Todd Rundgren – “Hello It’s Me”

I have yet to meet anyone who says that they dislike this song. This one is on my list of favorite songs, and although it’s about a guy ending a relationship with his girlfriend,  Rundgren’s voice pitch is amazing, and almost makes you feel as though he’s hurt to have to end the relationship, but it’s something that has to be done.  He still wants her to think of him and will still come around every once in a while, or if he ever needs a reason to smile, and spend the night if she thinks he should, in which this could also be taken as he wants to have his cake and eat it too. It’s a great song!

Rundgren wrote this song, which takes us through a phone call where the singer breaks up with a girl. It’s a remarkably realistic account, devoid of sweeping metaphors typically found in breakup songs. We hear the one side of the phone call, which starts with the familiar greeting, indicating they’ve been together a while. Then they have “the talk,” where he hashes out why they can’t be together and lets her know that she should have her freedom. All he can ask in the end is that she thinks of him every now and then.

Remarkably, it was the first song Rundgren ever wrote. In his teens, Todd was an avid listener to music but it was only when he put The Nazz together at the age of 19 that the young musician realized he’d better start penning some material. He attributes the sophistication and success of this song to the vast amount of listening he’d done by the time he wrote it.

A specific musical inspiration was the Dionne Warwick song “Walk On By,” written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. ” I hadn’t thought much about the songwriter’s role previous to listening to that record and realizing how different it was, how it had all the qualities of music that I admired, and yet it also was a song,” Rundgren said in his 2018 Songfacts interview. “That was the first time I really started to, in my own head, deconstruct what a songwriter was doing. That song had a lot of influence in ‘Hello It’s Me.'”

This was originally recorded by Todd Rundgren’s late 1960s band The Nazz, and included on their 1968 debut album. This dirge-like version with lead vocals by Stewkey Antoni received little attention and made just #66 in the US. The Nazz broke up in 1969 and were fondly remembered after the fact. “It turns out now that The Nazz was everybody’s favorite undiscovered group,” Rundgren said in 1972, the year he released his third solo album Something/Anything, which contained a mid-tempo version of this song that eventually caught on and was issued as a single in September 1973, reaching No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, established Rundgren as a solo artist.

This song, and many others Rundgren wrote at the time, was inspired by a high school relationship that didn’t work out. He graduated in 1966, wrote the song about a year later, and recorded the original Nazz version in 1968, so that relationship was still fresh in his mind. He realized, however, that he didn’t want to keep revisiting this heartbreak, so he made a conscious effort to avoid that theme in his post-Something/Anything? output. “There’s more than just relationships to write about,” he said when speaking at Red Bull Music Academy. “There’s your whole inner life to draw on.”

In real life, Rundgren was the one getting dumped, but he flipped the story so he was breaking up with the girl. Speaking with Marc Myers in 2018, Rundgren explained that the girl was named Linda, and she was his high school girlfriend. He had long hair, and one day when he walked her home, Linda’s dad saw him for the first time and turned the hose on him – no hippie kid was going to date his daughter. A few days later, Linda acceded to her father’s wishes and broke up with him. She did it rather casually, which Todd didn’t appreciate.

Rundgren wrote the lyric thinking about how he would have liked Linda to break up with him: in a sensitive phone call where she tells him it’s important that he’s free.

Many years later, Rundgren was in Tulsa for a concert (this was likely March 31, 2003) when Linda called his hotel asking for tickets to the show. He put her on the guest list but never told her she inspired his most famous song. “Our lives had gone in different directions,” he said. “We had nothing to say. I also wanted to hold on to the image I have of her in high school.”

According to Rundgren, the chord progression for “Hello It’s Me” was lifted directly from the intro of jazz organist Jimmy Smith’s rendition of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.”

Song Lyrics – 

Hello, it’s me
I’ve thought about us for a long, long time
Maybe I think too much but something’s wrong
There’s something here that doesn’t last too long
Maybe I shouldn’t think of you as mine

Seeing you, or seeing anything as much as I do you
I take for granted that you’re always there
I take for granted that you just don’t care
Sometimes I can’t help seeing all the way through

It’s important to me
That you know you are free
‘Cause I never want to make you change for me

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
And spend the night if you think I should

It’s important to me
That you know you are free
‘Cause I never want to make you change for me

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
And spend the night if you think I should

Writer/s: Todd Rundgren

Credit: Songfacts

Video Credit: YouTube

Photo credits: Yahoo.com/images

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