March 1973: Todd Rundgren Releases A WIZARD, A TRUE STAR

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

In 1972, Todd Rundgren had a creative and commercial breakthrough with his instantly classic third album, Something/Anything. Scoring a top 5 hit with single "Hello It's Me," the artist was poised to roll right into another single-generating album and tour in 1973. Rundgren, however, had different ideas.

On March 2, 1973, Todd Rundgren released A Wizard, a True Star, created in his freshly minted New York recording studio, Secret Sound, built from the money made with Something/Anything. The LP arrived with a strict "no singles" edict, especially notable considering the album's 55-minute running time. The record's first side was a wildly experimental and panoramic pastiche of rock guitars, synthesizers, classic AM pop explosions and more.

"I made this crazy record called A Wizard, a True Star, in which I threw out all the rules of record making and decided I would try to imprint the chaos in my head onto a record without trying to clean it up for everyone else's benefit'" Rundgren revealed during his 2017 commencement speech at Berklee School of Music. "The result was a complete loss of about half of my audience at that point. But ... Trent Reznor and other artists have cited that as being a major influence on them and so I have a special pride for what essentially was my act of tyranny after having achieved commercial success. This became the model for my life after that."

While the album was famously panned by critics, peaking at #86 on the Billboard 200 for the week of May 26, 1973. The #1 LP in America that same week: The Beatles 1967-1970 compilation, replacing the previous week's chart-topper: Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy.

"You never know the actual impact of what you do today and how it will actually turn out in the future," Rundgren extolled at the conclusion of his commencement speech. "That album, A Wizard, a True Star, which was such an abomination to everyone at the time it came out, eventually became a signature moment in my career and I hope everyone will feel the freedom and the fearlessness to undertake that when the time comes, because you may find that's your defining moment."

FUN FACT: the album's opening track, "International Feel," was featured in Daft Punk's notorious film, Electroma.