HAMMERSMITH APOLLO 06/02/10
I went to see Todd Rundgren. Not everybody’s cup of tea I know, but his complete understanding of the dynamics of a three minute pop song, his ability as a producer sometimes to ‘get a lot out of a little’ (Meatloaf) and his longevity without sliding into self-parody suggest he’s doing something right.
Rundgren is a musician who has been a particular favourite of mine since the late ’70s. Funnily enough it was Alan (“Alright?!”) ‘Fluff’ Freeman who proved to be the link. Before Punk, like thousands of other ‘lost souls’ I used to listen to the mainly turgid shite that he played on his Saturday afternoon Radio One ‘Prog Rock’ show, bless him.
I say ‘lost souls’ because, at the younger end of his audience, I think many, like me listened, almost out of duty. There wasn’t anything else. We were just waiting … That’s why when Punk came along, we were off! Barclay James Harvest, Tangerine Dream and Yes? Fuck off! I want to listen to The Damned, The Buzzcocks, Slaughter and the Dogs and the Pistols.
Well, anyway ‘Fluff’ had a jingle he used to play which I couldn’t get out of my head. It was a snippet of a song. It was clearly live: you could tell by the ambience and which featured what sounded like the chorus to a song sung a-capella, the audience joining in whilst clapping a slow heavy rhythm along to it. It fascinated me. As well as sounding ‘live’ it sounded ‘alive’ like real people at a real gig.
It took me a while. None of my mates were into Rundgren, so none of them recognised it, but eventually I did track it down. It appeared to be “One More Victory” on a live album, “Another Live”. So on the strength of ‘Fluff’s few snatched seconds, I bought it, second hand mail order from Cob Records in Wales, and that was it. I still have it. If you are able to stomach the bizarre band photos which seem to depict a group of cross-dressing Mafiosi and Rundgren’s occasional self-indulgences, is a great record. One which for me, sits comfortably alongside other favourites from the same period: “The Modern Dance” Pere Ubu, “Natty Dread”, The Wailers, “Never Mind The Bollocks”, The Pistols and “The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Sings Songs of Christmas”
And so, to Saturday night, when Rundgren performed his ground-breaking oddity “A Wizard A True Star” in its entirety (at the time, he was making his money producing, and was thus able to make the record he wanted to make rather than the record company.) It is an eclectic and ideosyncratic stream of consciousness. On tour here in the UK in 2008, his promoter mentioned that the album had been cited by a number of up and coming young musicians as an influence, and suggested a one off performance.
He was brilliant! A top drawer gig from a genuine Pop music genius. Moving, funny, sophisticated, absurd, tender. A night for the soul as well as the dancing shoes.
© Andy Daly 2010