Dec 8th 2009
by Pat Pemberton
When Todd Rundgren performs the song 'Rock and Roll Pussy,' he
touches upon a bizarre connection to John Lennon's murder. Mark David
Chapman, the man who assassinated Lennon in 1980, was intrigued by
the song, which many believed was critical of the ex-Beatle. The
delusional Chapman also believed Rundgren -- who was involved in a
feud with Lennon around that time -- was beaming messages to him.
Still, while Chapman was supposedly "obsessed" with Rundgren's music,
the songwriter and producer says he tries not to think morbid
thoughts about his unintentional connection to Lennon's death.
"When you're in the public eye, you never know who the hell is
looking at you," Rundgren tells Spinner. "You would like to think you
have some influence over the people who are fascinated with you, but
they are casting you as some fantasy caricature they'd like to see as
opposed to what you're trying to be."
Rundgren wrote 'Rock and Roll Pussy' -- a song about celebrities who
talk about change but don't actually participate in it -- for his
1973 album 'A Wizard, a True Star,' which he has been performing live
in its entirety. Since the song specifically mentions the word
"revolution" and references lying in bed, many assumed it had to be
about Lennon, the 'Revolution' songwriter who held famous "bed-in"
protests with wife Yoko Ono.
"I've never actually averred that the song was about John Lennon,"
Rundgren insists. "I think that was an assumption because at the time
there was a press conflict about us."
Soon after the album was released, Rundgren was quoted in Melody
Maker magazine saying Lennon was an attention seeker out to help
himself more than any cause. Lennon responded with a sarcastic letter
in the magazine, saying "I never claimed to be a revolutionary. But I
am allowed to sing anything I want! Right?"
Rundgren, a Beatles fan whose early music was clearly influenced by
the Fab Four, said the lyrics were meant to be more general. "One can
say that John Lennon was guilty possibly of some of the
finger-pointing that the song evinces," he says, "but it's mostly the
whole idea of talk versus action and not specific to any one person."
On Dec. 8, 1980, Chapman constructed a tableau at the Sheraton Centre
hotel in New York , consisting of a bible, a 'Wizard of Oz' poster
and an album, 'The Ballad of Todd Rundgren.' Later that day, he shot
Lennon outside the Dakota apartment building.
"I recognize it as one of life's more unfortunate occurrences,"
Rundgren says of the murder. But any time you become famous, he said,
scary people are going to take interest in you.
"You're just lucky if you don't meet them most of time."