Today we celebrate one Todd Harry Rundgren, a man with a storied history as both a musician and a producer, but for the purposes of this piece, we’re focusing on the former aspect of his career. We’ve put together a list of 10 top-shelf tracks from Rundgren’s ‘70s output, and we’re betting that you won’t be able to finish reading this piece without having at least one of these tunes stuck in your brain for the long haul.
“We Gotta Get You a Woman” (Runt, 1970): Inspired by music executive Paul Fishkin, with whom Rundgren used to hang out in Greenwich Village, this tune was Rundgren’s first solo hit, climbing to No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 and aiding him in entering the public consciousness. The end result: a Four Tops cover of the tune in '72.
“Be Nice to Me” (Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren, 1971): Despite scoring success straight out of the gate with “We Gotta Get You a Woman,” Rundgren wasn’t able to immediately follow it with another Top 20 hit. This track was the first single from his second album, but it made it no higher than No. 71 before beginning its descent. Still, that was better than the follow-up single, “A Long Time, a Long Way to Go,” which stalled at No. 92.
“I Saw the Light” (Something/Anything?, 1972): The placement of this track as the first song on his third solo album was an act of design, with Rundgren pointedly following an established Motown tradition of placing hits at the very start of an album...and make no mistake, Rundgren always intended for this song to be a hit. Of course, he succeeded: the single took him back into the Top 20 - No. 16, to be precise - and also provided him with a Top 40 hit in the U.K.
“Hello It’s Me” (Something/Anything?, 1972): Many people already know that this song made its debut as the B-side of “Open My Eyes,” the signature hit by Rundgren’s pre-solo band, The Nazz, but what you may not know is that it was actually the first song Rundgren ever wrote. Talk about starting your songwriting career off right...
“International Feel” (A Wizard, a True Star, 1972): This may or may not have been the first song that Rundgren recorded for his fourth album - Moogy Klingman, one of the members of Rundgren’s band, says it was, whereas Rundgren’s belief is that it was actually “Sometimes I Don’t Know What to Feel” - but truth be told, both songs are solid. Unfortunately, the album as a whole was so thoroughly all over the place that it didn’t do much in the way of helping Rundgren to maintain his commercial momentum...like, to the point where Rundgren himself said that people were referring to it as “commercial suicide.”
“A Dream Goes On Forever” (Todd, 1974): Ironically, this single was written for A Wizard, a True Star but ultimately failed to make the album. If it had, perhaps it would’ve provided that record with at least a minor hit, which is what it did for Todd.
“Real Man” (Initiation, 1975): It was on this album that Rundgren went full prog, or at least as close to it as he’d ever gotten before on one of his solo LPs. Again, it wasn’t exactly screaming “pop hit material,” but this track did crack the Hot 100, even if it made it no farther than No. 83.
“Love of the Common Man” (Faithful, 1976): Taken from Side 2 of Rundgren’s half-covers, half-originals album, this was, of course, one of the originals, and - like most everything on that side of the LP - it was a pure piece of pop. Alas, it was only the cover that was released as a single from the album (“Good Vibrations”) that charted, but this is still generally considered one of Rundgren’s strongest mid-1970s tunes.
“Can We Still Be Friends?” (Hermit of Mink Hollow, 1978): One of Rundgren’s most iconic and enduring singles, it’s surprising that it never got higher than No. 29 on the Hot 100, but considering that it was his highest chart placement in half a decade, it’s doubtful that anyone was complaining. You might also recall Robert Palmer’s version, which was a minor hit the following year (it hit No. 52), but it’s also been covered to great effect by Mandy Moore, Marc Jordan, Vonda Shepard, Rod Stewart, and Colin Blunstone.
“All the Children Sing” (Hermit of Mink Hollow, 1978): Although this was released as a single, it never charted, which is just insane when you hear just what a bouncy, catchy earworm of a tune it is. Better yet, it’s just long enough to ingratiate itself, without overstaying its welcome. Why it wasn’t one of Todd’s biggest hits, we’ll never understand.