Backstage with Ron Onesti:
I wanna bang on the drum all day
I don’t want to work, I just wanna bang on the drum all day …
Todd Rundgren was at the Arcada Theatre earlier this week, and what he did to that audience on a Tuesday night probably caused a bunch of people to call in sick the next day from complete exhaustion!
Rundgren is a pop-rock superstar with as many producer credits as he has as a recording artist. He produced blockbuster albums in the early ’70s that propelled him into superstardom, such as Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band,” Hall & Oates’s “War Babies” and Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell,” which was the one that really sealed him as a producing legend.
With numerous hits as a solo artist and with his band Utopia, Rundgren also has made his mark on the ’70s pop charts with “I saw The Light” and one of my all-time favorites, “Hello It’s Me.” For me, that song was in the same vein as other ’70s soft rock hits from bands like America and Bread. You know, those great songs to roll your car window down by, on a warm summer drive!
Todd is very similar to another great friend of The Arcada, Alan Parsons. Parsons, too, had some great pop-rock hits including “Eye In The Sky” and what came to be the Chicago Bulls’ theme song, “Sirius.” He also engineered on the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be” albums, and the art-rock band Ambrosia’s debut album as well as Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” smash.
Parsons was also a sound engineer for the Beatles’ last live performance together on the rooftop of Apple Studios on London’s Savile Row as they recorded cuts for the “Let It Be” album.
This was the first time I have worked with Rundgren. So many people over the years have been clamoring for him to play here, and it took me a while to score the legend and bring his show to St. Charles. And, in another comparison to Parsons, who is 6 feet 2 inches tall, Todd towered over me at over 6-foot-2 with his boots on. He is in many ways larger than life (unlike my other buddy, 5-foot-4 super-guitarist Rick Derringer)!
An empty seat could not be found, and every piece of real estate where someone could legally stand occupied an excited fan. The show sold out in a matter of hours, and there were countless numbers of people with stories of seeing him 30-plus years ago, but seemingly only yesterday. They all said: “This is going to be a party. I hope you are ready for this, Ron!”
Well I was blown away by his performance! People were dancing in the aisles, singing along and just having a joyous time. I even missed my favorite song, “Hello It’s Me,” because I was singing it so loudly over his performance, I forgot to listen to the master do it himself!
Then another very familiar opening made me jump out of my seat, joining the rest of the party who did the same. It was the 1983 hit “Bang On The Drum.” It is one of those songs that just makes people move their heads, Stevie Wonder-style, and sing along loudly, similar to “Twist And Shout” by the Beatles and “Louie, Louie” by The Kingsmen. The song has become the anthem for anti-workday celebrations everywhere.
And for those with any level of disagreement with their superiors in the workplace, including those “sent packing” by their bosses, the song is a loud proclamation of emancipation.
The lyrics say it all: “Every day when I get home from work, I feel so frustrated, the boss is a jerk. And I get my sticks and go out to the shed, and I pound on that drum like it was the boss’s head! I don’t want to work, I just want to bang on the drum all day!”
After the show, I asked him about the song. “Ya know, it’s one of those songs that everybody knows, but they don’t know why,” Todd said. “It’s not like it was the theme from their favorite movie or it was their prom song or something. It has just been used so much that everybody knows it. I really don’t enjoy playing it because by the time the song is over, my wrists are killing me! But everybody loves the song, I just gotta play it!”
“Did you have a bad experience at work that inspired you to write this?” I asked.
“Not really,” he replied. “It actually came to me in a dream, I rolled out of bed and went into my home studio and laid it down. It is a really simple song but it says a lot for a lot of people.”
How many of us would just love to simply not be at work and bang on the drum all day? The old cliché about “never having to work a day in your life if you do what you love” comes into play here, I guess. I know I love what I do. My daily drum-banging is finding ways of presenting great music to big fans.
As the New Year approaches, I sincerely wish you the strength to find what would make you willing to bang your drum every day. And if you stop for a moment, and don’t hear “the drum,” maybe it’s time you go out and do something truly fun for yourself. It’s been a long year — you deserve it!
• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corp. and The Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.