Warner Brothers "Loss Leaders" That Feature Todd Rundgren
In the late 1960s Warner Brothers Records began issuing a series of promotional albums called "Loss Leaders." You may remember them, as they were advertised on album inner sleeves. They were double (and in a few cases single AND triple) albums which carried a mix of songs by artists who recorded under the various Warner labels. Therefore you could find cuts by The Grateful Dead, Randy Newman and Frank Zappa, not to mention lots of one-hit wonders. The albums sold for $2 each (postpaid!) and as a music fan with limited resources I liked them, and purchased almost all of them. The albums featured really nice liner notes on each artist - informative and cleverly written by one Barry Hansen. They also have great graphics and nice photos. As Bearsville was distributed by Warner Todd Rundgren appeared on many of the albums. I've compiled a list of the albums on whice he appeared, the cut included, and the liner notes for that song. Also, I've included some notes of my own on other aspects of the album as they relate to Rundgren. An interesting fact: of the eight songs listed here, three were written by other people - unusual as Todd doesn't record many covers. This list may not be conclusive, as I don't have all of the Loss Leaders, but I hope you find it fun and informative.
THE WHOLE BURBANK CATALOG - 1972 Warner PRO 512 Todd Rundgren - "A Long Time, a Long Way to Go" "Todd Rundgren is a musical superman," wrote Robert Wilson in King Harvest Review. He plays a million instruments, writes, produces and engineers - the last two skills having been utilized on LPs by the Band, Butterfield Blues Band, Jesse Winchester and Badfinger. Once the leader of a Philadelphia rock and roll quartet called Nazz, Rundgren piloted the combo through three albums of mixed reputation: Nazz, Nazz Nazz and Nazz III. When Nazz broke up without breaking through on any large scale, Rundgren formed Runt with bassist Tony Sales and drummer Hunt Sales. In case the last names have not yet rung bells, both are the sons of pie-man Soupy Sales. The selection included here is a part of Todd's second Bearsville album, Runt. The Ballad of Todd Rundgren (sic). Even as these words are being written` he is fast at work on a third Bearsville effort, to be released in the spring of 1972 as a double album. OTHER NOTES: This album also features a song called "Biology II" by Halfnelson, produced by Todd.
MIDDLE OF THE ROAD - 1972 Warner PRO 525 Todd Rundgren - "Dust in the Wind" Continuing the orgy of self-reflection is the most mispronounced, misspelled and misunderstood artist on the block, Bearsville Records' Todd Rundgren. This song, besides being on Todd's double album, Something/Anything?, hails from "Baby Needs a Pair of Snakeskin Boots," a "pop operetta" which occupies Side 4. Whereas Herr Rundgren sings and plays all the parts on Sides 3, 2, and 1 (the latter of which contains his hit single "I Saw the Light"), Todd lets some of his friends come in and play with him on Side 4. "My original idea for this side," he says, "was a series of songs with sing-along choruses. All the songs were performed live and there were no over-dubs. The people that showed up were the people who sang and played, meaning that anyone who happened to be in the studio or in the neighborhood and didn't have anything better to do came in to play. Everybody, including me, learned the songs immediately prior to recording them, so most of it is sportaneous to a degree. Anyway, I decided it would scan better if I drafted it into a sort of operetta, that kind of thing being very popular nowadays." Musicians on "Dust" include Mark Klingman, organ; John Simon, drums; Randy Brecker, trumpet; Mike Brecker, tenor sax; Barry Rogers, trombone; Rick Derringer, guitar, and John Siegler, bass.
APPETIZERS - 1973 Warner PRO 569 Todd Rundgren - "Is It My Name?" Side Two of Appetizers, in case y'hadn't noticed, is devoted to the work of several artists who have taken rock beyond the boundaries of mere music. The dozen-and-a-half-or-so persons who, singularly and collectively, manufactured the sounds here inscribed have, each and every one, lent to the world of contemporary entertainment abundant quantities of those qualities usually categorized as Flair, Audacity, Showmanship and Flash. Todd Rundgren first arose as one-fourth of Nazz, a Middle-Atlantic group whose entrance upon the rock scene back in '68 is celebrated to this day as an outrageous example of promotional overkill. Rundgren, as a result, had to start more or less over again, which he did rather convincingly under the name of Runt (despite being taller that 87.8% of the other singer- songwriters in the Western Hemisphere). Runt's first single, "We Gotta Get You a Woman," was a big hit, after which Todd decided that he was big enough to force disc jockeys to learn how to pronounce his surname (just as it reads, RUND-gren). "I Saw the Light" followed (consider yourself a true collector if you have one of the 50,000 copies pressed on blue plastic) and now comes Todd's fourth album, with over 55 minutes of music. That amounts to over a mile of record groove, packed with somewhere around one billion undulations, each and every one born in the amazing brain of A WIZARD, A TRUE STAR - which is not only Todd himself but his fourth album on Bearsville Records, distributed by Warner Bros. OTHER NOTES: Nice run-on sentences, huh? The album has a cool photo of Todd playing the twelve-string neck of a dual-neck hollow body electric guitar.
HARD GOODS - 1974 Warner PRO 583 Todd Rundgren - "Heavy Metal Kids" TODD RUNDGREN is another artist who has a lot to say, and has fought successfully for the means to say it. "I make a living producing records, not making them," he declares, "so I can put anything I want on my records." Having shot such bullseyes as Grand Funk's "We're An American Band" as a producer, Todd devotes his own Bearsville LPs to grand experiments which invariably amount to glorious music as well. His new double-elpee, Todd, establishes him as the great versatilean of our time, ranging from ballads as exquisite as "A Dream Goes On Forever" to the brass-knuckle glint of "Heavy Metal Kids."
THE FORCE - 1975 Warner PRO 596 Todd Rundgren's Utopia - "Freedom Fighters" Secret Sound in New York is the home of Todd Rundgren's Utopia. Studio and band alike are the brainchildren of a fellow formerly known as Runt, who looms much larger that full size since making hits with "Hello It's Me" and "I Saw the Light," not to mention his frequent production of other artists such as Grand Funk. Todd Rundgren's records, like Foghat's, are released by Bearsville Records of upstate New York, another of those smartly independent enterprises which has chosen to join THE FORCE.
ALL MEAT - 1975 Warner PRO 604 Todd Rundgren - "Eastern Intrigue" TODD RUNDGREN'S Bearsville LP Initiation contains over 68 minutes of music - the most ever presented on a single first-edition rock disc. Some 36 of these minutes are devoted to "A Treatise on Cosmic Fire," a quite overwhelming suite of instrumental pieces on which Todd creates all the sounds himself, as is his frequent custom. A variety of splendid players including Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer and Roger Powell assist him on the six vocals (sic) that complete the album.
THE WORKS - 1975 Warner PRO 610 Todd Rundgren's Utopia - "Something's Coming" From his humble origins with a band called Nazz, TODD RUNDGREN has blossomed into a prolific creator of fine music in a multitude of sizes, shapes and styles, ranging from the popular "Hello It's Me," "I Saw the Light" and "We Gotta Get You a Woman" to the 36-minute "A Treatise on Cosmic Fire" on his recent album Initiation. Another Live is the second LP to feature Todd with his touring band, UTOPIA, and as with the first the accent is on power rock. Among the new album's surprises is Rundgren's arrangement of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's "Something's Coming" from West Side Story.
SUPERGROUP - 1976 Warner PRO 630 Todd Rundgren - "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" The super-prolific Todd Rundgren strikes again with an LP called Faithful on Bearsville Records, another independent label distributed by the Supergroup. As is Todd's habit, he gives us two albums' worth on one disc. Side Two, playing 27:40, has some of his most trenchant ventures into the beyond, including "Boogies (Hamburger Hell)" on which the sharp-eared may discern the actual ingredients of the world's fastest hamburgers. Side One is totally unexpected, perhaps even for Todd: six of the most famous progressive rock songs of the 1960s, originally recorded by The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and The Yardbirds, recreated by Rundgren as the original artists might have done them under 1976 studio conditions. OTHER NOTES: The cover art is a wonderful caricature of all the album's artists on stage. Todd is drawn wearing a red jumpsuit and an ankh, and holding, but not playing, a guitar.