Todd Rundgren Challenged by the "Exhibitionism That Comes With Performance"
When Todd Rundgren dubbed an early album A Wizard, a True Star it might have seemed somewhat presumptuous at the time, given that his recording career was practically in its infancy. Four decades later, that title has come to sum up one of the most remarkably prolific careers in rock's vast lexicon. In fact, there's little Rundgren hasn't done, whether as a performer, producer, engineer, or video pioneer.
Indeed, since making his bow with his first band, Woody's Truck Stop, in his native Philadelphia and then creeping into the national spotlight with the Nazz, Rundgren has freely delved into a dizzying array of musical pursuits -- from pop to prog, rock to retro, and almost everything in between. He scored hits on his own and produced them for others: Badfinger, Meat Loaf, and Patti Smith, to name only a few. He also helmed the experimental outfit Utopia while occasionally taking the opposite tack as part of Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band.
"The more music you write, the more likely you are to repeat yourself, and that's the actuality for most artists," Rundgren insists. "But I didn't approach music as a performer, which is what lots of other people do. They figure out afterwards what kind of music they want to make."
Still, at age 65, Rundgren's intents are as ambitious as ever. After a wildly diverse spate of recent releases, with last year's State, he revisited the synthesized setups and exotic experimentation that defined his work with Utopia and selected solo efforts like Individualist and Nearly Human. And yet, after establishing himself with the signature soft-rock style represented in early staples like "Hello It's Me," "I Saw the Light," and "Can We Still Be Friends," he could just as easily have forsaken any attempts at experimentation and reaped the rewards that pop superstardom offered.