I don’t know for sure if Todd is God. Someone put forth the idea a long time ago and it stuck. But even if he’s a mere mortal, Something/Anything, the double album that brought me multiple eargasms when I was young and my heart was an open book, will be embedded in my psyche forever.
Kasim Sulton, who’s played bass with Todd for over 35 years, left 2 tickets for me at will call last week for Todd’s show at the Wiltern. I hadn’t presumed there’d be a +1 so I arrived solo. Which is totally fine. Sometimes my preference.
“The object of life is to love yourself and the measure of that is how comfortable you are when you’re alone.” —writes Todd in his new book, The Individualist. Exactly.
I enter the Wiltern. Beeline for the ladies room. Get me a bottle of water. Take my seat. I’m #Ready! Bring It!
The 2 songs I have the biggest crush on? “Hello It’s Me” which the band often performs in 6/8 (I much prefer the 1972 version time signature), and the memory-triggering “I Saw The Light”. I once wrote the words to the refrain “I ran out before but I won’t do it anymore” in a letter to a boyfriend I broke up with but wanted back. This song reduces me to a heart palpitating teenager. Exhibit 1: this video from a 2016 show at Pershing Square.
I felt the same way when the band played it on Thursday except sadly, because of my recent vocal cord fiasco, I have strict orders from my ENT not to scream. But I’m screaming inside. And that’s what matters. Kasim says I’m a Fan-Girl. Perhaps. Not quite a groupie or a “Band-Aid” like Penny Lane in the iconic film Almost Famous but certainly a passionate enthusiast. On steroids.
There are few songs I go this Gaga over. “Sara Smile” is another. I’d travel far and wide to hear it live. Then again there’s Hall And Oates’ Abandoned Luncheonette in entirety which my friend Joe Mardin’s father Arif Mardin, produced. And speaking of Joe, he was in town last week so I invited him to go to Todd’s book-signing meet-and-greet at Amoeba Records the day after the Wiltern.
Here’s how it went:
I drop 2 hours worth of quarters into a meter for a parking spot conveniently (and miraculously) available one block away from the record store. Surely it will buy me enough time. But inside, the long and winding line zigzags through aisles and aisles of endless vinyl and hermetically-sealed CDs. It’s taking way longer than I anticipated. I’m not gonna reach Todd before my meter expires. (I know he’s popular with his base but it’s like waiting to meet the Queen.) I run out to feed the meter while Joe holds my place. The perk of the detour is that I have to pee so bad and I’m able to pop into the ladies room at the Veggie Grill to relieve myself.
And then there’s Max who appears to be the youngest uber-fan in the house. I assume his Dad exposed him to Todd. Again I inquire. Again I am right: “My Dad turned me on to all the good stuff.” Go, Dad.
We inch closer….
What will I say to Todd when I reach him? This isn’t the first time I’ve waited in his line. The urge to prepare and compose oneself in advance never changes. I will pull out all the stops:
“I’ve worked with Chrissie Hynde!”
“I’ve written No. one hits!
“I’m Kasim’s friend!”
Finally I arrive at my destination just as “I Saw The Light” blasts from the speakers. My theme song! Thank you, Universe. Inside I’m jumping up-and-down like the girl I used to be. I hope that one day I’ll be given the green light to scream again. There are moments when screaming is so hard to suppress.
After all the preparation I’m speechless. I forget all my stops. I blurt, “Hi Todd! Meet my friend Joe! He’s Arif Mardin’s son!” That actually makes the man smile. A rare sight.
Todd signs his book for me and I leave him a copy of mine — of course I do — with a Sharpie’d “Thank you, Todd” on the inside cover. He won’t care. But I needed to say it.
Driving Joe back to his hotel a number of songs produced by Arif come on the radio. Bee Gees, Aretha, Dionne. Random? I think not. I ask Joe if it makes him sad to hear songs that his Dad, who passed away in 2006, worked on.
“Yes,” he says. “But mostly when I hear them in a Rite Aid.” Perhaps there’s a sweet spot for nostalgia in the midst of a typical errand that can bring us back to our humble beginnings. My friend remembers his dad writing out chord charts for Roberta sessions (remember chord charts?) and Daryl being a dinner guest in their home. What? I can’t even…
Next day I dive into The Individualist. There are insightful passages — mainly the “sum-ups” at the end of each one-page chapter — that give me pause. I laugh out loud at his acerbic whit.
But then, there are the typos! Millions of them. Awkward syntax. Spelling errors. Punctuation faux pas. What? (Not to mention the minimal spacing between the lines which makes it not so easy on the eyes.) Between the grammar and the formatting the reader has to work harder to understand what the writer is saying and the writer denies himself the opportunity of delivering his stories most effectively. This is why we have editors. Todd has a masterful vocabulary (some of which I have to look up) so he’s got to know better. I don’t get it.
But he’s Todd. An Innovator, a nonconformist, a legend, (a God?) who’s gifted this song junkie music that keeps on gifting. So he gets a pass. Some call him a genius. Well, when someone is truly a genius there’s usually a bit of the other extreme lurking about. Thus, I suppose, the colorful prose along with the curious typos. 😳
As for Fan-Girls (and Boys) isn’t that who we love to be? Don’t we yearn to care so deeply about art that we lose control? Get a little giddy? Yes. I want to feel anything but indifferent about anything.
So, yes. I’ll be a Fan-Girl any day. Screaming or no screaming. I hope I never stop.
P.S (Make sure, by the way, to check out the documentary Joe made about his Dad, The Greatest Ears in Town: The Arif Mardin Story. You’ll thank me. Arif is by far one of the best culinary chefs there ever was in the music-making kitchen.)
P.P.S. If you never saw Almost Famous, what are you waiting for?