Having grown up listening to the music of Todd Rundgren, today I finished reading the book A Wizard, A True Star: Todd Rundgren in the Studio by Paul Myers, This book chronicles the history and behind the scenes detail of Rundgren's work as a producer and/or engineer on albums such as:
- Bat Out of Hell, Meat Loaf
- We're An American Band, Grand Funk Railroad
- War Babies, Hall and Oates
- Next Position Please, Cheap Trick
- Stage Fright, The Band
- Forever Now, Psychedelic Furs
- Skylarking, XTC
So I had to laugh when I read on page 246 where Michael Cotten of the Tubes talks about Rundgren's production work on their Love Bomb album:
"...And of course, Todd's history with video goes way back. He did so many awesome things with computers too, like Flowfazer, that was just ahead of its time, all those fractal patterns just playing on your screen [as a screen saver]. We all knew the same folks, through him mostly, like the people who did the first Video Toaster, and the guy who invented AutoCAD, or the guy who did the first video synthesizer. All just amazing geniuses."
Actually, I think he means Gary Yost who was the lead developer on Autodesk 3D Studio and eventually 3D Studio Max, not AutoCAD. Of these relationships, Rundgren himself commented on page 247:
"[The Association for Computing Machinery] has these Special Interest Groups or SIGs, and SIGGraph was specifically for computer graphics. I started going to these conferences in the early 80's, when computer graphics were still very primitive and the biggest advance, at that point, was the movie, Tron. The highlight and finale of SIGGraph conference was this terrific hour-long film show packed with excerpts from all the latest experiments in computer graphics. One year Pixar debuted their famous Luxor desk lamp animation at SIGGraph. These were the people I was starting to get to know."
Who knew computer graphics pioneer Jim Blinn played trombone? Apparently, Rundgren did. On page 288 related to the recording of "The Want of a Nail" on Rundgren's Nearly Human album:
"A sign of the times was that Rundgren's trombone player for the session was Jim Blinn from Jet Propulsion Labs, whom Rundgren had met at the SIGGraph seminars. 'He played trombone in the marching band at USC,' laughs Rundgren, 'and played in the Jet Propulsion Labs Band. So we wrote in a trombone part to give him the chance to pick up his trombone again.'"
This book is a must read only for die-hard fans. I enjoyed it but recognize it is not for everyone. The book gets its title from Rundgren's third solo album from 1973 entitled A Wizard, A True Star. One side features synthesizer wizardry while the other emphasizes singing. By decoding a cipher on the album cover, the message "Be true to your word and your work." was revealed. True meant loyal to one's craft not real. Those words have stayed with me ever since.
Musical influence is alive in the lab.