Hello, It's Him: In Praise of Todd Rundgren's 'Something/Anything?'

Todd Rundgren in concert
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Ian Dickson/Redferns

With his third album, Something/Anything? – a double album on which he performed all of the vocals and instruments on three out of the LP’s four sides – Todd Rundgren scored two hit singles (the biggest hits of his career, no less) and the most successful album of his career.

Produced by Rundgren himself (big surprise), Something/Anything? was an album which came together quickly as a result of a combination of two drugs: pot and Ritalin. As Rundgren told The Independent in 2004, “It caused me to crank out songs at an incredible pace. 'I Saw the Light' took me all of 20 minutes. You can see why, too: the rhymes are just moon/June/spoon kind of stuff."

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Rundgren recorded the majority of the backing tracks for those first three sides of the album at I.D. Sound Studios in Los Angeles, starting with the drums and then following with the other instruments one by one.

Something/Anything? was kind of a different record, since I’m playing everything myself,” Rundgren told the A.V. Club in 2012. “A lot of the songs on there have a particular kind of instrumentation that is much like a guitar quartet, and in some ways [‘Couldn’t I Just Tell You’] is an exceptional song on that record because so much of the writing on Something/Anything? is piano-oriented. There are lots of ballads throughout it, and I think the only reason why there wasn’t more rock on that record is because it was difficult for me to play! You know, I couldn’t get through a whole take of drums playing real fast. Likely it had a lot to do with me learning how to play the drums at the same time while making a record, and that established some sort of limiting factor on how much of that kind of material I could do. I was pretty happy with the song because I realized it was the kind of thing I would probably have done more of if I had been using other players.”

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In the end, the aforementioned “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” proved only to be a minor hit, topping out at No.93 on the Billboard Hot 100. On the other hand, it was bookended by the two biggest hits of Rundgren’s career as a solo artist: “I Saw the Light,” which hit No. 16, and a ecording of “Hello It’s Me” (originally cut by his band, The Nazz), which hit No. 5.

Although Something/Anything? hit No. 29 on the Billboard 200, making it the most successful album of his career, Rundgren promptly steered away from the three-minute pop songs that were spread across the album’s four sides and started getting more progressive with his material. Of course, he’d eventually find his way back to pop songs...and then move away from them again...and then return to them again. That’s our Todd!

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The "Saturday Night Live" Blue Oyster Cult parody is so popular that it literally haunts Walken to this very day.
(Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
The album hit #6 on the charts, with the single reaching #9.
Jones/Tintoretto Entertainment Company
Two live dates made up his second concert LP.

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