2 or 3 THOUGHTS ~

by Gary Hailey

Go on and poison all the water, use up all the air
Blow your stupid heads off, see if I could care
Put me down but don't blame me for what you did
'Cause inside everyone is a heavy metal kid 

The song "Heavy Metal Kids," which included the lyrics quoted above,  appeared on Todd Rundgren's 1974 double album, Todd.  I was still in college when the album but released, but didn't buy it until I was in law school.  

Back in those days, I bought a lot of cut-out albums.  As a few of you are old enough to remember, record stores used to have bargain bins with LPs that either had a small hole punched in their covers or had their upper-right-hand corners cut off.   

Why were cut-outs physically disfigured in this way?  Record stores usually were allowed to return poor-selling albums to record companies for credit.  The record companies would write down this inventory and re-sell it at a large discount to other retailers, who would offer it to consumers at half the regular price or less.  The manufacturers would punch a hole or cut the corner of the cover to prevent the retailer from selling the album at the regular price.

When I was buying records in the 1960s and 1970s, albums usually retailed for $3.99, $4.99 or $5.99.  First-generation cut-outs would go for $1.99 a bargain for an album that you knew had a number of good songs.  

I remember buying cut-out LPs for as little as 33 cents.  At that price, you could buy an album that had only one good song if you discovered that it had anything else worthwhile on it, that was like free music.

I probably got the Todd album for $1.99 somewhere in Harvard Square.  Given that it was a double album, that was a great price.  

Like most double albums, Todd has a few weak tracks, but it has a number of good ones including "Heavy Metal Kids."   

"Heavy Metal Kids" gets bonus points for attitude.  Like other classic rock songs (e.g., "My Generation" and "Get Off Of My Cloud" and "(You Gotta) Fight For your Right (To Party!)" and "Search and Destroy"), it is sung by an angry young man who is pissed off at just about anyone who is older than he is but especially his father. 

I'm not sure Todd Rundgren really meant it, however.  The second verse doesn't sound all that serious:

I must have woke up this morning 
With a bug up my ass
I think I'll just haul off and belt 
The next jerk that I pass
My old man says 
I'm just a stoned little punk
But he keeps himself a pistol
And he's always drunk

Note the lines above about the singer's hypocritical father, which are a precursor to similar lines in the Beastie Boys' "Fight for Your Right":

Your pops caught you smokin' 
And he said "No way!"
That hypocrite 
Smokes two packs a day

But the tongue-in-cheekiness level climbs even higher in the final verse.  It's an understatement to describe this verse as hyperbolic.  So I'm guessing that Todd is having a bit of fun with his audience:

I was a sweet little kid once
Now I'm a full grown crank
And when I die I'll probably
Come back as a Sherman tank
I know that I could make this world 
So peaceful and calm
If I could only get my hands 
On a hydrogen bomb

Todd Rundgren is one of the few rock musicians that I believe fully deserves to be called a genius.  Another example of such a genius is Al Kooper -- both are true renaissance men.  

Rundgren is a very good singer and musician, and he's great songwriter -- he wrote pop classics like "Hello, It's Me" and "I Saw the Light."  (Rundgren's early songwriting was heavily influenced by Laura Nyro, so he knew what he was up to from the very beginning.) 

But Rundgren is an even greater producer and recording engineer.  He is the brains behind albums as disparate as Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell (one of the ten best-selling albums of all time) and XTC's Skylarking, which is subtle and unique and ahead of its time, and which came as close to being a perfect concept album as any concept album ever released (if you stop about two-thirds of the way through it). 

He also produced albums by the New York Dolls, Badfinger, Grand Funk Railroad, Hall & Oates (no one's perfect!), Patti Smith, the Tubes (a personal favorite), Cheap Trick, and the Psychedelic Furs.  

(If you plugged those names into Pandora, I wonder what kind of playlist you would get?  It boggles the mind.)  

Click here to hear "Heavy Metal Kids."

(Gary Hailey is a father, a lawyer, a basketball referee, a biker, a voracious reader, and the author of the wildly popular music blog, 2 or 3 lines.  But not necessarily in that order.)

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