Published on July 16th, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Todd Rundgren On The “It Was Fifty Years Ago Today” Tour & His Upcoming Career Plans For 2020
Todd Rundgren first earned attention with the Philadelphia-based band The Nazz in the late 1960s, a few years after he had graduated from Upper Darby High School. Things got bigger and better for Rundgren when he went solo in the early 1970s, also branching out as a producer. As a recording artist, Rundgren was responsible for hits like “I Saw The Light,” “Hello It’s Me,” “Can We Still Be Friends” and “Bang The Drum All Day.” As a producer, beyond producing Meat Loaf’s record-setting Bat Out Of Hell album from 1977, Rundgren has been at the helm for major albums by Grand Funk Railroad, XTC, Cheap Trick, The Band and The New York Dolls. Rundgren has also worked on a variety of cutting-edge projects over the years, developing one of the first computer paint programs in the early 1980s, co-developing the computer screensaver system Flowfazer, and starting a subscription-based music service for fans in the 1990s long before any notable artist did. And that’s without talking about the music he composed for Pee-wee’s Playhouse or his work with the bands Utopia and The New Cars.
Simply put, Rundgren has never stopped touring or recording. His latest album is 2017’s White Knight, which featured collaborations with Robyn, Daryl Hall, Donald Fagen, Joe Walsh, Trent Reznor, Bettye LaVette, Kasim Sulton, and Dâm-Funk. Since then he has released a one-off single with Red Peters, the archival live album All Sides Of The Roxy, and the memoir titled The Individualist – Digressions, Dreams & Dissertations. In other words, Rundgren has had more quality-oriented output in a two-year period than the majority of major artists would release in a five-year span.
Rundgren’s next tour is the It Was Fifty Years Ago Today tour. Alongside Christopher Cross, Jason Scheff, Badfinger’s Joey Molland and The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz, Rundgren and crew will be playing The Beatles’ The White Album along with some of their own hits. The tour kicks off on September 21st in Atlantic City with dates currently announced through October 20th in Washington D.C.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Todd Rundgren himself by phone about It Was Fifty Years Ago Today and plenty more, including life in Hawaii, his artistic pursuits outside of music, and what else is coming up for him. The full conversation will be broadcasted next month as part of the Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz podcast. In the meantime, upcoming tour dates, music-streaming links and all other things Rundgren-related can be found online via his official website at www.tr-i.com.
On how he would describe the It Was Fifty Years Ago Today show:
Todd Rundgren: We’ve got five guys… We each do two songs, so 10 non-Beatles songs and the rest is The White Album.
On what he plans on doing after the It Was Fifty Years Ago Today tour:
Todd Rundgren: I just got off the road from from the Individualist tour which was essentially a combination concert tour and book promotional tour. So normally I’d probably be looking at another at least four or five months of touring during the year. But as you mentioned I’ve been out quite a lot of recent and we figure it’s time for me to take a little break maybe until next summer. So for the rest of the year the White Album thing is the only thing that I’ll be doing and I won’t be going out again. Two weeks maybe May of next year.
On if he plans on recording during his downtime from the road:
Todd Rundgren: I’ll be working on other projects, but they won’t involve me being on the road so much. I’m still doing collaborations with other artists, so that gives me a little bit more room to do that. I’ve got sort of an art project, original work, that’s going to be mounted in Holland next year, so I’ve got that to work on. There is a number of other little side projects that require more or less of my attention that don’t involve touring. So yeah, there’s plenty for me to do besides being on the road, and as a matter of fact when I’m on the road I don’t accomplish as much as I do when I’m at home.
On whether he enjoyed the collaborative process of his White Knight album, working with a different collaborator on almost every track:
Todd Rundgren: It was a lot of fun. There was a lot of something that I don’t normally do, which is co-writing. Principally because I get very sort of insular when I go around composing an album of my own or something like that. I mostly go off someplace by myself. So the opportunity to collaborate remotely kind of allowed me to have that alone time. To have to live with the musical ideas but it also kept me from being in like an echo chamber and only hearing my own ideas.
So when I would get something from another artist it would be something you know more or less unexpected. That would get me excited because it would be a challenge to me to try and figure out how to like finish this thing. Often the songs are something that the other artists have worked on for a while and then kind of gave up and never made it to completion. So when I get a chance to listen to it, it suddenly becomes fresher. I haven’t had to go through the whole process of moving something from nothing up until that particular stage of evolution.
It’s more like, rather than what you would think of as McCartney and Lennon when you know they sit down to bounce ideas off of each other, a relay race where you do a leg and then you hand off the baton to somebody else and then they do the next leg. Sometimes you know your hands are beaten back for other sorts of improvements or alterations or something like that, but it takes the pressure off of being in the same room with someone else and having to try and produce something within that kind of compressed time period.
On what he wishes more people knew about him:
Todd Rundgren: I don’t, you know, sit around wishing people know things about me. Celebrity is a dangerous, dangerous thing to dabble in, and I’ve always been kind of more of a private person. I don’t really, when I’m off the road, desire to have people recognize me on the street. I like to be able to go out and have a meal and be left alone to just do that. But it’s not the kind of thing that you can turn on and off when you gain a certain level of celebrity, you just have to learn how to live with it. But I don’t actively pursue that aspect.
If I did, I would be more like some of these moderate artists where you diversify into your own clothing line and your own perfume or something like that. And the only thing I’d ever pursued in that regard is a would be a boutique line of cannabis product… I’m fine with the level of celebrity that I haven’t when I’m home. I don’t sit around worrying that people forget about me or anything like that.
On his last words for the kids:
Todd Rundgren: It’s been a great year so far. Everybody came out in great numbers to see the Individualist tour. It’s generally considered to be a successful experiment, and now it’s basically relax for a little while and let demand build up a bit. So yeah I’ll be out there a little bit, I’ll be out there for the White Album thing and I’ve got one or two other little gigs here and there, but for the most part just tell everyone there’s nothing wrong here. (laughs) Except for the fact that I so rarely take this kind of time off, so great.