Todd Rundgren: “A Wizard, A True Star”

Love it or hate it, every serious music nerd should hear this strange album once.  A Wizard, A True Star was released in ’73 when I was 15,  and I soon became addicted (which might explain some things), although some of it annoyed me and still does.  This mash-up of prog, pop, and blue-eyed soul might be the densest, most overly over-dubbed album in history.  There is literally zero space unfilled.  Because of that, there is almost always something interesting going on, even if the song itself isn’t good.  Side one is a medley of song fragments, sort of like side two of Abbey Road produced by a crazier Brian Wilson with access to synthesisers (unfortunately, there’s not a gapless version on YouTube).  The medley sometimes gets cartoonish.  A portion of side two is a medley of Motown covers, which has always seemed a bit random to me. That said, there are plenty of addictive hooks throughout.  Highlights for me are “International Feel” (and its recapitulation, “Le Feel Internacionale,” which ended side 1), “When the Shit Hits the Fan/Sunset Boulevard,”  “Sometimes I don’t Know What to Feel,” and “Just One Victory.”  The anthemic quality of “Just One Victory” can get annoying, and it’s too long, but it has some great melodic and harmonic twists and turns.

I think Todd was trying to blow up his status as an AM radio pop artist.  The previous year he’d had a commercially successful album, Something/Anything?,  which was mostly straight-ahead pop ballads and rockers: it contained “Slut,” often covered by Big Star, as well as the power-pop classic, “Couldn’t I Just Tell You.”  Something/Anything also yielded a couple of big AM hits, the piano-driven “I Saw the Light” and “Hello It’s Me,” that made some people see him as kind of a male Carole King.  I’m guessing that didn’t sit well with him, so he went all-out weird for A Wizard, A True Star.  I’m sure there were hallucinogens involved as well.  It didn’t sell nearly as well as its predecessor.  Fun fact: the month after this album came out, he produced the New York Dolls’ first album.

So what to make of TR?  He was a highly talented multi-intrumentalist and producer, a true master of the studio, and a pioneer of power-pop and prog.  When everything clicked, he could be a very good songwriter.  But he lacked self-censorship.  Something/Anything? is a double ablum with way too much filler.  It could have been a much better single album.  As for A Wizard, A True Star, he really needed to rein in some of the self-indulgent goofiness.  He produced all his own albums, even playing all instruments on many tracks.  He just occasionally needed someone to say “no.”  In that regard, he was like an American version of The Move’s Roy Wood, who had the same issues.  That may not have been a coincidence.  The Move regularly covered “Open My Eyes,” originally by TR’s 60’s band, The Nazz.  And the first time I ever heard The Move’s “Do Ya” was TR covering it live.

This Is Excellent

If any of you bastards are into Audible books, this one is a must. I bought it a couple of years ago, making my second pass now. Riveting.

David Sedaris tells all in a book that is, literally, a lifetime in the making.

For forty years, David Sedaris has kept a diary in which he records everything that captures his attention-overheard comments, salacious gossip, soap opera plot twists, secrets confided by total strangers. These observations are the source code for his finest work, and through them he has honed his cunning, surprising sentences.

Now, Sedaris shares his private writings with the world. Theft by Finding, the first of two volumes, is the story of how a drug-abusing dropout with a weakness for the International House of Pancakes and a chronic inability to hold down a real job became one of the funniest people on the planet.

Written with a sharp eye and ear for the bizarre, the beautiful, and the uncomfortable, and with a generosity of spirit that even a misanthropic sense of humor can’t fully disguise, Theft By Finding proves that Sedaris is one of our great modern observers. It’s a potent reminder that when you’re as perceptive and curious as Sedaris, there’s no such thing as a boring day.

Punk Pod

“Punk rock really needs about 10 episodes to do it justice, but we’ll try and tackle [it] anyway. Learn all about this movement right now. “

This is where I learned about Los Saicos. It was fun for an imbecile like me – curious to see what the more refined punko snobs think.

Can I F*ck To My Friend’s Band?

Drew Magary is a national treasure. This is from his weekly column.
Props to “Dave”.

Your letters:

Josh:

I’m a sound guy, and as such am lucky enough to have some really talented musician friends. Some of those have albums that are absolute sex jams. Is it okay to bone to your friends’ music, and if so, should I tell them, or my partner?

Ans:

I think all of that is fine. Music is made for fucking. So use it. Just because you’re having sex to Dave’s band doesn’t mean Dave is THERE, standing behind a curtain somewhere and watching you hump. It just means he does his job well. He’d probably be beaming with pride that his shit was good enough to make your coitus playlist. I know I would be. Hey yo people are having sex to ME and my tasty riffs!

I’d tell him. Hell, I’d make a video of the session and send it to him. BRO LOOK HOW WELL THIS TURNED OUT BRO! If people fucked to my podcast (and who wouldn’t?!), I’d want to know. I think. Okay probably not, but still. It would be one thing if it were, like, your DAD’S band. But if it’s your friend who also happens to be Sam Smith or whoever, I think you’re using their work as intended. They have to have chops. Don’t go fucking to some shitty bar band demo that sounds like Jim Irsay nut deep into a bottle of Xanax. To fuck to a song is to validate that song. So make sure all of that vetting has already been done in advance before you thrust in there with your own endorsement.

As for telling your bedmate, I think that’s also probably fine. It would be weird if you made a whole production out of it. Honey, tonight we’re gonna fuck… to Dave! And it would be weird if you disclose this factoid while you’re inside someone. But if your girlfriend knows the song before the fact and likes it, and if that song is already in the rotation and suits the occasion, it’s all good. You might even share a laugh about it. GUYS ALWAYS LOVE TO LAUGH WHEN THEY’RE HORNY.