We’re dipping into the Far Out vaults to look back on a feud which had two vicious wordsmiths on either side, each one capable of words so cutting it would leave you in ribbons. In the red corner, we have John Lennon and in the blue corner, we have Todd Rundgren.
Todd Rundgren, the prolific multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and record producer with no fewer than 24 studio albums, once found himself in the middle of a high-profile public spat with John Lennon. It’s a confrontation that despite his protestations, still helps Rundgren book shows to this day.
In 1974, just as Rundgren had just released his highly celebrated experimental album Todd and on the promotion run, the musician sat down with Melody Maker magazine for an interview about his new material. But Rundgren didn’t stay on topic and soon enough the man of the moment, John Lennon.
Somewhere down the line, the conversation turned to former Beatle Lennon and Rundgren wasn’t about to hold his tongue: “John Lennon ain’t no revolutionary. He’s a fucking idiot, man. Shouting about revolution and acting like an ass. It just makes people feel uncomfortable,” he said.
He added: “All he really wants to do is get attention for himself, and if revolution gets him that attention, he’ll get attention through revolution. Hitting a waitress in the Troubador. What kind of revolution is that?” mused Rundgren clearly perplexed by the rose-tinted glasses with which people view the Fab Four. “He’s an important figure, sure,” Rundgren continued, “But so was Richard Nixon. Nixon was just like another generation’s John Lennon. Someone who represented all sorts of ideals, but was out for himself underneath it all.
“Like the Beatles had no style other than being the Beatles. So the Nazz used to do, like heavy rock, and also these light, pretty ballads with complex ballads,” he concluded. Rundgren must’ve known the backlash that was coming his way with these words and he likely planned it for a few extra column inches.
Right there, as Rundgren exploded in what was supposed to be an easy-going promotional interview, Melody Maker knew they had found themselves at the centre of the biggest story in music at that time. While Lennon had faced some criticism in his career prior to this moment, Rundgren’s comments had taken things to a whole new level.
Lennon though, forever quick-witted in reply to negativity, took it upon himself to respond to Rundgren by writing an open letter which as addressed to ‘Sodd Runtlestuntle’ and made not-so-subtle digs throughout—including a suggestion that Rundgren had copied a melody created by the Beatles.
“I like you, and some of your work, including ‘I Saw The Light’, which is not unlike ‘There’s A Place’ (Beatles), melody wise,” begins Lennon, clearly aiming some barbs at Rundgren. What follows a systematic dismantling on Todd Rundgren from none other than John Lennon. After admitting he “did act like an ass” at the Troubadour and that he liked attention, Lennon sharpened his tongue for a real lashing.
“I don’t represent anyone but my SELF,” writes Lennon before smirking, “It sounds like I represented something to you, or you wouldn’t be so violent towards me. (Your dad perhaps?)” The singer continues, clearly offended by The Beatles jibes, something Lennon himself was quite fond of doing: “Which gets me to the Beatles, “who had no other style than being the Beatles”!! That covers a lot of style man, including your own, TO DATE…..”
He finishes the letter with the kind of fake kiss that can start riots: “Anyway, However much you hurt me darling; I’ll always love you.” It makes for a perfect example of Lennon’s famous caustic wit and his insatiable appetite for letter writing.
Read Lennon’s full letter, below.
[su_box title=”John Lennon’s letter to Todd Rundgren: ” box_color=”#dadada”]AN OPENED LETTUCE TO SODD RUNTLESTUNTLE
Couldn’t resist adding a few “islands of truth” of my own, in answer to Turd Runtgreen’s howl of hate (pain.)
I like you, and some of your work, including “I Saw The Light”, which is not unlike “There’s A Place” (Beatles), melody wise.
1) I have never claimed to be a revolutionary. But I am allowed to sing about anything I want! Right?
2) I never hit a waitress in the Troubador, I did act like an ass, I was too drunk. So shoot me!
3) I guess we’re all looking for attention Rodd, do you really think I don’t know how to get it, without “revolution?” I could dye my hair green and pink for a start!
4) I don’t represent anyone but my SELF. It sounds like I represented something to you, or you wouldn’t be so violent towards me. (Your dad perhaps?)
5) Yes Dodd, violence comes in mysterious ways it’s wonders to perform, including verbal. But you’d know that kind of mind game, wouldn’t you? Of course you would.
6) So the Nazz use to do “like heavy rock” then SUDDENLY a “light pretty ballad”. How original!
7) Which gets me to the Beatles, “who had no other style than being the Beatles”!! That covers a lot of style man, including your own, TO DATE…..
Yes Godd, the one thing those Beatles did was to affect PEOPLES’ MINDS. Maybe you need another fix?
Somebody played me your rock and roll girl private song, but I never noticed anything. i think that the real reason you’re mad at me is cause I didn’t know who you were at the Rainbow (L.A.) Remember that time you came in with Wolfman Jack? When I found out later, I was cursing cause I wanted to tell you how good you were. (I’d heard you on the radio.)
Anyway, However much you hurt me darling; I’ll always love you,
30th Sept. 1974[/su_box]