside of the studio. He has undoubtedly had an impact on the way artists view technology as a vehicle for their creativity. The new generation at the forefront of rock understands his significance and finds the time to pay tribute to the legend.
13. He’s 25 Albums Deep and Going Strong
Global marks his 25th solo studio release. This doesn’t include the dozens of albums from rock’s most influential artists that Rundgren has helped shape. With no signs of slowing down, Todd Rundgren’s legacy continues on with full force.
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