Whether a solo artist or a band, "Runt" had a top 40 hit in the US with "We Gotta Get You a Woman" in 1970, and two other Runt songs placed in the lower reaches of the Hot 100.
By 1972, the "Runt" persona/band identity was dropped, and 1972's Something/Anything? was credited simply to Todd Rundgren. Rundgren wrote, played, sang and produced everything on three of the four sides of this double album. His music during this period (later classified as an early form of power pop) was profoundly influenced by soul music, '60s pop/rock (especially The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Phil Spector), and the chord progressions of Laura Nyro and Carole King. He sometimes demonstrated an interest in other genres as well, however, such as hard rock and experimental music. Something/Anything? featured the top 40 US hits "I Saw The Light" (an original song, not the Hank Willimas classic), and a remake of the Nazz near-hit "Hello It's Me". The former song featured Rundgren on all vocals and instruments.
Though Rundgren never completely abandoned his popular music influences, by the mid-1970s, many of his compositions were stretching themselves into something akin to progressive rock. 1973's transitional A Wizard, a True Star caught the beginning of this trend, which came to fruition in 1974's Todd and 1975's Initiation. His music during this period addressed cosmic themes, showing a strong interest in spirituality (particularly Far Eastern religion and philosophy), and displayed the musical influence of psychedelic rock, as well as the avant-garde jazz fusion of contemporary acts such as the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Frank Zappa. When touring, the music was presented in a lavish stage setting that echoed the ambitious space-themed shows of acts like Parliament/Funkadelic. Rundgren (who had adopted an outlandish space-rock image on stage) was often seen playing the eye-catching psychedelic Gibson SG guitar that Eric Clapton played in Cream. Rundgren auctioned off the original guitar, and he now owns a reproduction.
His 1976 album Faithful marked a return to the pop/rock genre, featuring one side of original songs and one side of covers of significant songs from 1966, such as "Good Vibrations" and the Yardbirds' "Happening Ten Years Time Ago" (the B-side of that Yardbirds single gave Nazz its name). Faithful was followed by Hermit of Mink Hollow (1978); this included the hit ballad "Can We Still Be Friends," which was accompanied by an innovative self-produced music video. Subsequent solo releases included the album-long concept work Healing (1981), the New Wave-tinged The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect (1982), which featured the minor novelty hit "Bang the Drum All Day," and A Cappella (1985), which was recorded using Rundgren's multitracked voice, accompanied by arrangements constructed from programmed vocal samples. In 1986, Rundgren scored four episodes of the popular children's television show Pee Wee's Playhouse.
Nearly Human (1989) and 2nd Wind (1991) were both recorded live - the former in the studio, the latter in a theater before a live audience, which was instructed to remain silent. Each song on these albums was recorded as a complete single take with no later overdubbing. Both albums marked, in part, a return to his Philly soul roots. 2nd Wind also included several excerpts from Rundgren's musical Up Against It, which was adapted from the screenplay (originally titled "Prick Up Your Ears") that British playwright Joe Orton had originally offered to The Beatles for their never-made follow-up to Help!.
After a long absence from touring, Rundgren hit the road with Nearly Human - 2nd Wind band, which included brass and a trio of slinky backup singers (one of whom, Michele Gray, Rundgren married). He also toured during this period with Ringo Starr's All-Starr band.
The next few years saw Rundgren recording under the pseudonym TR-i ("Todd Rundgren interactive") for two albums. The first of these, 1993's No World Order, consisted of hundreds of seconds-long snippets of music that could be combined in various ways to suit the listener. Initially targeted for the Philips CD-i platform, No World Order featured interactive controls for tempo, mood, and other parameters, along with pre-programmed mixes by Rundgren himself, Bob Clearmountain, Don Was, and Jerry Harrison. The disc was also released for PC and Macintosh and in two versions on standard audio CD, the continuous mix disc No World Order and, later, the more song-oriented No World Order Lite. The music itself was quite a departure from Rundgren's previous work, with a dance/techno feel and much rapping by Rundgren. The follow-up, 1995's The Individualist, featured interactive video content that could be viewed or in one case, played; it was a simple video game) along with the music, which was more rock-oriented than No World Order.
Rundgren returned to recording under his own name for With a Twist, an album of bossa-nova covers of his older material. His Patronet work, which trickled out to subscribers over more than a year, was released in 2000 as One Long Year. In 2004, Rundgren released Liars, a concept album about "paucity of truth" that features a mixture of his older and newer sounds.
In early 2008, Todd launched his official myspace page.
Todd is currently working on a new rock album titled Arena set to be released September 30, 2008.
Rundgren has long been on the cutting edge of music and video technologies. His music video for the song "Time Heals" was among the first videos aired on MTV, and a video he produced for RCA (accompanied by Holst's "The Planets") was used as a demo for their videodisc players. His experience with computer graphics dates back to 1981, when he developed one of the first computer paint programs, dubbed the Utopia Graphics System; it ran on an Apple II with Apple's digitizer tablet. He is also the co-developer of the computer screensaver system Flowfazer.
In the 1990s, Rundgren was an early adopter of the NewTek Video Toaster and made several videos with it. The first, for "Change Myself" from 2nd Wind, was widely distributed as a demo reel for the Toaster; he also used the system for videos from No World Order (songs "Fascist Christ" and "Property"). Later, he set up a company to produce 3D animation using the Toaster; this company's first demo, "Theology" (a look at religious architecture through the ages featuring music by former Utopia bandmate Roger Powell) also became a widely-circulated item among Toaster users. Most of Rundgren's Toaster work is available on the video compilation The Desktop Collection.
Rundgren composed music for the 1986 TV series Pee-wee's Playhouse and Crime Story as well as the movies "Undercover" (a/k/a "Under Cover") (1987), and Dumb and Dumber (1994), plus background cues for several other TV shows. He hosted a syndicated radio show called "The Difference" in the early 1990s.
As the Internet gained mass acceptance in the mid-1990s Rundgren, along with longtime manager Eric Gardner and Apple digital music exec Kelli Richards, started Patronet, which offered fans (patrons) access to his works in progress and new unreleased tracks in exchange for a subscription fee, cutting out record labels. The songs from Rundgren's first Patronet run were later released as the album One Long Year. Since then, Rundgren has severed his connections with major record labels and continues to offer new music direct to subscribers via his website, although he also continues to record and release CDs through independent labels. (However, as of November 2007, the PatroNet.com website offers the following message: "PatroNet is undergoing a major software revision and is not accepting memberships at this time.")
In the summer of 2001, Rundgren joined artists such as Alan Parsons, The Who's John Entwistle, Heart's Ann Wilson and Ambrosia's David Pack for the successful "A Walk Down Abbey Road" tour, in which the musicians played their own hits alongside Beatles favorites.
Rundgren toured the US and Europe in 2004 with Joe Jackson and the string quartet Ethel, appearing on Late Night with Conan O'Brien performing their collaborative cover of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". (video)
In early 2006, the new lineup played a few private shows for industry professionals, played live on The Tonight Show and made other media appearances before commencing a 2006 summer tour with the re-formed Blondie. The band sounded surprisingly unchanged from their previous incarnation, and many for the first time noted a similarity between Rundgren's vocals and Ocasek's; although Rundgren did not seem to have altered his style significantly to fit the songs originally sung by the uniquely-inflected Ocasek, the performances were nonetheless fresh and well-received. (In addition, Sulton performed Orr's songs with great credibility and sensitivity, the classic Drive being a highlight of the shows.)
Rundgren has referred to the project as "an opportunity ... for me to pay my bills, play to a larger audience, work with musicians I know and like, and ideally have some fun for a year."
The New Cars' first single, "Not Tonight," was released on March 20, 2006. A portion of the song is featured on a promotional teaser for the band online. A live album/greatest hits collection, The New Cars: It's Alive, was released in June, 2006. The album includes classic Cars songs (and two Rundgren hits) recorded live plus three new studio tracks.