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  • Writer's pictureMark Howitt

Songs in the Key of My Life: 2

I Saw the Light, Todd Rundgren (1972)

I don’t know when I first heard Todd Rundgren’s paean to first love. It certainly wasn’t when it was first released in the spring of 1972 and, doubtless, it would have reached my ears long before ex Specials front man Terry Hall recorded a rather sweet cover version in 1997. (How I miss dear Terry.)

More recently Rundgren’s original surfaced in The Other One, “a BBC comedy about sisters who had no idea the other existed until their father dropped dead”. Not as grim as it sounds from the creator of Motherland, Holly Walsh, and with an eclectic soundtrack stretching across several decades. The show aired a couple of years back and since then the song has permeated my inner being.

If it’s possible to listen to a song too often then I’ve listened to I Saw the Light too often, not that I’m bored of it, just spent more time than is probably healthy thinking about it. I’m not a musician so don’t really know what I’m talking about, but at some point during the song (and it’s barely 3 minutes long) the rhythm changes imperceptibly. It’s like in George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord, one minute it’s all Hallelujah, and then it’s Hare Krishna, Gurur Brahma. And it’s like, when did that happen?

The song’s change of pace - if indeed there is a change - probably happens after Rundgren’s magnificent tearful guitar solo during which time whoever is banging the drums appears to take a tumble, flailing about hitting everything in sight and yet somehow getting away with it. So, let’s take a look at the sleeve notes to see who was playing drums on this track. Oh yeah, Todd Rundgren. And he’d never played before, just as he’d never played bass before. Age 23, he played every single instrument on I Saw the Light and all the other tracks on the Something/Anything? album.

50 years on, the song is still a classic, the lyrics timeless, a song Rundgren claims to have written in 20 minutes. I’ve no reason to disbelieve him but it’s taken me twice as long to knock this out and I’m confident that in 50 years time, while no one will be reading this, I Saw the Light will still be being played and enjoyed by fans old and new.

But my feelings for you

Were just something I never knew

'Til I saw the light

In your eyes

In your eyes

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