Happy 35th: Todd Rundgren, A CAPPELLA

Monday, September 14, 2020
Todd Rundgren A CAPELLA Cover

35 years ago this month, Todd Rundgren released one of the most unique and ambitious albums of his career, an LP on which every sound you hear is – despite what instrument you may think you hearing – Rundgren’s own voice.

Recorded at Utopia Sound, A CAPPELLA found Rundgren utilizing an E-mu Emulator, a handy dandy piece of electronic equipment which was able to manipulate his voice to make it sound like certain instruments, handclaps, or other things which in no way resemble an actual voice. Through this piece of machinery and with a whole lot of overdubs, the album was constructed in 1984, but its release was held up by Bearsville Records’ financial situation, as the label didn’t want to risk putting out so experimental an album when they were already in tough shape as it was.

As a result, A CAPPELLA was Rundgren’s first official album for Warner Brothers, and while it would not be accurate to say that it was a blockbuster success, it did climb to #128 on the Billboard 200, and its decided uniqueness inspired a cult following almost immediately. Indeed, over the years, a number of the album’s songs have been covered by artists of note, including Jennifer Warnes (“Pretending to Care”), Paul Gilbert (“Blue Orpheus”), and – true story – John Stamos on Full House (“Hodja”).

If you’ve never heard A CAPPELLA before, we’d recommend that you start with the two most immediately accessible tracks: the cover of The Spinners’ “Mighty Love,” which closes the album, and “Something to Fall Back On,” which was the album’s bid for a hit single. After 35 years, whether it ended up becoming one or not is a moot point: what matters is that it’s still catchy as hell.


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