Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 40

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Welcome back, folks, to another week of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold! I want you to know that I am covering today’s song under great duress. It took me a while to get up the nerve to write about it. Even my cat tried to stop me.

Todd Rundgren – Hello It’s Me (download)

It’s not that I have anything against “Hello It’s Me.” (Actually, I have a lot against “Hello It’s Me” but we’ll explore that later.) It’s just that…remember that episode of The Simpsons where Bart becomes famous for uttering the catchphrase “I didn’t do it” on Krusty’s show? And so everywhere he goes, people want him to say “I didn’t do it?” Well, for a brief period, this blog got very Rundgren-centric. People started both discussing and requesting “Hello It’s Me.” Terje sent it to me first. Robert mentioned it in the comments. So did Elaine. Finally, Mike began subtly dropping hints in online conversations.

Mike: What’s on the plate for MG this week?
Jason: Well, I don’t know. I…
Mike: (Rundgren)
Jason: I was thinking maybe I should…
Mike: (Ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuundgrennnnnnnnnnnn)
Jason: Yeah, but I also thought that…
Mike: (RUNDGREN!)

So there’s a lot of pressure riding on this one. But I’m going to try and get it over with. There you have it, Mike. I am officially your Rundgren Monkey. (Now that’s a band name.) Hope you’re happy.

“Hello It’s Me” is really not Mellow Gold from a musical standpoint (from a musical standpoint, it’s a Carole King ripoff), but lyrically, OH MY GOD. It easily ranks up there with some of the very, very wimpiest of the wimpy.

Men have, for years, been implored to really get in touch with their soulmates. No more of this sitting-on-the-couch-and-watching-the-game bullshit. “Communication is essential. Talk about your feelings.” Todd Rundgren almost singlehandedly flipped that entire movement on its ass. “Hello, It’s Me” is so rife with emotional rambling that Todd should be sending every penny he made on this song to the people who were forced to listen to it. Think of it as a therapist fee.

Shall we take a look at these emasculating, damn near embarrassing lyrics?

Hello it’s me
I’ve thought about us for a long, long time
Maybe I think too much but something’s wrong

Ahhh, a Mellow Gold benchmark: contemplating your inadequacies, right in front of the girl woman lady to whom you’re singing. Well done, sir Rundgren!

There’s something here that doesn’t last too long

Okay, this isn’t even close to proper English, is it? When I was five years old, I wrote a song that rhymed “moon” with “baboon.” I feel like even then, I had one up on Todd.

Maybe I shouldn’t think of you as mine

Okay, just in terms of rhyming patterns, is this supposed to rhyme with “time?” That seems to be the only thing I can come up with, but for some reason, I’m thinking this pattern sucks.

Wait, he’s got more to say.

Seeing you
Or seeing anything as much as I do you

Yup, that’s right. “Seeing anything as much as I do you.” It’s like they had a contest to try and write the most awkward lyric.

I take for granted that you’re always there
I take for granted that you just don’t care

Just when I thought this song couldn’t get any dumber, it gets dumberer. So what are we talking about here, Todd? What’s up with this relationship? The first line tells me that the problem is that you’re not happy. The second line implies it’s the other way around. Unless you mean that she just doesn’t care if you treat her horribly. Are you both unhappy? Is it because you wrote this song and she had to listen to it? And did you know that there’s now a third unhappy party? Hello, it’s me!

Sometimes I can’t help seeing all the way through

Sometimes you can’t help seeing WHAT all the way through? The relationship? This goddamn song? I’m pulling my hair out listening to you ramble!

Oh shit, here comes the chorus.

It’s important to me
That you know you are free

If it’s so important to you, why can’t you sing those lines, you big sissy? Admit it! You pussed out! You figured: she hasn’t been listening to anything else I’ve said, I might as well try getting someone else to help put the point across! They’re like little gnats, buzzing around our ears. Please, Todd. Kill them.

‘Cause I never want to make you change for me

And there you have it, folks: with that one final line of the chorus, Todd Rundgren officially threw his hat into the ring for the Wussiest Line Ever. Somewhere, England Dan felt his ears getting hot, and he knew he had a challenge on his hands.

Think of me
You know that I’d be with you if I could
I’ll come around to see you once in a while
Or if I ever need a reason to smile

I’ll freely admit that I can be a tad dense sometimes, so please, help me out here. Am I missing the meaning behind this song? I still don’t understand who’s breaking up with who here. Is he breaking up with her because he’s a jerk? Am I just a maroon for trying to figure this all out? Is this why nobody will talk to me anymore? Maybe I think too much but something’s wrong.

Anyway, if the song ended here, we’d know that Todd had was a first class Fogelberg, through and through. But then, suddenly, Todd’s penis interrupts.

And spend the night if you think I should

You gotta love it. You just gotta love it. The man can’t help but just throw that little hint in there. But he’s smart: he makes it look like it’s not his idea. No, no, no! It’s important to him that she knows she’s free! But, you know, if she thinks he should, well, then. “Okayyyy…I guess if I have to…” And you know what? Todd’s pretty smart. After hearing this song, I imagine the girl woman lady would have done just about anything to get him to shut up. Well, done, sir! Well done! Your cunning little plan worked!

And yet…there is something 100% irresistible about this song, isn’t there? Once it’s in my head, it’s in my head for hours, and I honestly don’t mind it. I find myself singing it aloud. I think it must have to do with the music: those beautiful, minor 7 and 9 chords, and that key-change near the end, which I have to admit is pretty kick-ass. Those keyboards. The trumpet. It’s not Mellow Gold in the slightest, but man, is it catchy. Still, though, I’m overpowered by the lyrics. It makes me feel like maybe Todd Rundgren shouldn’t have sung this song. It should have been sung by Woody Allen, or some other nebbish-y, accountant-type guy.

[audio:http://www.wwmmd.net/tunes/inline/helloitsnebbish.mp3]

It’s official: I’ve lost any trace of dignity I had left. By the way, this is the voice of the guy who does my taxes.


So what could be worse than listening to this incessant rambling (either me or Todd)? How about listening to a version so unbearably slow that Rundgren’s version is referred to as “the uptempo version?” I’m dead serious.

Nazz – Hello It’s Me (download)

Yes, this is the version Rundgren recorded with Nazz, his psychedelic garage band from the late ’60s. When it started, I was wondering if maybe I was playing it at the wrong speed. Enjoy…or don’t. Either way, it’s time for us to move on to some video!

[youtube]1Y0JBWz_rdE[/youtube]

Behold! RUNDGREN, IN ALL HIS NIPPLED GLORY! This video could also be subtitled Todd Makes It A Point To Touch Every Fucking Hand In The Audience. I imagine this entire crowd came down with the flu shortly after the show.

By the way, if you listen carefully to the studio version of “Hello It’s Me,” you may notice that Todd attempts to riff/scat on the vocal. It’s kind of a mess, but it’s back in the mix and relatively subtle. Around the 2:17 mark of this video (or 1:45 if the counter’s going backwards), Todd goes for some falsetto riffing and fails so miserably that he makes LeBon’s Live Aid fuckup look like a Pavarotti performance.

Well, there you have it. That’s as much as I can glean out of this one for the day. I’m sure you have many thoughts about this Mellow classic, and I can’t wait to hear them. In the meantime, I’m going to go back and listen to this song again. I kinda love it. See you next week for yet another Adventure!

  • I’m racing to grab my iPod to hear the Nazz’s Open My Eyes. Ah … that’s better. Late ’60s garage rock at its best.

    Of course, I can’t hear Todd Rundgren without thinking of Beavis and Butthead.

    BEAVIS: Maybe it’s Todd … Rrund-gren.
    BUTTHEAD: Who?
    BEAVIS: You don’t know who Todd (another pause) Runnndgren is?
    BUTTHEAD: Huh huh … no. And neither do you.
    BEAVIS: Huh huh … oh yeah.

  • The budweiser ferret is dead. Long Live Jason’s Woody Allen’s voice!

    Note to Jason’s adoring fans, he undersold my involvement here. I basically browbeat him into doing this song. I have unprecedented access to him. If you want him to do a song, I’m the guy to talk to, and I take cash,

  • Dw Dunphy

    "Hello, It’s Me" in essence: She’s your booty call. She may think she’s your girlfriend-lovah-lay-deh but no, she’s just your booty call. Does she know that’s all she is? How do we suss this out? Let’s spin verbal rings around her implying that you CARE SOOO MUCH for her and that she cares soooooo little for you. Yeah, make her feel guilty. You’re not confusing her; she’s confusing you! In fact, it’s all just words. Words, words, words complicating this "love" between us. C’mon, girl-baby-honey-concubine, I need more than words to show me how you feel! Offer me taco!

  • Whitefish!awesome.

  • I have always loved this song,and have pointedly avoided analyzing the lyrics for the reasons stated above.  I’d even stick up for the Nazz’ slower version: it has a very nice coda and an extra lyric at the end, "Sometimes I thought it wasn’t so bad." I’ve just spent the past 15 minutes trying to decide if this line puts the rest of the song in perspective.  It doesn’t, really: it’s merely an extension of the ambivilent-regret-residually horny sentiments that preceded it.
    Actually, the whole Something/Anything? double album is fantastic – especially "Couldn’t I Just Tell You?," which gives birth to power pop as we know it today.

  • JT

    The ferret is great. Love that. But the Arnold Horshack was mighty good too. So – how was the kugel?

  • Rocky

    That song got him laid by this:
    http://www.lovelylivtyler.com/info/family/pictures/mbebe.jpg

    Obviously it spoke to someone.

  • blowitoutyourass

    tis a beautiful song that was written in and performed over thirty years ago. sad that you can only deconstruct it in a cynical, ironic way.  which song of yours can we piss on? Oh, only this bullshit blog.have you considered wellbutrin?

  • …and here come the hits from Best Week Ever!  Welcome, Todd blowitoutyourass and others!  Please stick around – it only goes downhill from here!

  • Without cynicism and irony, there would be no Internet. I hear they’re making decaf that tastes just like the real thing now, Ass — perhaps you might want to switch your brew…

  • Wow.  I love this song, but not enough to berate someone who wants to humorously pick at the lyrics.  It’s all in good fun, BIOYA, I promise.  Not all snark is in good fun, mind you, and I know Jason’s gotten annoyed by Stereogum’s snark before, so it’s hard to tell what we’ll each consider "over the line."  But Jason does mean well.  And Rundgren has a good sense of humor (I met him once for roughly five minutes, so I’m going to pretend I know everything about him as a close, personal friend), so I’m sure he’d be cool with this too.<br><br>Now, back to work, and back to not having enough time to comment here since I’m still computerless at home.

  • Dw Dunphy

    In defense of Jason, like he needs defense from me, Rundgren is a member of The New Cars. That entitles us to feast on the Snark Of Plenty, filled with the fruits of scorn, derision and jealousy that we weren’t able to write it first. Yes! Snark Of Plenty! Get yours at Pathmark, Walgreens, Rite Aid or wherever cornucopia is/are sold!

  • Irony??? heheh, the sad truth is that without the irony and the cynicism here we’d probably look like "Dominic: King of All Benny Fans" (look it up in Jason’s archive.) Sometimes it’s a fine line between the "irony-filtered affection" for music displayed in posts and comments here and Dominic’s genuine fandom. But "Hello It’s Me" is a great song and a potentially ridiculous one, and of course Jason should make fun of it.

  • I was never a fan of this song, but I’m a BIG fan of the Woody Allen-ish  version.

  • Bebe Buell’s book makes Todd look like a tool. But then again, Bebe Buell wrote it! I think Rundgren is one of the most musically uneven artists out there. It’s frustrating that he could hit homeruns like "Couldn’t I Just Tell You" and then come out with the material he did throughout most of the 1980s.
     

  • As anyone who suffered through the movie Duets can tell you, this is also the song that is guaranteed to turn Paul Giamatti into a rabid karaoke addict.

  • Dw Dunphy

    I know this point will be moot when the Chart Attack! goes up (because no one will read down here at that point) but Joe Jackson’s cover of Rundgren’s "Couldn’t I Just Tell You" beats the pants off the original, then makes it perform puppet shows.

  • Elaine

    BRAVO, JASON!  You did this Mellow Gold Classic justice.  It’s sappy and nonsensical, just like it should be, and you described all the same lines, just the way I hear them.  "Baby, I’m a new age, enlightened man.  No hang ups here.  No commitment.  I know you want to sleep around.  It’s what guys do, and girls should be free, too.  Free love, baby.  That’s what it’s all about.  Hey, lady, [reaching back for guitar] that sounds like a song.."  Will Ferrell should play Todd in the movie.  And, in appreciation, here’s one more Bebe shot for you all:   http://www.playboy.com/girls/playmates/personal/bebebuell/&nbsp;

  • I remember when he got all tough and political in Utopia’s "Hiroshima," which ended with the chorus: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Don’t you ever forget–don’t you ever fucking forget–HIROSHIMA!!! (Boom! fizzzz [sound fx]). It was a lushly orchestrated toughness. Tough lush Rundgren. And probably on my death bed some semblance of "Hello It’s Me" will be running through my thoughts at some point–so damn catchy and annoying, yet truthful in its "sensitive cad" construct.

  • Rocky and Elaine, you two are cruel for linking to Bebe Buell pictures we can’t access! Were either of you trying to link to the shot of her wearing nothing but a T-shirt with Rundgren’s face on it?

    I read the parts about Rundgren in her book — yes, she makes him look like a tool, but when she says Prince wrote “Little Red Corvette” about her even though they’d never met, she looks like a tool herself. I think I commented on this before on this site: Buell thought Prince was saying “Bebe, you’re much too fast” instead of “Baby, you’re much too fast,” and even in 1983, about six years past her celebrity prime, she still considered herself popular enough in the rock community that Prince, who was relatively new to the scene, would want to reference her in a song. Good grief …

    Dw, I like your theory about the song quite a bit. Rundgren is manipulative but trying to appear sensitive. I think we all knew a guy like this in college. He got all the women while I fumed about being oversensitive and not smart enough to be manipulative. Poor fucking me. I haven’t heard Joe Jackson’s cover of “Couldn’t I Just Tell You”; I’ll have to look that up. Smudge, an Australian band, did a down-tempo cover of it in the ’90s that’s nice. I feel like I’ve heard another cover of the song somewhere before.

    Jason, your Woody Allen impression is frighteningly close to the actual voice of Poison’s C.C. DeVille. What do you think of bandmate Bret Michaels’s new reality show, C.C.? And is Bret bald underneath all those cowboy hats and bandannas? Is that what he’s trying to cover up?

    Miss Lisa, when Todd gets serious it’s not pretty — have you heard “Sometimes I Don’t Know What to Feel,” where he talks about a car crushing “a little dog under its wheels”? Or “Bag Lady”? Not in your wheelhouse, Todd! Back away!

    I remember seeing that “Hello It’s Me” performance on VH1 Classic five years ago. Not the best performance, but still fun to see Rundgren doing it without irony, because these days he half smirks his way through it.

  • Of course the one week I don’t have internet, the song I’ve been begging for all along goes up! Kudos on the lyric analysis, it does contain some of the most awkward lyrics ever put to tape, but I suppose I always figured Todd knew just how cheesy and wussy the lyrics were, but either didn’t care or just thought it was funny. Considering so much of the album is kind of a joke, I guess I assumed this one could’ve been too — but I think I’m giving him way too much credit, especially when you consider some of the cheesiness of his older songs.

  • Oh, and does anyone by chance want to upload that Joe Jackson cover?

  • Probably one reason he smirks through the song now is because, as Blow It Out Your Ass pointed out, he wrote it nearly 40 years ago. I think he wasn’t even 20 yet when Nazz started. Are any of us still thrilled with stuff we wrote in our late teens?

    By the way, is it just Nazz or is it THE Nazz? I don’t think “The Nazz” ever appeared on their album covers. And what’s up with Rhino’s edition of “Nazz III”? Everything I’ve read about this album says that Rundgren’s vocals were erased on the final product, but his voice is clearly the one singing “Loosen Up” and “You Are My Window.” Anyone know what the deal is?

  • jon

    Jason, you made my wife’s day.  She was looking for "Hello It’s Me" and discovered that it’s not available on itunes or emusic, except the recent "Todd and friends" version.  Apparently Todd has a friend who thinks that everything goes better with Velveeta-cheesy sax solos.   She enjoyed the humor in your posts, esp. the one about Paul Davis’ speed metal phase.  I told her that bloggers appreciate comments, and she told me to do it.  Yes, dear!  That’s the way I roll, Paul Davis style.

  • Jon,

    "Hello It’s Me" is very much available on iTunes – I think I count at least 16 instances of the song by Todd on there, let alone all the other weenies who have covered it – but I’m glad that the search for the tune led you and your wife here.  Anybody who has a better day as a result of Mellow Gold in #1 in my book.  Hope you guys will stick around!

  • I did a search for "Couldn’t I Just Tell You" on iTunes and discovered a bizarre country version…the sample I listened to featured the exact same solo — played on a pedal steel. Actually sounded kind of good.

  • Dave

    Thanks alot. I tried to read this at work on the sly, but my cube mates noticed the milk exploding out of my nose and the tears rolling down my cheeks when you got to the “spend the night if you think I should” part.

  • nancy z

    Thanks for a good laugh. I’ve always taken “Hello Its Me” at face value. Gosh, he must be a super sensitive guy to say those things. Do I feel dumb! Still love the song but whenever I listen now I chuckle a bit.

  • anonymous arranger

    FWIW, I found this article because I am currently being forced to listen to this song over and over while editing an arrangement of it for a contract assignment, and am struck by pretty much all the same things as you. So strongly that I wondered if I just wasn’t getting it, so I did a search on “hello it’s me insipid” and got nothing relevant. But my second try, substituting the word “wimpy”, brought me right here.

    Actually, while all the grammatically awkward and seemingly contradictory phrasing is bad enough, what really gets me is the line “it’s important to me / that you know are free”, especially in combination with the bit about spending the night. My read: this guy is your stereotypical deathly-afraid-of-commitment womanizer, trying desperately to sell his lack of interest in a relationship as concern for the freedom of his potential partner. Basically, a big con job in hopes of getting her in the sack every once in a while.

    In other words, it’s the plot to every musical or movie where the dyed-in-the-wool cad meets and for some reason chooses to woo some straight-laced girl who has no idea who the guy really is. Think, for example, “Music Man”, or “Grease”, or “There’s Something About Mary” (Matt Dillon’s character, not Ben Stiller’s, obviously). And probably dozens more of lesser repute. Oh sure, in the movies the guy often turns out to really be a softy at heart, and the girl a bit of a wild woman, and they all live happily ever after. Yeah, right. Check in with them again in a few years.

    I know, it’s only a movie^H^H^H^H^H song. But I guess it bugs me this one (“Hello, It’s Me”) was ever written, much less became a hit.

  • anonymous arranger

    Oh yeah, also “The Wedding Singer” – like “There’s Something about Mary”, a movie where the cad stays a cad and the nice guy actually gets the girl. I’m sure you can think of more. Anyhow, try watching the video and imagining it as being an outtake from one of those movies – my favorite image is thinking of Rundgren as John Travolta singing to Olivia Newton-John.

    Obviously, I’m being unnecessarily harsh on the song. Really, I just think this article is funny, and wanted to respond in kind.

  • Bill M

    The words you write sound to me like words of someone who’s envious that he didn’t write the song.That or they’re an attempt to be comical that falls just shy. I guess the fact that it was such a commercial success means that everyone that listened to it and liked it must be an idiot. This song’s melody and the awkward honesty in the lyrics are the things that make it so brilliant. You probably don’t even know what a maj7 chord is but this classic track is full of them. They add a true emotional dynamic that other smash hit songs of the era lacked. Your description of Todd’s “scat singing”, as you call it is way off and is proof that you are close to tone deaf and don’t fully understand music, keys and scales. You probably won’t read this anyway since it’s 6 years later.