That Time Todd Rundgren Graced ‘The Midnight Special’ — Introduced by Tina Turner
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame officially announced its 2021 inductees on Wednesday morning, revealing that Carole King, Foo Fighters, the Go-Go’s, Tina Turner, and Todd Rundgren are among this year’s class. The latter two musicians are long overdue — although Turner was inducted as half of Ike & Tina Turner in 1991, she’ll finally be inducted as a solo artist. Despite Rundgren being a hailed producer, engineer, and singer-songwriter in his own right, this marks his first-ever entrance into the Cleveland institution.
Let’s celebrate the occasion with this fitting episode of Burt Sugarman’s Midnight Special, which aired on February 8th, 1974. Ike & Tina Turner hosted and performed, while David Essex, Electric Light Orchestra, Mandrill, Jose Feliciano, and Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids also hit the stage. But it’s Rundgren — who tore through “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” and “A Dream Goes on Forever” — that makes the episode.
In the clip above, Turner introduces Rundgren on the mic, with Ike standing behind her (staring blankly into the camera). “I’m always having problems pronouncing names a lot of times,” she says. “I did the Grammy awards, had all this long list of names! I had really panicked, so I just really goofed the names. So I know I’m gonna goof this one, but I’m gonna try it anyway. Let’s give Rodd Thundgren — Todd Rundgren — a big round of applause!”
Rundgren dives into the power pop gem “Couldn’t I Just Tell You,” backed by his band and an impressive amount of eye makeup. The track was released off his 1972 hit album Something/Anything?, which showcases Rundgren on nearly every instrument.
“Couldn’t I Just Tell You” varies from the rest of the tracks: “A lot of the songs on there have a particular kind of instrumentation that is much like a guitar quartet, and in some ways it’s an exceptional song on that record because so much of the writing on Something/Anything? is piano-oriented,” he said in 2012. “There are lots of ballads throughout it, and I think the only reason why there wasn’t more rock on that record, à la ‘Couldn’t I Just Tell You,’ is because it was difficult for me to play… I was pretty happy with the song, because I realized it was the kind of thing I would probably have done more of if I had been using other players.”
It’s unclear if Turner will show up to this year’s Rock Hall ceremony, given that she lives in Switzerland and hasn’t performed since 2009, and said that she was done with the public spotlight in the recent documentary about her life and career. But if she does, she’ll be reunited with her Midnight Special buddy Rundgren, where they can duet on “The Best” and “Hello It’s Me.” One can only dream.