When I got to my college radio station, in the late nineteen-eighties, I was anxious to start discovering artists who were entirely new to me. But I also appreciated the safety of those artists I’d heard repeated on the radio over and over again, even if it was with only one or two songs. Even more than that, I was somewhat proud that college radio could serve as a safe landing space for gifted performers who’d taken a spin with commercial success but were ultimately deemed too iconoclastic to become recurring residents on those parts of the dials. It matched up nicely with my conception of what radio could be at its very best: a place for sharing the very best music out with quality as the only criterion used to determine what landed on a playlist.
When Todd Rundgren’s Nearly Human arrived in May of 1989, it was his first real pop album in about seven years. 1985 brought the voice-only experiment A Cappella, but there hadn’t been something that was immediately recognizable as a familiar product of the odd creator inclined towards the ornate in a significant enough amount of time that the arrival of the new record felt highly significant. It certainly helped that his most prominent brush with college radio in the preceding years involved serving as the producer for the masterful XTC album Skylarking. We had cause to be excited.
I remember Nearly Human as one of the albums I circles back around to repeatedly that summer. It wasn’t one of the releases I embraced with the neediness of the deeply lovestruck nor does a fresh listen to one of its songs helplessly carry me back to those blissful days. Still, I recognize it as part of the aural fabric of my formative first year in college radio, thinking about how all these disparate sounds I had at my disposal could be fit together to make a great on-air show. Rundgren’s music was lush, energizing, and unexpectedly moving, as evidenced by “The Want of a Nail,” the lead single released from Nearly Human. There were time when it was exactly what I needed to get from one point in a show to another.
Listen or download –> Todd Rundgren, “The Want of a Nail”
(Disclaimer: It appears to me that Nearly Human is out of print, at least as a physical object that can be procured from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in such a way that it provides due compensation to both Rungren and the proprietor of said place of business. It possible this can be purchased digitally, but while various tech and recording company bigwigs aren’t expending all of their energy trying to prevent those dollars from getting to artists I consider that to be a fairly shabby option. Since this was Rundgren’s last single to find its way onto any Billboard chart, it’s possible this is on a comp somewhere, so I’ll sheepishly concede I may be sharing a track that can be fairly purchased in this instance. Regardless, I will gladly and promptly remove this audio file from my corner of the interweb if asked to do so by any individual or entity with authority to make such a request.)