Tuesday, March 31, 2015

One Singularity

There are all sorts of novelty-type songs out there, from 'She Blinded Me With Science' to 'I Ran (So Far Away).'

Then there's "Bang the Drum All Day" by Todd Rundgren. That upbeat organ-driven tune with all the voices almost monotonously singing 'I don't wanna work/I wanna bang on the drum all day.'

I wouldn't listen to it normally if it were suggested to me, but it happened to unusually play on the radio recently, and I was surprised at the actual full song; I'd only ever heard the chorus, considering I'd only ever heard the song in commercials, movie trailers and other media and the chorus would be the only part featured. It's not an over-used, boring progression when you count the verses. It's not something I've heard a million times, and it's also not complicated.

Upon first hearing the organ of the chorus, I'd assume it to be a 1-5 progression like every other song, except it isn't. It's a 1-4. And it appears to be in D major, not a commonly-used minor. D to G major. On the organ, those chords with a C added in the middle.


But what really interests me is the man behind the song. I read up on Todd Rundgren and learned some impressive stuff. Obviously this isn't his only song, and he's still active. This song was produced in the middle of his career, in 1983. What's most interesting? He did everything himself.

The album this song is from is called The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect, and it was one of his last albums produced for a major record label. Apparently he produced it out of contractual obligation rather than out of personal interest, hence the title, but the point is, he did everything. He played every instrument and recorded every instrument. He engineered and produced the album, and directed the picture on the album's cover too.

Rundgren is one of those people I could consider a role model with something like that. He decided he'd rather be in control of how his songs, voice and style went, so he learned how to produce and engineer songs in the recording studio, and did it all himself. Just about any usual band at that time would hire a producer, or their label would hire a producer for them plus advance money for a studio, and then the creative team would be established and either work or not. Rundgren was his own team.

To be able to do that is one of my own goals. The only thing I wouldn't really try is sing, and even that isn't something that would be entirely off the table for me. It would just be my learning to deal with hearing my own voice, as well as acknowledging whether or not it would be nice to hear for others. But I see myself playing every instrument and recording them. I would engineer and mix my own tracks, build my own studio, create my own melodies and write my own lyrics. I'd do the art direction on the cover of the album. If a music video was warranted, I would direct it.

There's definitely people like that out there, people who want to control everything. It's good in moderation. And I wouldn't bar anyone else from contributing, nor would I micro-manage every single aspect of their contribution unless it completely had nothing to do with the direction I'd be going in. But if I meet my goal and produce a few albums, it would be all my creation with help from a few others. I have no interest in following others or working for others. No label would get my signature, if any were ever interested, unless they gave me 100% creative control over everything - and no obligations, no "five albums in ten years" type of thing.

Many artists do their work on their own, by themselves, independently. And yes, most people have no idea they exist, because they aren't mainstream, they aren't shepherded around every radio station/music video channel by a major record label. They don't have the connections to have a huge exposure. If I went the way I want to go in, hardly anyone would ever hear me.

That's perfectly fine.

If I met my goal, if I got to a point where I was producing my own albums in every aspect, I wouldn't care whether or not I had huge exposure and a website to handle my fans. Too many people are in it for the fame and money and exposure rather than the passion and the creativity. This is a side hobby for me. I create what I want so I can listen to it as well as anyone who's interested. However, I think that people like Todd Rundgren are pretty rare when they can produce a few songs by themselves and have them end up as something everyone's heard somewhere or another, the kind of thing where you recognize the tune but can't necessarily recall the name or the artists' name. My goal may not be to be famous or huge through my musical creativity and production, but if one song of mine finds its way into everyone's subconscious, if one song ends up as the kind of thing where it's almost a novelty or a recognizable-yet-forgotten tune, I'll be pretty happy. Because when someone strives to do something on his/her own through a powerful, ongoing passion that won't go away and gets recognized for it, however little or much, that's when people like that finally win. It's the underdog aspect.

If I can do something without really looking for fame, just out of passion and creativity and happiness, and get some minor exposure and acknowledgment for it that's positive, I'll be happy; I want to be someone remembered for proving and emphasizing that you can do it yourself, especially if you believe in yourself. Todd Rundgren proved that, and in a smaller way, so did Karl Wallinger (World Party). One-man team - the strength of your own efforts at work. My goal isn't to have a major hit. But if I had something minor after some real hard work, I'll be satisfied. Because I did everything myself. I didn't even have to feature a rapper.

Red Cloud
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