You know you’ve been sitting in the basement too long when Todd Rundgren’s commute becomes a topic of interest.
I’d long been aware of Rundgren’s 1978 album Hermit of Mink Hollow (featuring his last solo Top 40 hit, “Can We Still Be Friends?”) and even used to own a copy.
But I’d never given it much thought until this morning, when something — a Wiki wormhole, maybe? — led me to discover that the album’s title is a reference to an actual place, Mink Hollow Road.
That’s a back road in the Woodstock area where Rundgren, having apparently tired of New York City, owned a home and operated a recording studio in the ’70s and ’80s. Hermit of Mink Hollow was recorded there, as were a number of production jobs Rundgren undertook for other artists.
(A pedantic note: The Band’s Music From Big Pink was not recorded at the Woodstock-area house known as Big Pink, but Hermit of Mink Hollow is indeed a product of Mink Hollow. Five points for truth in advertising. Also, a more extensive look at Rundgren’s connections to the Woodstock area can be read here.)
I decided to hit Google Maps to get a glimpse of Rundgren’s old neighborhood. I wasn’t especially expecting to see his former property. I don’t know the address, and in any event, I wouldn’t expect a rock-star getaway to be visible from the road.
I was more interested in the general milieu. When one of my favorite songwriters and performers got the country itch, he could have gone anywhere. So what did the place he chose look like?
There’s nothing revelatory along Mink Hollow Road; it’s pretty much as wooded and winding as you would expect it to be. The homes visible from the street are not mansions by any stretch … though, again, if you were going to put a fancy house on a road like that, you’d probably set it back in the woods someplace.
The heavy tree canopy made me think that they’re probably no strangers to power outages in that area. I wondered if the studio had a generator; whether it’s even possible to record usable tracks with a generator roaring outside; or whether the hint of approaching thunderstorms would force Rundgren to put the lid back on the Fender Rhodes for the day.
While Mink Hollow Road is certainly a change of pace from New York City, it seems a little too out-in-the-sticks for my personal taste (not that my personal taste has any bearing on the matter, of course). It seems to have worn thin on Rundgren after a while as well, as he subsequently moved to the Bay Area and then to Hawaii.
Mink Hollow Road is located in the hamlet of Lake Hill, which is close to Bearsville. Probably the one noteworthy thing you’ll see on a Google Maps tour of Mink Hollow Road is the image screen-grabbed below, which suggests that — while Bearsville isn’t actually named for bears — you might still run into one.