Todd Rundgren’s Utopia formed in 1974 out of Todd’s desire to explore new musical territory after four years of making solo albums (including the seminal “Something/Anything?”, which included radio core evergreens “Hello It’s Me” and “I Saw The Light,” and which prompted the rock press to dub him “Rock’s New Wunderkind,” and “Rock’s Renaissance Man.”) Starting as a prog-rock-progenitor septet, the band’s music ranged from extended synth experiments to four-song albums, while their live shows were distinguished by their ahead-of-the-curve video backdrops and computer-generated music.
In 1976, the group evolved into the shiny mainstream power-pop rock quartet “Utopia,” uniting Rundgren on guitar with Willie Wilcox on drums, Roger Powell on keyboards, and Kasim Sulton on bass.
Known for their hallmark lyrics, lush inventive background vocals and a voracious appetite for the highest level of musicianship, Utopia was the quintessential “musician’s band”, Every member took his turn singing lead on every album, and all songwriting was collaborative.
By 1980, Utopia had developed into a hit-making entity in its own right. Standout Utopia albums included Oops! Wrong Planet, Adventures in Utopia, and Oblivion, spawning hits including “Rock Love,” “Set Me Free,” “Mated,” and “Love Is The Answer (which also beacame a #1 global hit for England Dan and John Ford Coley).”
Utopia’s tours, among the first to aggressively incorporate then-state-of-the-art video technology (produced at Todd’s own Utopia Video Studios), were earmarked by some of the most lavish, outrageous, and audacious stage productions in rock history. Their headline concerts frequently featured such opening acts as future superstars Cheap Trick and The Cars, and the band performed at some of the 70s most epic festivals, including three times at Knebworth Castle in the UK – one with the Rolling Stones in 1976 and twice with Led Zeppelin in 1979, before a combined audience of over 1,200,000 (amongst them a Who’s Who of rock royalty, including Paul McCartney and David Gilmour).
Always on the bleeding edge, Utopia chalked up a long history of groundbreaking media “firsts”, including:
• 1978: The first interactive television concert, broadcast live over Warner QUBE, the experimental interactive cable system in Columbus, Ohio (the home viewers chose each song in real time during the concert by voting via QUBE’s 2-way operating system).
• 1978: The first live nationally broadcast stereo radio rock concert (via microwave transmission), linking 40 cities nationally
• 1982 : The first live national cablecast of a rock concert (on the USA Network), simulcast in stereo to over 120 radio stations. In 1986, after ten years of non-stop recording and arena touring cycles, the band declared they were “going on sabbatical,” and Todd, Kasim, Willie, and Roger each embarked on their own career paths.
WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING WITH THE UTOPIANS DURING THE WORLD’S LONGEST SABBATICAL EVER?
Todd Rundgren returned to his stellar solo recording and producing career. His myriad production projects ranged from Patti Smith, Cheap Trick, XTC, and Psychedelic Furs to Grand Funk Railroad, Hall & Oates, and Meat Loaf’s seminal Bat Out of Hell, while his solo offerings catapulted Todd further into the superstar limelight with hits like “Can We Still Be Friends”, and “Bang The Drum”. In addition to his own tours, Todd has been an erstwhile member of Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band for the past 28 years.
Kasim Sulton continued touring and recording with a long list of diverse artists including Joan Jett, Hall & Oates, Blue Oyster Cult, Patti Smith, and Celine Dion. In 1993 Kasim joined Meat Loaf’s touring band after the release of Bat Out Of Hell II, touring extensively and becoming his Musical Director. In 1999 he produced Meat Loaf’s critically acclaimed VH1 Storytellers album. Releasing four solo albums of his own, Kasim has continued his long musical relationship with Todd as the bass player in his solo bands.
Willie Wilcox continued to pursue his songwriting career. Having written songs for & performed with Luther Vandross, Natalie Cole, Bette Midler, Meat Loaf, Hall & Oates, and Kylie Minogue positioned Willie perfectly for his segue into television writing. He was the senior staff composer for NBC Universal in NYC for 5 years and composed the current show theme for CNBC’s “Mad Money,” launched a major audio post production facility in Miami with clients MTV & VH1, penned famed boxer Manny Pacquiao’s ring walk music, and continues to maintain his position as senior audio director at Scientific Games, the number one gaming company in the world, where he recently completed the surround sound audio production on the blockbuster Michael Jackson game, “King Of Pop!”
No longer able to turn a deaf ear to the unceasing requests from fans and the media alike, Todd Rundgren, Kasim Sulton, and Willie Wilcox (“Utopia”) are reuniting for their first North American tour since the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded. Presented by SiriusXM and produced by Live Nation, TODD RUNDGREN’S UTOPIA will be performing across North America beginning on April 18.
In celebration of the upcoming reunion tour, Friday Music is excited to announce the blockbuster 7-disc box extravaganza THE ROAD TO UTOPIA: THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS (1974-82). This limited edition collection will bring each of their seven classic albums to life, now in first-time CD digipak gatefold covers featuring the original album artwork elements, rare inner sleeve art, 2018 written commentary from the band and more. The box set has a scheduled street date of April 20. Fans can preorder the box set starting February 20 at Friday Music, Amazon and Record Store Day.