It was 35 Years Ago Today...
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
(NOTE: I originally wrote this 5 years ago. Looking back it it, I didn't see any real need to edit.)
In 1976 I went away
to college-- Clark University in Worcester Mass-- where I met a girl
who became my first serious long term girlfriend. We were buddies for a
good 8 months first. It was during the buddy phase that she
introduced me to the music of Todd Rundgren, who was her favorite. At
the time I was listening to Yes, ELP, Pink Floyd, Tull-- you know,
music to get high for the first time to. The swirling synths of her
favorite Todd records, Todd and Initiation, were right up my alley, and
I instantly "got" the Beatles/Beach Boys appeal of Something/Anything.
After 2 years we both transferred out of Clark to NYU, and that last
semester at Clark (spring '78) Todd put out Hermit of Mink Hollow, the
first release of his since I'd become a fan. It was brilliant and I
played it to death.
I was already hanging out at NYU, my best friend went there. On
Sunday, May 14-- it was Mother's Day-- the girlfriend and I scored
tickets to the late show at the Bottom Line, Todd's Back to the Bars
tour. I remember visiting the dorm, thinking about how cool it would
be to actually be going there in September, going to college in
Greenwich Village, and the Bottom Line right around the corner. Life
this was my first Todd show. We sat off to the side on the right, but
of course every seat at the Bottom Line was a great seat (damn I miss
that place.) I remember he opened with "Real Man," a song I liked.
"Zen Archer" made an impression on me even though I hadn't heard it
before. Moogy Klingman, who co-wrote Bette Midler's "Friends," played
piano in the band-- besides Todd he was my girlfriend's favorite.
Since the tour was a career retrospective (for the not-yet-30 year-old
artist) they hit a lot of material I knew-- "You Cried Wolf" and
"Bread" from the new record; "Love of the Common Man" (an immediate
favorite), "Hello Its Me," "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference"... I
remember the segue of "Eastern Intrigue" and "Initiation" was a
blissful set piece; I think we'd listened to side 1 of Initiation more
than any other record. They played Moogy's "Lady Face," which I'd
never heard but which was instantly likable, and I called my girlfriend
that for a while after.
years I'd wished I could hear Todd play "Determination" live-- when
push comes to shove one of my 10 favorite songs of his, and all the
compression on the recording notwithstanding, just a perfect tune, the
way the lyrics just come tumbling out, and the heart-on-sleeve
sentiment, and of course the perfect insistent guitar licks that start
the song off and trail off at the end and drive it throughout. It
wasn't until about 1998, when I finally got a bootleg of the show, that
I discovered that I actually had heard "Determination" at my very first
you're 19 and still soaking up music like you're a biscuit and the
music is gravy, and your eyes and ears are wide open, and then you see
an artist like this in a tiny little venue, and you were already really
into the music, but then the concert just totally turns your head
around-- well, there's nothing else like that, not at any other time in
your life. Things like that made the '60s happen, made the wall come
down in Berlin, put that kid in front of that tank in China, and I'm
not kidding. Music and youth never goes out of style.
the next 8 years I found my way into over 50 more Todd and Utopia
shows. It was great being a fan around New York in the late '70s/early
'80s; the typical show was, say, up in Poughkeepsie or out at Stony
Brook, and you'd spend 2 hours getting there, and then 8 hours on line
because you had to be up close and it was general admission. And you
knew everyone else on the line, because that's just the way it was, and
eventually you ended up friends with most of them, and sometimes you'd
pass someone in the city and you'd smile and nod at each other
because, well, you knew. Eyes that have seen and all that.
finally the show would happen, and it would fill your head and your
heart with Technicolor joy. I remember my concert buddy Fred and I
trying to explain to our parents why we wanted to see three shows in
four days when each time the band played the exact same set list...
Hard to believe that was 30 years ago. Where does the time go?
PS: Here's some video from that date; I'm not sure if this is from the early show or the late.