Todd Rundgren, the ‘White Knight,’ at the Peak
Todd Rundgren says he remembers when he previously played Penn’s Peak: “It wasn’t that long ago. I remember wondering on the way to the gig if we were going to a farm or something. That’s how remote it seemed.”
“An Evening With Todd Rundgren” is at 8 p.m. Dec. 2, Penn’s Peak, Jim Thorpe.
The rock legend is expected to perform classics he has written and sung, such as “Hello It’s Me,” “I Saw the Light” and “Bang the Drum All Day,” as well as new songs from his 2017 album, “White Knight.”
Rundgren’s 1972 double LP, “Something-Anything?,” was a smash hit. Rundgren played all the instruments, did the vocals, and produced the album, which catapulted the Upper Darby, Delaware County, native into the superstar limelight with the hits, “I Saw the Light” and “Hello It’s Me,” the latter at No. 5 his highest-charting song.
The press dubbed him “Rock’s New Wunderkind.” Throughout his career, Rundgren has produced an eclectic range of recordings as solo artist and producer and collaborator. He has also been at the cutting edge of recording, video and computer technologies.
Some of Rundgren’s songs are enmeshed in American culture, having touched decades of fans. The singer-songwriter does not take full credit for that.
“Ironically, I don’t try to get into the fans’ heads or figure out what they want to hear. It’s always been about … explaining the way I think and react to the situations I’m in. I guess it works because everyone shares a lot of the same motivations and reactions,” Rundgren says in a phone interview.
Rundgren has produced albums in many rock genres, including The Band’s “Stage Fright” (1970), Badfinger’s “Straight Up” (1971), Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band“ (1973), the New York Dolls’s “New York Dolls” (1973), Hall & Oates’s “War Babies” (1974), Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” (1977), Patti Smith Group’s “Wave” (1979) and XTC’s “Skylarking” (1986).
Rundgren composed music for four episodes of TV’s “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” (1986 - 91) and for “Crime Story” (1986 - 88), and the movie, “Dumb and Dumber” (1994). In 1986, he sang a duet with Bonnie Tyler, “Loving You’s a Dirty Job but Somebody’s Gotta Do it,” released on her album, “Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire.”
After graduating in 1966 from Upper Darby High School, Rundgren moved to Philadelphia and began his rock and pop music career in Woody’s Truck Stop, and then, in 1967, the Nazz, which released three albums. Rundren’s solo album, “Runt,” released in 1970, charted a hit with “We Gotta Get You a Woman.” Rundren’s “Hermit of Mink Hollow” (1978) include the hit ballad, “Can We Still Be Friends.”
In 2017, Rundgren released “White Knight,” which features collaborations with Trent Reznor, Daryl Hall, Joe Walsh and Donald Fagen, among others.
Rundgren says that “White Knight” differs from earlier works in that it’s a true collaboration:
“Since I moved to Kauai [in the Hawaiian archipelago] in the ‘90s, most of my recordings have been one-man projects, simply because it’s prohibitive to call up a player on the mainland and have him pop by for a session.
“I decided that ‘White Knight’ should be more consciously collaborative, a process that’s a lot easier now that there are so many file-sharing services like Dropbox and Hightail. As a result, the music goes to places I might not have taken it alone.”
Rundgren’s ongoing projects include playing with Ringo Starr & his All-Starr Band. The evolving super group features Rundgren, keyboardist Gregg Rolie (Santana, Journey), guitarist Steve Lukather (Toto), bassist Richard Page (Mr. Mister), others, and, of course, the former Beatles drummer.
Rundgren was the opening act for the band Yes’s 2017 summer tour, “Yestival,” a United State and Canada tour, plus a cruise, which celebrates Yes’s five decades of music-making.
In addition to Penn’s Peak, the latest leg of Rundgren’s “White Knight” tour which began Nov. 19 and continues through Dec. 31, stops in New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, and California.
The band includes Prairie Prince, Kasim Sulton, Jesse Gress and Greg Hawkes with the Global Girls, Ashle Worrick and Grace Yoo.
Rundgren’s talents, ranging from songwriting to producing to computer graphics and video technology, are a result of his need for diverse creative outlets.
His interest in video and computers led to his “Time Heals” (1981) being the eighth video played on MTV. “Change Myself” (1991) was animated by Rundgren on an Amiga computer.
“Doing the same thing all the time burns me out,” Rundgren says.
“As much fun as I have playing with Ringo & the All-Starrs, the fact that it’s basically the same set for the last six years drives me crazy. I’m a curious person and my brain needs constant stimulation with new things to think about and learn.”
As to where creativity will take him next, Rundgren says, “As far as I know, the world. Between my own tours, packaging with ‘Yestival’ and the All-Starrs, I will have covered most of the U.S. by the end of the year. In 2018, we conquer the planet.”
As for future projects, Rundgren says, “I’m just wrapping up my autobiography - Part One, the first 50 years. I don’t yet have a release date, but it’s probably early 2018. Then, back on the road.”
Tickets: Penn’s Peak Box Office, 325 Maury Road, Jim Thorpe; pennspeak.com; ticketmaster.com; 800-745-3000