tic tic tic (it hasn't worn off)

when i was 17 or so i met a girl called carol. she was a student nurse who liked talking about her work in some detail. possibly too much detail. anyway, she stole my heart (no, really) but more importantly she also stole my copy of todd rundgren's 'a wizard a true star'. it was some years before i got round to replacing it - i generally preferred 'Todd' and 'Something/Anything', even 'Faithful". besides, it always sounded shit on my stereo.

actually AWATS sounds shit on any stereo, but that's some of its appeal. the drums sound like cardboard boxes. there's not much bottom end. much of the time the meters must have been well in the red. it feels like the tape's almost giving up under the strain of massive overdubbing, halfspeeding, looping and god knows what; synths, glockenspiels, masses of tortured guitars and more backing vocals than you get on the average x-factor winners song. but todd is, well, a genius. AWATS marked his first experiences with psychedelic substances, and it shows. you still get pop songs of a harmonic sophistication that's up there with anything brian wilson or paul mccartney or anyone you could mention ever managed, but laced with an increasing desire to make strange, silly and occasionally overwhelmingly beautiful noises with anything he coud get his hands on. and there's his lyrical capacity to be spiritual, sarcastic, stupid and tender, sometimes all in the same song. compare AWATS to his previous records, and you'll wonder exactly what was going on in his head. you could still trace the reference points - the beatles, laura nyro, the beach boys, jimi hendrix, the who, motown. but they were much fainter this time.

though i'm sure acid hasn't featured in todd's diet for some years, it's part of his appeal that for the most part you still wonder what's going on in his head. when chris told me that todd was going to perform AWATS live for (i think) the first time in its entirety, i wondered how he was going to perform this heady studio confection of proto electropop/prog/soul/psychedelia, even with a big band. it really seemed genuinely misguided to attempt it.

by the time i met fellow todd obsessives sarah and of course, chris (without whom we would not have been there and to whom massive thanks is due) and settled down in ye olde hammersmith apollo (nee odeon) i had worked myself up into an almost ridiculous sense of excitement about the gig. luckily i wasn't the only one.

AWATS was scheduled for the second half, so we speculated on the contents of the first. while none of us would have been silly enough to expect a greatest hits set or even a complete performance of todd's bonkers cosmic synth epic 'a treatise on cosmic fire', i bet none of us expected a set of blues classics by robert johnson and elmore james, played in a sludgy, metallic, occasionally shambolic but apparently sincere fashion. but that's what we got. chris suggested foghat as a reference point, which didn't seem too far off the mark.

so what does go in his head?

if certain sections of the audience were less than impressed with this, they didn't show it too much. but when the opening throb that heralded the start of AWATS kicked in, everyone went bonkers, or as much as their medication would allow. up go the curtains, and then there's todd singing 'international feel' in a SPACESUIT. and so began a ridiculous eries of costume changes which featured todd as a chef, glam rock star, wizard, a transvestite, even donning an inflatable fat suit for 'just another onionhead'. the music was immaculately dispatched, silly time signatures and stylistic jumpcuts all intact. no john siegler alas, but we did get ralph shuckett from the original album. the encore was reserved for 'just one victory' and there was no more. but it didn't matter. chris said that everytime he'd seen todd he'd fluffed the opening to his big moment guitar solo at the end of that song. and this one was no different (see below - roundabout 6.40). but that didn't matter either. i think it's partly why we love him so much.


Ralph said...

Totally with you on student nurses and their role in a young man's development Peter. I remember hearing a girl describing what she did on 'catheter care' duty, and realising that if she could do that all day she probably wouldn't be completely repulsed by me. And she wasn't.
Fraid I don't get Todd though, in fact catheter care would be preferable.
cheers Ralph

Peter said...


Matt said...

Just listening to Sunset Boulevard - so that's where Prince got his ideas from!

Peter said...

ph yes. mr prince was often seen hanging about at todd shows, according to legend.

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