Todd Rundgren was one of the 1970s true musical innovators, establishing himself as a legend in his own lunchtime over a period of about ten years. As well as boasting a prolific solo career, Rundgren was a founding member of Utopia, who recorded a heap of and-bending, exploratory and synth-driven albums throughout the 1970s and ’80s. As if that wasn’t enough, Rundgren also cemented himself as one of the most successful producers of his day, working as an engineer on classic albums like Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re An American Band (1973), the New York Dolls’ self-titled 1973 debut, the Tubes’ Remote Control (1976), Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell (1977), Patti Smith’s Wave (1979), and XTC’s Skylarking (1986).
As somebody whose career depended on an intimate knowledge of new music technology, Rundgren was destined to step into the world of synthesisers. His forward-thinking attitude was common among progressive rock bands like Pink Floyd. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Rundgren recalled meeting Floyd guitarist David Gilmour for the first time, remembering how the pair bonded over their shared fascination with synth technology.
“The first synthesiser I owned,” Rundgren began, “I was in Manny’s Music in New York City. And inside the case was a synthesiser by a company called EMS out of England – Electronic Music Systems. And it was the only synthesiser they had in the store, and I took it home. And a couple of weeks later, a month later, I got a call from Manny’s, and they said ‘uh, there’s this guy in here from Pink Floyd, his names Dave Gilmour and he’s interested in a synthesiser, but you’ve got the only one that we had, so can we connect you two guys.
Rundgren obliged, “And so Dave came down to my apartment, and we fiddled around with my synthesiser for a couple of hours. And that’s how I met Dave Gilmour.” Pink Floyd were introduced the world of EMS synthesisers by Delia Derbyshire, the pioneering electronic musician who crafted the Doctor Who theme. She took Gilmour and co to Putney studios to meet lead technician Peter Zinovieff and test out the VCS3, which would become a key element of Pink Floyd’s pioneering sound. Indeed, if you happen to have a copy of Dark Side of The Moon lying around, flip it over and take a look at the back cover. There you will see that everyone but Nick Mason is listed as performing on the VCS3.