Rundgren on rock hall induction process: 'I have inside information … and it's bizarre' – Canton Repository

Todd Rundgren said he didn’t envision still playing music for a living at age 73 when he was a teenager writing “Hello It’s Me,” a song that would become a hallmark of his career.
“Well, I became a musician partly out of desire and partly out of the fact that I had no other options,” he said during a telephone interview last week. “I was so terrible at school that I was never going to college. My family couldn’t afford it anyway, and I didn’t qualify for any sort of scholarship.”
And “Ringo Starr used to opine about what he would do after The Beatles,” Rundgren said, laughing. “He would open up a chain of hair salons. That’s what everybody thought in those days. You don’t make a career in pop music. You’ve got a couple of years and then you get serious.”
So “it wasn’t that I couldn’t imagine it, but at that particular time, you just never knew it was going to happen,” explained Rundgren, a pop-rock and progressive-rock singing and songwriting legend known for a diverse range of styles.
Decades ago, Rundgren also couldn’t imagine being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which wasn’t established until the 1980s before opening in 1995.
But he’s not a fan of the institution, and Rundgren won’t attend his own induction Saturday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, a day after his concert Friday at Canton Palace Theatre.
“It’s not something I dwell about,” he said of joining the hall. “But I do have inside information about how the whole thing works, and it’s just bizarre.”
Formerly a member of the bands Utopia and Nazz, the musician will be performing in Cincinnati at The Andrew J Brady ICON Music Center on the night of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
“For me, I was 35 when they started the rock hall, and I didn’t really see the point of it at that time,” Rundgren said. “And also was convinced, and I think history has backed that up, that when you call it the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, you have to be quite scrupulous about who you induct into it — both in terms of who should be included and in terms of who shouldn’t be included.
“So you get all kinds of grief about Madonna being in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame … and grief from me also about people who should have been in there and are not. Like Bettye LaVette … who’s a personal friend of mine and still performs and never stopped performing.
“And (she) had R&B (rhythm and blues) hits in the ’60s, but just was kind of a victim of the record industry in a way.”
Produced by Live Nation and presented by SiriusXM, “The Individualist, A True Star” tour began Oct. 1 in Boston and will finish on Nov. 17 in San Francisco.
The tour also includes two other Northeast Ohio shows on Nov. 6 and 7 at MGM Northfield Park Center Stage.
Rundgren also is known for the songs, “I Saw the Light,” “Bang the Drum All Day” and “Can We Still Be Friends.” Production credits include albums by Meatloaf, Cheap Trick, the Patti Smith Group, The Psychedelic Furs, Grand Funk Railroad and the New York Dolls.
Rundgren’s tour is requiring all concert attendees to provide printed proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event or full vaccination for entry.
The COVID documentation check tent opens at 5:30 p.m. Friday outside the Palace Theatre. Will call and the box office open at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at roughly 7 p.m. and the concert starts at approximately 8 p.m.  
For more details on the tour’s COVID policy, visit https://cantonpalacetheatre.org/
Tickets for Friday’s concert are $43.50, $53.50 and $75 plus service charge, and available at https://cantonpalacetheatre.org/ or www.ticketmaster.com/
Tickets also can be purchased at the Palace Theatre box office from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and by calling 330-454-8172 during those same hours.  Any remaining tickets will be sold at the door starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Rundgren’s tour celebrates his 1973 album “A Wizard, A True Star,” described by promoters as “an ambitious and experimental, two-side masterpiece,” plus other songs spanning his career, according to Live Nation.
Here are excerpts from the recent interview with Rundgren, who was engaging, in-depth with his answers and at times humorous when reflecting on his career and elaborating about why he will skip the rock hall induction.
Has it surprised you how impassioned fans have been about lobbying for your induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
“I think, for me, since I never built a big presence on radio, I always sort of felt that I was … playing into a chasm of some kind, into a deep, dark hole and never knew what the impact of it was or how people sort of felt about it, and I was kind of surprised to learn that there was actually loyalty out there for me.
“And I think … as regards to the Hall of Fame, it started kind of early when fans would get together and collect money and buy a little ad in Rolling Stone magazine every time that the ceremony or the nominations whatever were scheduled to be announced. So the fans were there long before I ever was.”
Asked about his issue with some musical artists being overlooked by the hall, Rundgren said, “So in that regard, there’s still lots of work to do in terms of filling in the blanks and the history of rock and roll, R&B and the blues, which are all kind of related.
“… So yeah, there’s so much unfinished business in that regard. And I don’t even know what they’re going to come up with in the next 10 years … to try and keep the number of nominees at least up to a half dozen or something like that.
“… And I’m sure if I had a little time to do the research, I could come up with many more names (of bands and artists deserving of induction). In fact, I would say it would be more legitimate to include some jazz founders as well as actual contributors to the greater picture of rock and roll because there … are in some artists … elements of jazz. So yeah, if I ruled the world, the whole process would be different.”
After all of these decades, why do you still tour and make music?
“I think it keeps me healthy. I don’t do anything like the kind of physical work that I do when I’m on the road. When I’m at home, geez, if I would go out maybe and chop down bamboo for two hours, it might be comparable to what I have to do on stage, but I think the reason why I still have the stamina to do it, the reason why my voice still holds out, is because I never stopped doing it.”
In 1993, you released what was considered the first interactive album in history in the Philips CD-i format. Tell me about your interest in music technology.
“Unfortunately, their device never reached a level of acceptance before other formats kind of swamped it. … It was the ability using an interactive device to kind of cruise around the music in a different way. And be able to sort of disassemble it in some sense. In other words, listen to it without the vocals or listen to it with fewer instruments, that kind of thing. And the idea came about because the audience had already started accepting sampled music.
“One of the things that sort of convinced me that this was viable was the song of the year, ‘U Can’t Touch This’ by MC Hammer. It was actually somebody else’s song. It was a Rick James song, but using just pieces of it he turned it into a whole different piece of music.
“And I realized that’s somewhat revolutionary. It points up the fact, something that musicians know, which is the pool of ideas is very limited. The kinds of things that people are willing to listen to isn’t infinite. We have a western 12 tone scale, and usually, we only use half of it when we’re writing music. So there’s only so many kinds of melodies that people will listen to.”
Why do you enjoy performing at historic venues such as the Canton Palace Theatre?
“There’s just a lot of fond memories of like the Fox Theatres … (because they were) not simply great sounding places and great places for an audience to go to, but (had) a lot of architectural history as well…
“So, yeah, the theaters represent the kind of like a golden age in touring — for me anyway.”
You have released some new fun new songs this year featuring Rivers Cuomo of Weezer and the rapper Narcy. Is making that music as much fun as it sounds?
“… Having been in lockdown actually slowed down the process of completing my latest record because so many of my collaborators couldn’t get in the studio. … so it altered the process a bit, but anyone … who had some access to recording equipment in their own home or something like that could still work.
“But it wasn’t really that necessary because I took a different approach on this record as opposed to ‘White Knight’ in which I wrote most of the material. … This latest one is me taking all the fragments that the collaborators have given me and trying to turn them into like finished products, and so in some cases, my fingerprints are nearly invisible.”
Reach Ed at 330-580-8315 and ebalint@cantonrep.com
On Twitter @ebalintREP

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