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Todd Rundgren Shares Musical Milestones At Grammy Museum

By Mike Palecki
Published: Thursday, July 21, 2011, at 07:32AM
Todd Rundgren WireImage.com/M. Sullivan

Todd Rundgren performing at the Grammy Museum

During the Grammy Museum's "An Evening with Todd Rundgren," a rapt audience learned much about the innovative songwriter, musician and recording engineer. The presentation, which took place on July 18, was moderated by Grammy Foundation Vice President Scott Goldman and began with a video spanning the musician's 40-year career.

Included in the chronology was footage of Rundgren’s solo career and involvement with his bands The Nazz, and Utopia. Best known pop music standards included: “Hello It’s Me”, “I Saw The Light”, and “Can We Still Be Friends”. Also featured was his wildly popular novelty song, “Bang The Drum All Day”.

Final scenes of the video focused on Rundgren’s aggressive Telecaster electric guitar reinterpretations of classic Delta Blues songs written by Robert Johnson. Sung in huskier vocals, Rundgren’s latest album pays tribute to the centennial of the iconic bluesman that influenced a younger generation of musicians.

Those would include Eric Clapton, John Mayall, The Yardbirds, and of course Todd Rundgren.

As a teenager raised in Philadelphia, Todd Rundgren enjoyed outcast nuances of growing his hair long and learning to master searing guitar work. Although he embraced vocal harmonies made famous by the Beatles and Beach Boys, he identified more closely with musical dynamics of The Who.

On Monday evening, Rundgren disclosed how he fit into a changing musical world. He explained, “Us White kids saw lot of opportunity for guitar work without being as good as a Jazz guitarist. It was a mish-mash of Rhythm & Blues, English Rock, and Blues. Everything had much different possibilities than the Beatles”.

Continuing, Rundgren described his rise to stardom with The Nazz. “We plundered musicians from other bands, covered other musician’s songs, and knew how to dress well," he quipped. "We met Roger Daltrey in a hotel bar, met the publicist for the Mamas & Papas and were off to New York for live demo sessions.”

Overnight, the band was showcased everywhere and became a national phenomenon, long before they recorded their first album. After two albums and Rundgren’s fascination with understanding the recording process, he became sought out by other musicians to produce their music.

It was during this period that Rundgren learned a producer was more akin to a session manager than to a sound man. And so, he identified more closely with engineering sound and accidentally discovered how to record a “phasing effect”.

After that, Rundgren navigated Bad Finger, The Band, Grand Funk Railroad, Meat Loaf, Patti Smith, Cheap Trick, the New York Dolls, Psychedelic Furs, XTC and Hall & Oates through the recording process.

Rundgren’s most memorable recording session was with Meat Loaf for the album “Bat Out Of Hell”. After two weeks of rehearsing the Bruce Springsteen parody, Meat Loaf blurted out “My record label doesn’t understand me and nobody is going to pay for the studio time.”

Four months after everything fell apart, the video for the song “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” became a huge success and work resumed.

"An Evening With Todd Rundgren" was presented by American Express and can be viewed in Grammy Museum video archives. While 250 guests received the “Todd Rundgren’s Johnson” CD as a gift, his musical tribute to Robert Johnson is available as a digital download.

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