Music Review: Spin the Black Circle: Todd Rundgren’s ‘Something/Anything’ | arts and entertainment


If my wife was thinking like a young version of rock star Todd Rundgren, her request would have gone like this:

“Couldn’t I just tell you how I feel, I can’t keep it locked inside,

“Record milk crates are a big deal, they drive me crazy. …”

Instead, he came out, “You’re not in college anymore. Aren’t you a little old to have boxes of milk discs lying around everywhere? »

Well, we have managed to find many compromises in nearly 28 years of married life. Those old typewriters that sat in the garage for decades, unrepaired? OK, they’re gone. Box after box of old newspaper issues and clippings? Yeah, I could condense them.

But not my record collection. It’s hard to think of inanimate objects that have given me more pleasure in my half-century of life than my stash of vinyl. Sell ​​or (gasp!) throw away my vinyl cases? With my cold, dead hands!

(I did, however, move the cases of records to the closet.)

Anyway, if I didn’t have a couple hundred records and a trusty turntable in the basement of my Yakima house (it’s pictured with this column), how could we be talking about the 50th anniversary of the one of the greatest rock albums?

Rundgren does anything, anything and everything

“Something/Anything” is the third and probably best solo album from Rundgren, a guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer who first appeared on the scene in the late 1960s with his Philadelphia rock band. The Nazz. They are best known for their 1968 rocker single “Open My Eyes” (which had an early version of “Hello It’s Me” as its B-side).

Rundgren had left The Nazz as a musician and producer of other bands in the early 1970s, so he did all three-quarters of “Something/Anything” – writing all the songs, playing all the instruments and recording everything. singing. He then invited a group of fellow musicians (one of whom, keyboardist Moody Klingman, would co-found rock band Utopia’s debut opus with Rundgren) to perform side four of the double LP live in the studio.

What makes “Something/Anything” so great is hearing Rundgren play just about every type of song and musical style that he would attempt during his long rock ‘n’ roll career, and like Rolling Stone noted in their review of the album, pretty much everything works.

His greatest hits, “I Saw the Light” and the solo version of “Hello It’s Me”, are here, as well as perhaps his most influential rock song, “Couldn’t I Just Tell You”, a gem of power pop that he performs live to this day. It was one of the highlights when I finally saw Rundgren live, at the 2000 National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Michigan.

(A National Cherry Festival in Northern Michigan, rather than Washington State? That’s a debate for another time).

Rundgren also lets loose his guitar on the heavy-metalish “Black Mariah”, previews Utopia’s three-manual attack with the instrumental “Breathless”, flexes his ballad-writing muscles with “Torch Song”, shows his love of covers with “Money (That’s What I Want)” and showcases his wicked/unique sense of humor on “Piss Aaron”, “Some Are Even Whiter Than Me” and “Slut”. He also has a few spoken song intros throughout the album that poke fun at the recording industry and himself.

The vinyl experience

Finally, “Something/Anything” is one of those rock albums that is pleasant to listen to in its original format: a long-lasting vinyl record. There are 25 songs and around 90 minutes of music here, but you can tackle it one side of the album at a time.

This double album debuted in February 1972 (and so did I!), and at that time rock fans would play the record on their turntables, closely examine the cover and read the liner notes/lyrics to find clues to the meaning of the music. and the intention of the artist. There were no Wikipedia articles for that…and the fun was in the discovery.

Yes, I was a little young to appreciate “Something/Anything” and Rundgren’s almost equally good sequel released the following year, “A Wizard/A True Star”, but the music always meant something to me when I bought the used vinyl records as a teenager. As I listened, I enjoyed perusing the interior photo of Rundgren silhouetted in the studio, standing on a table covered in newspapers, bottles and pizza boxes with recording gear and instruments strewn behind- plan. I wish my bedroom was as cool as this!

In short, listening to music on vinyl was – and is – an experience, not just background noise. It was a great way to pass (or some would say waste) your time as a teenager and young adult, much less harmful than other time-wasting vices, and (IMHO) much more fun than watching YouTube for hours.

In fact, vinyl records are so much fun that it’s not just us old Luddites who love them. Since the dark days of metallic-sounding CDs and the Napster file-sharing service in the late 1990s, vinyl record sales have slowly but surely seen a resurgence in popularity.

British music magazine NME noted that in 2021 vinyl record sales were the highest in 30 years. A survey conducted by the magazine the same year showed that members of “Gen Z” – people born between 1997 and 2012 – are more likely to buy vinyl than their previous generation of Millennials, with around 15% of them regularly buying vinyl albums in 2020. And that was during a global pandemic.

Data like that puts a smile on this analog man’s face and inspired me to flip through my LP collection and share some thoughts on the records in this monthly column. Some of you might recognize the name of this column as the title of a song by a Pacific Northwest stalwart, and believe me, we’ll get to that. But if there’s anything else you’d like me to review—or if you just think I should shut up and go back to my basement—I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Until then, Yakima Valley… in the words of Todd Rundgren, keep a cool head and you’ll be fine.

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