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.
In 1974, just as Rundgren has released his highly celebrated experimental album Todd, the musician sat down with Melody Maker magazine for an interview about his new material. Somewhere down the line, however, 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? He’s an important figure, sure. 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.
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.
Read Lennon’s full letter, below.