Monday, April 8, 2019

Todd Rundgren’s Book | Lefsetz Letter

The Individualist: Digressions, Dreams & Dissertations

He definitely wrote it.

And no one proofread it.

This surprised me. Rundgren’s a known quantity, he almost made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I figured it was finally time for his autobiography. You know, you hire a ghostwriter, tell your tale, sling a little dirt, and you’re done. Another exercise in capital attainment.

That’s not what “The Individualist” is.

The mistakes drive you wild, it makes the whole affair appear amateurish.

But I couldn’t put the book down.

This is not “The Dirt,” insider stories that make your jaw drop.

And the funny thing is…other than the end, when Rundgren owns up to his family obligations, you don’t really like him.

But you learn so much.

We know the career arc. You play bars, you have hits, you were on VH1’s “Behind the Music,” and now you’re playing sheds every summer to pay your bills.

That is not Todd Rundgren. He is truly an individualist. Experimenting, confounding expectations, alienating others while he satisfies himself.

Every page is a chapter. He says you can read it out of order, but I wouldn’t, it’s written chronologically.

And what you learn is his father never showed affection, he was bad in school, and when he left home at eighteen, he was gone for good.

And all the usual topics are not covered. How he learned guitar, the ins and outs of his career. Instead, what you get is how Todd felt during all of it.

We tend to think of these musicians as stars. You read “The Individualist” and you end up thinking of Rundgren as a musician. Which is kind of funny in today’s era. Yes, he takes digs at the internet world now and again, but he’s moving forward, and not always successfully, but he keeps going.

Talks about being in Nazz and failing, about taking Marlene to London and her disappearing. That might not mean much to you, but if you bought and listened to “Something/Anything?” you’ll understand.

Engineering and producing records under the aegis of Albert Grossman, paying the man what he didn’t deserve to go free.

Living with two women in one house at the same time. It’s not what you think. One has started playing for the other team. As for Bebe Buell…he’s got not a single good word to say. But you hear him struggling. He doesn’t think this is forever, but he can’t break it off.

And in the middle, after his success, he buys an around the world Pan Am ticket and visits Morocco and Turkey and Iran and India…even buys a moped to get around. This is not the rock star lifestyle, this is little different from the way you or I do it, or even college students, albeit with more money in traveler’s checks.

And Todd admits to going bankrupt.

And he’s not a love everybody kind of guy, he calls out the injustices and bad behavior he sees.

And there’s a lesson on every page.

But he sums it all up at the bottom of page 95. Something radically different from what we see in the music business today, something we’re yearning for, the individualist.

“Most people, if they have a calling, will likely not realize what it is. Conformity is still the foundation of most societies and if your calling takes you too far out of the mainstream you are on shaky territory and nothing is guaranteed. But if you can succeed at it you’ll find that many have tried and failed to survive on that barren plain and if you do survive you represent their hopes. Your calling is to hold that ground. You are the individualist.”

If you’re a Todd Rundgren fan, you should read this book.

If you’re not…you may not catch the references, but this is the journey of a man who was loath to repeat himself, who went his own way, a wizard, a true star.

He’s a beacon.


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