SomethingAnything Todd Rundgren review

10 Best Todd Rundgren Songs

Todd Rundgren emerged in the late 1960s as guitarist and songwriter for the Philadelphia rock band The Nazz. He’s scored a few recognisable hits – the early 1970s soft-rock of ‘Hello, It’s Me’ and ‘I Saw the Light’, as well as the goofy 1980s singalong ‘Bang the Drum All Day’. But there’s more – those hits merely hint at his vast and fascinating career.

Todd Rundgren is a successful producer, with albums for Patti Smith, XTC, and the New York Dolls. He released a string of excellent and adventurous records in the 1970s. Always an enthusiastic adopter of new technology, he created an entire album with all sounds generated from by voice, 1985’s A Capella, while he released an interactive CD-Rom album in the 1990s.

Rundgren was recently announced as an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a deserved and overdue accolade. Here are ten of the best songs from his solo career:

10 Best Todd Rundgren Songs

#10 Parallel Lines

from Nearly Human, 1989
Growing up around Philadelphia in the 1960s, blue-eyed soul was part of Rundgren’s musical DNA. It’s present in much of his work, and ‘Parallel Lines’ is a prime example. ‘Parallel Lines’ was originally written for Up Against It. Up Against It was initially intended as the screenplay for a third Beatles movie, but in the 1980s it became a musical theatre production. This is the most recent Rundgren song on the list, but he has continued to push boundaries and make interesting music – 2005’s Liars is a well-loved later work.

Todd Rundgren Hermit of Mink Hollow

#9 Fade Away

from The Hermit of Mink Hollow, 1978
The succinct and pop-oriented 1978 album The Hermit of Mink Hollow is one of Rundgren’s best records. There are a bunch of great songs I couldn’t squeeze into the list – ‘Hurting For You’ and ‘All The Children Sing’ both deserve a spot. There’s a clear Brian Wilson influence in the gorgeous ascending chord sequence of ‘Fade Away’.

Todd Rundgren Runt

#8 Baby Let’s Swing/The Last Thing You Said/Don’t Tie My Hand

from Runt, 1970
Having served his apprenticeship in The Nazz, Rundgren hit his straps immediately as a solo artist. ‘We Gotta Get You A Woman’ is a strong single, while ‘Birthday Carol’ is gorgeous. There’s also the expansive medley ‘Baby Let’s Swing/The Last Thing You Said/Don’t Tie My Hands’, three short songs segueing together. The opening line is “Laura, I saw you open in LA”, a reference to Laura Nyro who was an influence on Rundgren’s move to a soft-rock sound on this record. Rundgren is backed by the rhythm section of the Sales brothers, who’d later play with David Bowie’s Tin Machine and with Iggy Pop.

A Wizard A True Star Rundgren review

#7 International Feel

from A Wizard, A True Star, 1973
‘International Feel’ is the opening track for 1973’s psychedelic masterpiece A Wizard/A True Star. My young daughters love this song thanks to the 30 seconds of flatulent synthesizer at the beginning. Rundgren loves split chords, and for almost the entire verse the bass sits on the same note, giving the song a growing feeling of dread. Rundgren sought to throw off comparisons to Carole King with A Wizard, A True Star, documenting his hallucinogenic experiences.

#6 Can We Still Be Friends?

from The Hermit of Mink Hollow, 1978
The Hermit of Mink Hollow is largely a breakup album, covering the end of Rundgren’s relationship with model Bebe Buell. Buell gave birth to Liv Tyler during their relationship, and Rundgren acted as her father. ‘Can We Still Be Friends?’ is built around an irresistible piano vamp, and Rundgren performs everything on the track including the multi-layered backing vocals. It was used to memorable effect in the movie Vanilla Sky and covered by Robert Palmer.

#5 Don’t You Ever Learn?

from Todd, 1974
Another double LP, Todd doesn’t quite measure up to the excellence of Something/Anything, but it has its moments. The dreamy ‘Don’t You Ever Learn?’, buried deep in side 4, is one such moment. The woozy synths and gorgeous chord sequence create an entrancing atmosphere – Rundgren would use some of the musicians who played on Todd to form his band Utopia.

Todd Rungdren Todd 1974

#4 Izzat Love?

from Todd, 1974
Running less than two minutes, ‘Izzat Love’ is lightning fast and packed with ideas. Rundgren’s vocal is almost breathless, while an unexpected key change leads into the final verse. Electronic band Neon Indian later sampled ‘Izzat Love’ for their song ‘Deadbeat Summer’.

#3 Couldn’t I Just Tell You

from Something/Anything, 1972
1972’s double album Something/Anything is an embarrassment of riches – ‘It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference’, with its lovely middle eight, ‘I Saw The Light’, and ‘Marlene’ would have all been worthy additions to this countdown. ‘Couldn’t I Just Tell You’ is power pop, with an acoustic guitar introduction that launches into a propulsive rocker. Scott Miller’s 2010 book Music: What Happened? refers to the song as “likely the greatest power pop recording ever made,”

#2 Hello, It’s Me

from Something/Anything, 1972
Rundgren recycled ‘Hello, It’s Me’ from his days in The Nazz. It was actually the first song that Rundgren ever wrote, and was originally the b-side to The Nazz’s first single ‘Open My Eyes’. Rundgren re-recorded it for Something/Anything – the first three sides were recorded by Rundgren alone, but ‘Hello, It’s Me’ was on the fourth side, recorded live in the studio by a pickup band including Michael and Randy Brecker. ‘Hello, It’s Me’ is Rundgren’s only top ten US hit, reaching #5 on the charts.

#1 Just One Victory

from A Wizard, A True Star, 1973
‘Just One Victory’ is the triumphant conclusion to the masterpiece A Wizard, A True Star. It’s an inspirational anthem, stuffed with auditory candy – a great bassline, gospel organ, ornate backing vocals, and frenzied guitar soloing over the last chorus. It’s a terrific climax to a terrific album.

What are your favourite Todd Rundgren songs?

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Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande. Aphoristic Album Reviews features reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.


  1. Nice list! Todd is one of my faves, and that goes way back. I haven’t listened to that much of his 90s and beyond output, so can’t comment on that. I’d add “Drive” from “Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect”.

      • I find that sometimes Todd works best on “autopilot”, where his pop instincts guide him. “Ever-Tortured” was contractually obligated (hence the joke of the title) so he didn’t put as much effort into it. Yet there are some great songs. I can do without “Drum”, the note-perfect Small Faces cover, and the Gilbert and Sullivan parody, but everything else is good.

  2. I didn’t realize bang the drum song was his. glad to see he has better ones. I don’t know his music much but know the name well because Rundgren was always right before Rush at the music store. nice write up!

  3. That’s great to hear your girls have become Rundgren fans – when I listened to that album for the list, I think I listened on headphones. Perhaps I should have it in the background one night during dinner preparation, my daughters may like the track too!

  4. Ooooo! I have Todd up in the queue soon for my own list . . . my fave solo album of his, by a long shot, is “Healing.” But the Todd songs I listen to the most these days would be from the self-titled Utopia album and the band’s “Swing to the Right.” And, of course, the gazillion great records he produced along the way too. I think when I do my list, we’ll probably only have one over-lapping song. And I’m sure any number of other folks could also come up with stellar lists that don’t over-lap with either of ours!

    • You’re right that he’s produced a gazillion good records. I think he’s produced a lot more good ones than he’s actually made himself. Especially the Psychedelic Furs one and Badfinger’s Straight Up. And also Grand Funk Railroad’s is pretty good too. And even that weird Hall & Oates concept album about the rock band,

        • I forgot about XTC. That Hall & Oates album is the only album by them that holds any interest whatsoever for me. I dislike Hall and Oates intensely. I think he is the worst singer in the entire universe. He really doesn’t sound any better on that album but it’s still kind of an interesting album just because of the whole idea of it, and because it’s the only interesting music they’ve ever made.

          • Wizard is probably Rundgren’s most acclaimed album – it’s rated first on RYM. Either that or Something/Anything. There are plenty of good tunes, just presented unusually.

          • Actually, I meant to mention that I do like the song She’s Gone. One time I had Abandoned Luncheonette on old tore-up vinyl, but the only thing I remember from it is She’s Gone.

    • My list is pretty mainstream, I reckon – a hardcore Todd fan would probably come up with something more esoteric. I’ve heard most of his solo stuff up to about 1990, but not much Utopia.

      • Your list is great . . . and there are definitely some “deep cuts” there! I just think Todd’s catalog is so deep and rich that lots of different Top 10 list would make me go “ooo!,” and I know that as soon as I finish mine, I will be reminded of other cuts and regret not including them!

  5. I don’t know enough of Rundgren’s stuff to compile a list, but I would like to mention Does Anybody Love You from A Wizard… Short, quirky and I find it very touching. The PC brigade would no doubt take issue with the line “Love between the ugly is the most beautiful love of all”, but just let the atmosphere of the whole thing bathe you, and ponder how the title relate to you.

  6. I can’t disagree with anything in your list. Some I haven’t heard in a long long time. Couldn’t I Just Tell You has become one of my favorites through the years.
    Great songwriter, performer, and I think he has produced pretty much everyone from The Band to Badfinger to Grand Funk to everything in between. I got to see him live once…with Ringo.

    • It’s cool you got to see him – I don’t think I’ve ever had the chance. My list has a few idiosyncratic favourites like ‘Fade Away’, but mostly it’s the big hits I think. I would have predicted that you’d gravitate to ‘Couldn’t I Just Tell You’. That opening guitar part sounds so good – the sound, as well as what he’s playing.

      • He only played three songs because he was part of of the Ringo All Stars…but I remember what he played… I Saw The Light, Love Is The Answer, and Bang the Drum… Love is the Answer surprised me…

  7. Great to see that Todd has finally been inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame. “Something/Anything” is his signature album and “Hermit of Mink Hollow” is very very underrated. I would have included “Piss Aaron” and “Slut” from “Something/Anything” and “Out of Control” and “Bread” from Hermit.

    • Hermit of Mink Hollow is awesome – his third best after Wizard and Something/Anything for my money. It’s so slick considering he recorded it all by himself.

      • As so often is the case with me, I think all of his best songs were the hits. Starting with We Gotta Get You a Woman and then the big ones I Saw the Light and Hello Its Me. And then the smaller hits Izzat Love and Real Man and Can We Still Be Friends and Love is the Answer, though I think it was only somebody else who had the hit with that one. And unlike a lot of people have said here, I kind of like Banging on My Drum.

        • I’ve never quite liked I Saw The Light as much as the other big songs from Something. The guitar solo is the best part IMO.

          • I like the drums on I Saw the Light. Actually, I love everything about it. I read somewhere that he said it was supposed to be a Carole King sound-alike record. I remember going to a comment section for the song on YouTube or something and they were all commenting that they thought it was Carole King when they first heard it. lol

  8. “Hello It’s Me.” After this, jeez, there are so many from his early solo albums. Maybe “The Wailing Wall” from his very overlooked second album, The Ballad of Todd Rundgren.

    • I felt bad not including anything from Ballad – it’s one of his best, but for me it’s very even with no huge standouts.

    • He’s not a household name but he clearly has a better body of work and is more talented than others who got in before him.

    • I don’t think I’ve heard a Rundgren song on the radio – no idea why they wouldn’t slip Hello It’s Me into the playlist.

  9. Did you like that Beatles sound-alike album that he did? I really couldn’t get into it even though I thought I would like it. The Beatles and Beach Boys ones that he did on Faithful were a lot better. I always liked when someone does a note for note cover of someone else’s song. I don’t know why but I think it’s fascinating.

    • I’ve never heard it l. I have a Utopia anthology – it has some good songs but not as interested as Todd’s solo stuff. I’m sure there are some Utopia albums I’d really enjoy though.

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