Todd Rundgren: A True Wizard Gets His Hall Of Fame Due

He’s out on his appropriately titled “The Individualist, A True Star Tour” that sees the iconic rocker performing his landmark album A Wizard, a True Star in its entirety and stops at least near Cleveland, at MGM Northfield Park, in suburban Northfield, Nov. 6-7.  
Rundgren is a true rock iconoclast who, at the height of the coronavirus lockdown, created a live streamed, “geofenced” tour that focused on his fans and replicated the sense of being on a physical tour. Instead of a single show available globally, he performed a 25-show “Clearly Human” series of  livestreamed shows aimed at regional fans.
The “Clearly Human” streaming tour is a prime example of why Rundgren is a unique force in rock – he doesn’t color inside the lines, and has always been an innovator as a musician, songwriter, producer and technophile. You name it, he does it.
Rundgren formed the power-pop group Nazz in 1967 and later joined Albert Grossman’s Bearsville Records as a producer and engineer. His solo debut album, Runt, led to his first Top 20 hit, “We’ve Gotta Get You a Woman” in 1970 and his star only ascended from there. 
He released his classic double album Something/Anything? In 1972 and scored more hits with  “I Saw The Light” and “Hello It’s Me,” helping define a sound that would later influence artists like Hall & Oates and beyond, propelling  his own career as an in-demand producer.
Even if Rundgren had never recorded a single note himself, he would still be remembered as a top-flight producer. Artists whose albums were helmed by Rundgren include Daryl Hall & John Oates, Grand Funk Railroad, Cheap Trick, Patti Smith, The Tubes, New York Dolls, XTC, Bad Religion, Bourgeois Tagg, The Psychedelic Furs and The Pursuit Of Happiness.
One of his earliest efforts is the completion of Badfinger’s 1971 power-pop masterpiece, Straight Up, which contained seminal hits like “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue” and was released on The Beatles’ Apple Records. Rundgren was brought in to finish the record after George Harrison became unavailable while putting together the historic Concert For Bangladesh.
As for his own recordings, Rundgren told Pollstar in an earlier interview, “I do hear things a certain way. And I am actually depending on that part of the process to bring some coherence, ultimately, to the final product. I don’t want people to say, with every record I put out, ‘Who’s that? Who could that possibly be?’ Otherwise, with every single record you’re building your career over again.
“I figure that to have some degree of self-similarity in the records is likely a good thing,” he continued. “I guess there is a line. I don’t want to be using specific melodies, to be over-using specific chord patterns. I went through an evolution with that way back at Something/Anything? when I realized I was writing the songs kind of self-consciously, but in a good way. 
“I was simply aping everything I had already heard and writing song forms that everyone was writing. They were kind of like the standard form: verse-chorus, verse-chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus, chorus.”
Rundgren acknowledges his evolution from power-pop to prog to the eclectic music he continues to produce for himself and others.
“I thought maybe that there are other ways to approach this,” he explains. “Also, the realization that there are other sounds in my head aside from those that appeared on the typical pop record. And, over time, I guess that’s come to represent whatever elements of style that I have;  essentially a product of how I hear things, not necessarily a conscious thing that I’m going for.” 
That self-awareness and creativity serves Rundgren well and far beyond the scope of music. Beyond the discography and album credits, Rundgren has always had a visionary hand in advancing technology and pushing the boundaries of not only what could be done in a studio and how music could sound, but how artists could better connect with fans.
With his background in computer programming, Rundgren briefly considered the field after leaving Nazz in 1969. Lucky for us, he didn’t. Yet he’s still a pioneer in the world of internet music delivery, organized the first interactive television concert in 1978, and developed a precursor to today’s social networks.  
He created PatroNet, which is possibly the first social media platform, that enabled himself and other artists as well as fans to upload their work and discuss them online in chat rooms and create a real fan community.
“There’s something like five artists in the world that have this kind of rabid fan base,” Live Nation’s Gerry Barad told Pollstar of Rundgren. “You’ve got the Grateful Dead, or Dead & Company, and you’ve got Phish. You’ve got Rush when they worked. I’m sure Frank Zappa in his day had the same sort of thing where people followed him. And Todd’s fans are like that; he’s their favorite artist and they don’t care about anyone else.”