AKA Todd Harry Rundgren
Birthplace: Philadelphia, PA
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Musician, Music Producer
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Wants to bang the drum all day
Philadelphia native Todd Rundgren first began developing his musical skills as a teenager, taking up the guitar and forming his first band Money while still in high school. A short span as a member of Woody's Truck Stop followed after he had completed school, but their drift towards psychedelia motivated him to quit and form the British Invasion-influenced pop outfit The Nazz with fellow Philadelphia scenesters Thom Mooney, Stewkey, and Truck Stop bandmate Carson Van Osten in 1967. The Nazz performed their first concert in July of that same year, opening for West Coast bigshots The Doors at the Philadelphia Town Hall; promoter John Kurland took over management duties for the band soon afterward, re-styling them into a teenybopper act and limiting their live appearances in an ill-advised attempt to cultivate a public mystique. The following year, a deal with SGC Records (an Atlantic/Columbia subsidiary) produced their eponymous debut album, featuring the single Hello It's Me and earning some decent reviews in the teen rags.
The remainder of the Nazz's lifespan was plagued with difficulties, aggravated by conflicts between Rundgren and Mooney. An attempt to record their second album in Britain was quickly scuttled by work visa red tape, and, once completed back in the States, the intended double album Fungo Bat was chopped down to the single LP Nazz Nazz (1969) by the band's management. By this time, Rundgren's musical direction had diverged from that of his bandmates (it was primarily his material that was cut from Nazz Nazz), and after a summer tour in 1969 he ended his association with the group. The remaining Fungo Bat material was subsequently issued in 1970 under the title Nazz 3, but with Rundgren's vocals replaced by those of Stewkey.
Rundgren wasted no time in continuing his music career, forming the band Runt in 1970 with brothers Hunt Sales and Tony Sales (sons of comedian Soupy Sales, providing drums and bass, respectively) -- although the resulting album Runt was essentially Rundgren's debut solo release, with all of the songs written and a majority of the instruments played solely by him. The collection included his first top 20 single We Gotta Get You a Woman, and this chart success provided the musician with enough clout to secure a contract with Bearsville Records, a label run by Bob Dylan's manager Albert Grossman, who had previously employed him as both a producer and engineer. A second Runt album (The Ballad Of Todd Rundgren) appeared on the label in 1971, but Rundgren subsequently abandoned the concept and his next few records were simply released under his own name. It was during this time period that demand for his skills as a producer and engineer really began to take off, and over the next two years he was enlisted to work on recordings by artists such as The James Cotton Blues Band, Sparks, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Badfinger and Foghat (amongst several others).
With the release of his 1972 album Something/Anything?, Rundgren's solo career was finally given some momentum: a revisiting of his Nazz-era song Hello It's Me carried him up to the #5 slot on the pop charts, while the stylistic range of the album (and his almost single-handed creation of it) earned enthusiastic critical notices. While the commercial aspect of his success wasn't maintained (or pursued), the positive critical response continued for the psychedelic explorations of his next two albums A Wizard/A True Star (1973) and Todd (1974) -- a direction which ultimately led to the formation of the band/project Utopia in 1974. For the next decade Rundgren would divide his time between Utopia and his solo career, the Utopia side of things initially concerning itself with long, synth-oriented and primarily instrumental explorations, while his solo output (with the exception of 1975's Initiation) provided an outlet for his pop songwriting.
As the 70s drew to a close, Utopia abandoned their "prog" orientation and evolved into a more straightforward heavy rock band, with Rundgren leaving room for the project to be more of a proper band than simply a solo alias. Despite maintaining both his band and solo recording output, his career as a producer was far from neglected, and by the early years of the 1980s his already long list of production credits expanded to include releases by Steve Hillage, Bette Midler, Meat Loaf, Hall and Oates, Patti Smith, Rick Derringer and The Tubes -- as well as U.S. punk pioneers The Ramones and the British new-wave combo The Psychedelic Furs. In addition to all of this audio-oriented output, in 1979 he introduced a new facet to his work by founding the video production company Utopia Video Studios, positioning himself at the forefront of the video industry just prior to the arrival of MTV. His self-produced video for the song Time Heals (from the 1981 album Healing) would in fact be the second to be aired by the network (following The Buggles' Video Killed The Radio Star).
By the mid-80s Rundgren had ended his long relationship with Bearsville, having already moved his output with Utopia to the Network label after the release of their 7th album Swing to the Right in 1982. Even after this relocation of half his recorded activity, contractual obligations forced him to deliver two more solo albums to his old label before he could fully extricate himself: a pop collection titled The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect (1983) (which included the boisterous minor hit Bang The Drum All Day) and the wholly voice-derived A Capella (1985). While the latter's future was put in question for a time when the Bearsville stuffed suits delayed its release for months, it ultimately was given a home on Warner Brothers, which had recently consumed the smaller company. That same year, Rundgren decided to disband Utopia when its 10th album POV (released on the Passport label) failed to have much impact. The remainder of the decade would primarily be spent concentrating on his production and technology-based work, and a new solo album would not arrive until 1989's Nearly Human.
In 1991 Rundgren continued his solo output with the live collection Second Wind, a performance recorded at San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. The set included several songs from yet another exploration into new creative territory: his score composed for the off-Broadway musical Up Against It, which had been based on a script written by playwright Joe Orton in the late 60s and originally intended to be a screenplay for a third movie featuring The Beatles. In 1992 he organized a reunion tour with Utopia in Japan, but the central focus of his activities in the 1990s remained on exploring new media and technology, including enhanced and interactive CD-ROM features on his next two solo albums No World Order (1993) and The Individualist (1995) (issued under the moniker TR-i). His subsequent projects remained typically varied: he released an album (With a Twist, 1997) and tour presenting bossa nova interpretations of his material, hosted the Music Nexus online broadcast, created the Internet subscription service PatroNet, scored for TV and film, and founded the marketing enterprise Waking Dreams amongst them. Towards the end of the 90s he joined an extensive roster of fellow music industry veterans on tour with Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band, and later also participating in the similar A Walk Down Abbey Road: A Tribute to the Beatles tour in 2001 alongside Alan Parsons, Ann Wilson and John Entwistle. Various archival releases were made available in the 00's, but 2004's Liars would be his sole studio offering in the first half of the decade.
Mother: Ruth Rundgren
Father: Harry Rundgren (deceased)
Girlfriend: Bebe Buell (1972-78)
Daughter: Liv Tyler (step-daughter)
Wife: Michele Gray (m. 22-Jun-1998, one child)
High School: Upper Darby High School, Upper Darby, PA
The Nazz Vocalist/Guitarist (1967-69)
Runt Vocalist/Multi-instrumentalist (1970-71)
Utopia Vocalist/Multi-instrumentalist (1974-86)
Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey (29-Jan-1994) · Himself
Is the subject of books:
A Dream Goes on Forever: The Continuing Story of Todd Rundgren, 2002, BY: Billy James
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