Something/Anything? By Todd Rundgren (1972)
Todd Rundgren is a pop music genius. Todd Rundgren was also bored with pop music during his artistic prime. Most of his releases during his prime (70-78) skew towards the bored end. By bored this means these albums are inaccessible for most because there’s a uniformity of non-uniformity. They’ll be flashes of structure and poppy flirtations that reel you in initially. As soon as you begin to settle in and nod your head in anticipation of the next predictable bar..BAM..the song does a complete 180 becoming foreign to the ears. Sometimes the pop flair will show up in the middle of a song or at the end. Sometimes it’s faint but its always there. No matter how far Rundgren went in making his later compositions difficult you could discern a pop ideal within them. It’s just difficult as hell to find. It’s as if his progressive nature took the drivers seat for those compositions, but couldn’t run the entire show because he couldn’t deny his innate pop sensibilities. You can hear the pop characteristics fighting their way through the out-of-this-world weird songs he wrote during this period. He was creating his own “Rundgren language” that you had to sit with for a while listening to understand it. This Methodology lost him the commercial viability he gained with the hit “Hello, Its Me” that he wrote while in his first group “The Nazz.” His style earned him a passionate prog rock cult following leading to the formation of his band “Utopia.” Rundgren could have easily written as catchy of a song as many of his peers that were placing hits on the pop charts. Instead of following that route he went the other way writing music that gave you a hint of that sound, but one that asked you to follow him into a rabbit hole emerging in his bizarre world where what you originally thought was up is actually down and where left is right.
This approach alienated a fair amount of casual listeners that got to know him through “Hello, It’s Me” which was famously covered by The Isley Brothers. Even his hardcore base of fans were frustrated at times. Any idea conceived (sometimes 10 ideas within a song) was quickly abandoned after its initial execution. You could only expect the unexpected. If Rundgren attempted a previous idea he would make sure to apply it differently with the results sometimes disastrous. It’s as if someone makes you the perfect meal, invites you over to dinner again and proceeds to make the same meal while blindfolded. After dinner they’ll share that their now exploring the idea of preparing meals consisting of rocks and sticks. That’s how weird things get when your dealing with a musical progressive because they have a destroy, rebuild wierdly, and throw everything against the wall and out the window mentality. This leads me to some thoughts on the progressive artist (not just rock music), how they tick, and the individual Proger (short for progressive) evolution…