Make no mistake. Runt is the band that is Todd Rundgren. It’s supposedly a real band but I have my doubts. From where I sit, I guess Todd Rundgren – the Philly based anglophile rocker from The Nazz – had so much faith in his first solo album that he didn’t put his name on it anywhere. Almost. If you look closely you can see he scribbled it on some paper in the bottom right corner of the album cover. Not a confident start, really. Though a great one.
The Nazz. Now that was a band. Three great albums if you ask me. If you ask Todd Rundgren he’d give you the usual tortured artist story about only wanting to release one good album, couldn’t sing on his own songs (nearly all of them) and that the record company released sub-par material on Nazz Nazz and Nazz III. I’m not having any of it. Great records. All of them, Todd. All.
Back to Runt. It came out in 1970 and as far as I can tell, the songs fit into three basic categories. All out rockers (Broke Down & Busted, Who’s That Man?, Devil’s Bite). Tentative sad sack stuff of legend (Believe In Me, Once Burned, I’m In The Clique). Hit record attempts [We Gotta Get You A Woman, Don’t Tie My Hands (which is really part of a weirdo trilogy song thing)].
Now that we’re on the topic, Mr. Rundgren did score a hit with We Gotta Get You A Woman. I think he wrote that for Joe Namath based on a misunderstanding that Joe was tentative with girls.
This entire record is self-conscious, claustrophobic and great. It’s just plain great. I don’t understand any of it but I love it.
I’m not sure what the malady is called, but in my opinion Todd Rundgren suffered from a rare disorder early in his career where he actually believed he was a black British soul singer who became all four Beatles. Imagine the waistcoats he must own! The good news is that Todd Rundgren really knew how to overcome.
There’s something else. I can’t prove it, but I strongly suspect that Todd Rundgren taught a high school rock band and jazz combo to play every note of this album over many months fueled by Pixie Sticks, cans of Coke and the promise of groupies only to pull the rug out from under them, wipe all their performances from the master tapes and re-record every note himself. In his grandmother’s basement.
For weirdos only: I looked forever and a day to find my copy of this long player. In a move not out of character with the rock ‘n’ roll weirdo I described above, there was some controversy over the release of this album. There are supposedly three versions out there – two on Ampex Records (one with twelve tracks; one with eleven). I’ve got the less desirable ten track version on Bearsville(distributed by Ampex). Rundgren must hate putting out records! And, I had to bust my butt to find a copy of the album that wasn’t trashed. They’re always beat beyond recognition. Usually the sign of a good album (or any Black Oak Arkansas record).