Thursday, 9 November 2017

Influential Albums #5 – Todd

About the fourth time I listened to this, I thought I understood the first track.  It’s called ‘How About A Little Fanfare?’, and it begins with Todd enunciating seven heavily distorted syllables that make no sense at all, except that they’re followed by a loud, cacophonous, well, fanfare.

So at that fourth listen, I clapped on the cans, dropped the needle into the groove, and heard a very quiet pre-play of what was to follow – the fanfare…  the syllables suddenly made sense… “how was that little fanfare, that little fanfare…?”
I’ve never been able to make it happen since.  Presumably you have to hit the run-in groove at exactly the right point to hear it; or else I was hallucinating – this was 1974.
I’ve just listened to sides 1 and 2 of this album (I still can’t make the little fanfare play again, but I swear it exists, somewhere out there in the vinyl exosphere) and would like to explain, in three simple paragraphs, why it’s influential.
1.     Todd Rundgren was a pioneer explorer of the electronic creation of music.  Synths had of course been used extensively in pop from 1968 onwards, but no-one had previously built an entire album around these totally constructed sounds and playing – the latter including his early use of sequencing technology to make a machine perform licks and riffs that not even the most proficient human would be capable of replicating.
2.     He was also a pioneer in the techniques of self-performed, self-produced multi-track recording. Although many other musicians are credited on the internet as having performed on the record, including the Brecker brothers who obviously did the horn parts (Todd egocentrically doesn’t name anyone but himself in the original cover notes), it’s obviously mostly him.  This made me begin to understand that just one person, given the right kit and skill-set, could make music from scratch.
3.     It contains one of my Desert Island Discs.

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