Video of the Week: Todd Rundgren and Utopia’s Spot-On 1980 Beatles Parody


Todd Rundgren’s band Utopia, with whom he released albums sporadically while maintaining a solo career (think Phil Collins and Genesis) explored both short-form pop and ambitious progressive-leaning rock. They also released one of the great Beatle parody works, their 1980 Deface the Music album.

In the above Spinal Tap-esque retrofied video the band perform “I Just Want to Touch You” while evoking Ed Sullivan shows of yore and the “I Want to Hold Your Hand” Beatles era. Other tracks from Deface the Music explore later period Beatle tunes, sending up “Eleanor Rigby”, “Penny Lane” and others.

Utopia were also responsible for the original recording of England Dan & John Ford Coley’s hit “Love is the Answer”, written by Rundgren.

Songs You May Have Missed #485


Todd Rundgren: “Onomatopoeia” (1978)

Love seems to have a variety of effects on Todd Rundgren. On the one hand, it inspired beautiful and timeless ballads like “Hello it’s Me”, “I Saw the Light” and “Can We Still be Friends”.

But it also can, as he puts it, “rearrange my brain in a strange cacophony”. A series of sound effects bring Todd’s dysfunction vividly to life. One suspects the studio wizard had studio time to fill, or needed one more song to fill out the album. Or perhaps he simply wanted to show off his studio wizardry. Whatever–your small children will love it.

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Songs You May Have Missed #354


Todd Rundgren: “Tiny Demons” (1981)

One of the more successful of Todd Rundgren’s adventurous studio experiments, “Tiny Demons” was included, along with “Time Heals”, on a 7″ single that came along with his 1981 Healing LP, much like Stevie Wonder included a bonus EP in his Songs in the Key of Life album.

Rundgren could be a confounding artist to follow: his singles were as “pop” as anyone’s, but were seldom representative of the albums from which they came. Therefore the masses tended to becomes fans of his hits without necessarily becoming fans of the artist. Conversely, his dedication to exploration of a wide variety of styles and ideas earned him a loyal cult following. All of his 70’s and early 80’s work is worth exploring, and treasures like this are to be found throughout.

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Songs You May Have Missed #132


Todd Rundgren: “Emperor of the Highway” (1983)

Wherein Todd, ever restless with pop form, casts his ode to arrogant drivers as Operatic Duet:

I am the Emperor of the Highway/I wield the Universal Will/One might chance to overlook my Divineness/Unless I’m sitting in the Imperial Poupe de Ville

I am the Emperor of the Highway/Strapped with foolish mortals such as these/ I need never indicate my intentions /I can stop and go and turn just as I please/For I am the Emperor of the Highway!

Hold! Methinks that thou hast driven too far/I am the Royal Prince of Foreign Sports Cars/Better that I should drive a wheelchair or jog/Than to be blown off by a Regal Road Hog

I am the Emperor of the Highway (Where did you ever get that gas sucking pig of a car?)/This time my friend, you are outclassed (Any real man would drive a stick shift)/For my uncle is the Duke of the State Police (Cut me off again and I will punch your lights out)/And he will place his Royal Boot upon your Ass (This is my exit, we shall meet another day)

Don’t forget who’s Emperor of the Highway/For I am the Emperor of the Highway!

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