TODD RUNDGREN’S UTOPIA

TODD RUNDGREN’S UTOPIA – “DISCO JETS” (1976)

Rundgren’s got a humongous discography, online made up of both his solo stuff and the work he did with Utopia, and after having taken a listen to just about the entirety of his output a few months ago, I have to say that 90% of it is total dreck, bland and forgettable MOR meanderings. But there’s a few good moments, such as the back-to-back albums “A Wizard, A True Star” (1973) and the completely genius “Todd” (1974).

Utopia was a band that started out with serious prog chops in the early ’70s, but by the early ’80s had become neutered, watered down into a generic pop band — much like all the rest of the ’70s prog heavy hitters. Utopia began pretty fiercely, though, and buried deep within their frantic output is an album called “Disco Jets” (1976), which remains unreleased, Apparently at the time, Utopia’s label was unhappy with the band turning in an album that was largely instrumental, and devoid of hits, so it chose to shelve it. I think it’s an alright slab, full of wanking analog nuttiness.

I’ve also included Utopia’s first album here as well — it’s a total monster, and it’s a record that’s always overshadowed by the singer/songwriter-y stuff that Rundgren was mostly known for.

Todd Rundgren’s Utopia – “Disco Jets”, 1976 (ZIP file)
Todd Rundgren’s Utopia – s/t, 1974 (ZIP file)

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1,320 Responses to TODD RUNDGREN’S UTOPIA

  1. c-stein says:

    That self titled debut of Utopia is amazing and kicks the ass of many progbands of the seventies. Inspired, raging, virtuoso and a must have for analog synth enthusiasts.
    The main track The Ikon is a 30 minute epic that gets never boring. The way all the different themes are combined in a blazing finale is just fantastic.
    This lineup of Utopia (including three keyboard players) was totally different than the popcombo that emerged soon after that (including Roger Powell (toured with Bowie during his “Stage” period and Kasim Shulton (also assiociated with Meat loaf)).

  2. FrF says:

    Thanks to ECR for another great post! But…that 90% of Rundgren’s output is quasi-unlistenable seems like a very high estimate. Let’s put it to test and come up with at least 5-6 great Todd albums to falsify ECR’s math :-)

    I’d like to add Something/Anything? (1972) and A Capella (1985) to the list of those records already mentioned.

  3. Jude says:

    The production levels he achieved for all his 70′s projects is scintillating. So lofty and spheric. Love this guy. And, oh yeah, there’s no practical reason for shelving Disco Jets for any reason. Just… wow (still).

  4. Roger_Camden says:

    Rundgren’s A Wizard, A True Star is a favorite of mine
    it sits as a glam rock anomaly
    Todd covered himself in feathers and stage make-up
    and delivered a well-recorded weird rock album
    only a short time earlier he’d had hits like “Hello, It’s Me”
    I used to throw Zen Archer on mix tapes

  5. FrF says:

    Btw, the zip files/links to “Disco Jets” and “s/t” are interchanged (or at least they were a couple of hours ago)!

    “Utop1″ contains “s/t” and “Utop2″ contains “Disco Jets”.

    This could be useful information for those who can’t be bothered about one of the two albums.

  6. schlep says:

    I’d never heard of this “Disco Jets” project! Loved the original prog Utopia band.
    I agree that by the mid 70s Todd’s output get very scrappy, and the pure vision of his earlier stuff got bogged down in a lot of bad taste mistakes and myopic mysticism – however every one of his (and Utopia’s) albums, no matter how wretched or embarrassing, always seemed to contain one or two tracks that were made of the same brilliant stuff as Todd, AWATS, Something/Anything…it made it very difficult to completely give up hope – I have a shelf full of elpees to prove it.
    Anyway thanks so much for sharing this!

  7. eRacerX says:

    Long time Todd fan. AWATS was my first purchase, afetr hearing ‘Hello…’ on the radio. Bought almost everything since then, and I can not disagree that not every record is a gem – but whose output is ‘perfect’ anyway?
    The Utopia live shows were fantastic, and I saw every tour…I think.
    I happened to catch Todd solo with a tape machine 10 years ago. He was abysmal. It was depressing, hear my old hero go sour.
    But, I love him anyway. He opened my eyes (pun intended) to a lot of other music and artists.
    Thanks Todd
    – H.

    • Leslie says:

      I also saw the show where Todd introduced the ‘band’ and it was a boom box. I loved it! It just Todd. He played in an 100 year old dance hall where the dressing room was the men’s bathroom. He playedpiano, guitar, ukukele, and sang his heart out. I totally enjoyed seeing my Godd do his thing, his way. He was very talkative to the audience; very charming. It was an up close and very personal show. I loved it.

  8. Joe E says:

    What made you listen to his whole catalog (include ALL the live albums?) if you weren’t enjoying it? (Two dozen solo records, a dozen with Utopia, 3 with Nazz, at least a dozen more live…) And surely he should be acknowleged for beautiful songs on “Something/Anything”, “Runt: Ballad of Todd Rundgren”, “Hermit of Mink Hollow”, “Faithful” “Todd” and the first two Nazz albums. And recording engineer/producer of classic albums by The Band, Grand Funk Railroad, XTC and others. And I’m fond of the pop songs on the 1982 self-titled Utopia…as AMG says, “They had their moments before, but Utopia is where the band finally made a thoroughly enjoyable record.”

  9. Joe E says:

    In case anybody’s interested, the british and japanese CD reissues of all Todd/Utopia albums sound significantly better than the US versions.

  10. Mushroom says:

    90%? This might explain why the only song I remember getting played on the radio is “Set Me Free.” :)

  11. chris_c says:

    thx – am a big fan – am thoroughly wrecked – sounds superb!!1

  12. zappafan says:

    90% the other way….there’s so much good material. Liars is right up there. Utopia from 1983, POV, Nearly Human, Healing, Deface the Music, Ra, Runt, Ballad of Runt…..sorry, I disagree…

  13. stateguy says:

    If anyone has a “live” recording of the AWATS shows, please run it up somewhere. I live in Fla. and couldn’t get out to any of the shows. I can only hope he continues this gig.
    Also, in ’73-’74 Todd toured with Utopia and played a version of “In and out the Chakras we go(formerly titled Shaft goes to outerspace)” and the version was totally cool. Have been trying to find a “live” recording of that, too. It actually had the theme from Shaft in the song melody.

    Also, Arena was the last show here in our market and it was great to hear the guitar brought back out and it rocked.

    Anyone?

  14. Utopiagren says:

    Todd and the boys should be in the rock hall for all the innovations that they brought to music. the man is a sheer genius with how he would write, play, produce, and engineer albums by himself. I had tons of bootleg stuff on vinyl that I will be looking for.

  15. ianinspain says:

    Thank God, (Toddly enough!), that he can still polarise opinions, I’ve bought all his albums since ‘Wizard’, and then went back to ‘Something’ and the earlier ones, including ‘Nazz’. First listening to ‘Ikon’, blew me away, still does 35-36 years later. He comes into, and goes out of favour, (English spelling!), but never disappoints, his high ground is still higher than 99% of other musicians, his lows are still interesting, even if they don’t thrill you. Who cares what or when, it’s Todd, be grateful that we’re around while he is.

  16. I was trying to win a bet, trying to track down the origin of Disco Jets and came across your post. I’m sorry to hear read about your low opinion of Todd and Utopia. I wish there was some message that I could send you that could help you see the light. If you’ve never seen him perform live, then that might explain things, but still I’d have to agree with some of the other comments. IMHO Todd and Utopia should both be in the R&R HOF. Well I guess we’re all only human and if we all liked the same things then Rock and Roll wouldn’t be as meaningful as it is. Peace. Todd is God.

    “The whole universe is a giant guitar” Last of the New Wave Riders – Adventures in Utopia

  17. zappahead says:

    The first utopia album is sheer bliss….followed todd for years ever since his spat with lennon in the new musical express letters section…good fun…thanks for sharing this and very much appreciated….cheers.

  18. mark rauch says:

    howdy,
    Thank you for the link to this 2 CD download. I am still seeking the 3 CD download. I WILL download this one, but I’m trying to find a recording, (or different versions of), the 74 Utopia line-up doing a full concert without editing to hear live versions of “The Ikon, Utopia theme, & Mr. Triscuits”. I know Mr. Triscuits was later, I have the 4 man version from London, I’d like to hear it, 6 man, without edits also. If “Freak Parade” was longer in concert, I’d really like to hear that also. Thanx. All your help is greatly appreciated. If “Spark of life” was performed, Wow! Rig

  19. mark rauch says:

    howdy,
    OOps. I already have purchased those recordings, (2 of “Todd Rundgren’s Utopia). Disco jets and Utopia. I am looking for full length concerts from 1974 & 1975. Any help would be appreciated.
    Rig

  20. mark rauch says:

    howdy,
    I have everything Todd ever released. Sometimes up to 5 different copies of the same work, (LP, worn out, LP, cassette, CD, (worn out), CD. A couple bootlegs , (London, Cleveland). Is it asking too much to buy a couple unedited live concerts from 74 and 75? Utopia Mk. 2 only came here once back then, I hadn’t discovered them yet, and still had a month of high school!. It was 95 miles away. AWATS tour didn’t get within 800 miles of here. Why am I not allowed to buy this stuff? I want to hear 2 or 4 or 8 full length concerts with 6 guys on stage, (not B/G singers). Rig

  21. mark rauch says:

    Howdy,
    Somebody? Anybody! Full length 6 man band gigs. I saw the 4 man band in 79 and 81. Saw the Traparatus. without the sphinx and pyramid. Not the same. Full length, unedited Utopia theme, full length Mr Triscuits, (6 man version). 60 minute version, (or longer), of “The Ikon”. WHERE!!!??? WHERE!!!???
    billbigrig@yahoo.com

  22. Al says:

    There are several bootlegs available from 73 on up. There will be a full set of what were King Biscuits and BBC radio shows released soon. Keep your eye on Amazon.com.