Todd is God.
Sure, Eric Clapton may have been God first, but growing up in New Jersey in the Seventies, I somehow decided to buy American when it came to guitar gods. And so I began to worship Todd Rundgren, the brilliantly talented singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer-arranger and part-time cult superstar who remains to this day a musical force with which to be reckoned.
Todd Rundgren's wildly eclectic career is such that even his devoted fans may only know part of what the man has achieved over the years, from his days with the Nazz, to producing everyone from the New York Dolls to Grand Funk Railroad to Meatloaf to Patti Smith to XTC, to blowing lots of progressive minds with the group Utopia, to foreseeing massive technological changes in the music business before just about anyone else. In his spare time, Todd has always been one of the great vocalists, musicians and guitar gods on earth. And as a dad myself now, I can't help but admire how Todd was also a way cool father figure to Liv Tyler during that long stretch when Steven Tyler was out to an extended chemical lunch.
One thing that Todd Rundgren hasn't ever done is make things particularly easy on himself. Todd's latest challenge is a characteristically wild and challenging one. He's bringing one of his finest and most completely trippy album A Wizard, A True Star to theatrical life for an ambitious series of shows that will find him performing it in its entirety starting on September 6th at the Akron Civic Theater, with further dates already set in Stamford, Connecticut, Bethesda, Maryland, Chicago and Minneapolis. Toddheads not in those neighborhoods will be able to eventually see the Stamford show on DVD and hear it on CD next year, or perhaps more in keeping with Todd's forward-thinking view of the world, they can watch that show live on the web on Pay Per View -- you can find details here.
In my excitement at hearing this non-Fox bit of news, I decided to pimp this exciting occasion to hit Todd up with a few questions about this upcoming theatrical endeavor, about the state of the music business and about his own unique and still-evolving place in living music history.
So all of you Huffington Post-ers, please honk if you too love Todd Rundgren -- whose work appears regularly on the playlists I post here. And if you you're your own questions for the Wizard, write in and maybe God -- I mean Todd -- will answer some of your questions too.
And if Todd doesn't, don't worry. Like the man says, "A Dream Goes On Forever."
Todd, I know why I love A Wizard, A True Star, but why did you choose this album for special live treatment over something/anything else, like for, instance, Something/Anything?
Like a high-priced prostitute, I have my specialties, but I am not above entertaining a bizarre request from the client. My first thought was "...well, it's been a very long time. I'm not sure if my knees are up to it." Then it occurred that there might be something in it for me -- perhaps a settlement of unfinished business. Like somebody Dexter forgot to kill and then he had a lucky chance opportunity to off them in Emmy-winning style.
I saw the production of your Up Against It twice at the Public Theater, so I'm a fan of your theatrical side. How theatrical will this tour get? Will you be channeling your inner Tommy Tune?
You presume I have an inner TT. Unless Tommy can trot out a convincing Soupy Shuffle, I may have to draw my terpsichorial influence elsewhere. There will be quite a few costume changes, some involving originals from the 70s. In such instances, I will be calling on my inner tapeworm so as to fit into them. And let us not forget the Cool Jerk in 7/4. Take that, Tommy!
You foresaw a sea change coming in the music business a long, long time ago -- way ahead of the pack. How do you view the increasing importance of live performance over music sales today: as an encouraging reaffirmation of the meaning of music or an exhausting pain in the ass?
At the expense of tooting my own prognosticational horn, totally covered this years ago. It's amazing how people think you are being revelatory if you can simply bring yourself to accept the facts. Before there were any sort of 'recordings' there was performance. If we are devolved back to the Stone Age tomorrow there will be performance.
More to the point, successful record sales result not in gigantic windfalls of cash for the artist unless they opt to demonstrate their ability to reproduce such performances before witnesses and collect the commensurate rewards therefrom... that being a greater than 50% slice of ticket prices plus merch sales vs. 20 or less percent of record royalties. 'Twas ever thus. The Road Rules.
Even with all your success and influence and a masterful and eclectic body of work, you've been called an undervalued genius, by me at least. Do you feel more undervalued or more genius?
I've been ruminating on this genius thing, and if the cinema is any indication, being misunderstood and undervalued is the true mark of genius. If bearing a reputation as a weirdo is all it takes to be a genius, I'm a shoo-in. Come to think of it, half the people I know are geniuses, the other half peculiarly enough, idiots.