Naked Raygun

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Final Naked Raygun lineup

Naked Raygun was one of the first, one of the longest running and one of the best Chicago punk bands. They are considered by a large majority to be the most important band in the history of Chicago punk. Raygun was active (in various lineups) from 1980 to 1992, along with reunion shows in 1997 and 2006. They were one of the few bands to span the entire decade of the 80s and played with or helped bring along most of the acts during that time.


Short Term Members


Compilations (incomplete)

  • Busted at Oz (Autumn Records, March 1981) - Bomb Shelter, When the Screaming Stops, Paranoia, Libido
  • Code Blue cassette (Last Rites, 1984) - "No Sex", "Only In America"
  • The Middle of America Compilation (H.I.D., 1984) - I Don't Know, Stupid
  • Sub Pop 100 (Sub Pop, 1986) - Bananacuda
  • The Wailing Ultimate (Homestead, 1987) - I Remember
  • Rat Music For Rat People Vol. III (1987) - Rocks of Sweden
  • Beautiful Happiness (Happy, 1988) - Vanilla Blue
  • Something's Gone Wrong Again, The Buzzcocks Covers Compilation (Caroline, 1992) - Love Battery, Running Free
  • Faster & Louder: Hardcore Punk, vol. 2 (Rhino, 1993) - Rat Patrol

Unreleased or Obscure

  • Promo Tape (Around March/April 1982)
    • Sent out to potential bookings, Reviewed in CR #20
    • Tracks include Mofo, Bombshelter, Emperor Tojo, Party Dolls and Coitus Interruptus
  • Roger Moore
    • Popular early track (1981 timeframe), never recorded
  • Chicago Sound
    • Presumably a bootleg, as the sound quality is mediocre, although the disc is labeled as "Sandpounder Records 002".
    • CD released around 2000. Contains two live shows:
Eagles Club, Milwaukee 10/29/1989 - complete show with Bill Stephens on guitar
WUST Radio Hall, Washington DC 6/20/1985 - partial show with Haggerty



Naked raygun-wide.jpg

Naked Raygun began in February of 1980 when Marko Pezzati and Santiago Durango, who were both students at the University of Illinois at Chicago, met at O'Banions. Distressed about the lack of punk bands in Chicago, they decided to form a group. Jim Colao--a friend of Pezzati's from UIC--joined the band briefly, but left almost immediately after joining. Needing a singer, Marko enlisted his younger brother Jeff, who at the time was singing in a cover band and had "an afro three miles wide". After obtaining a more punk-rock hairdo, Jeff Pezzati started practicing with Marko and Santiago at 222 S. Morgan St., playing their first gig shortly thereafter in June. At this point they used the name Negro Commando. Shortly thereafter Bobby Strange signed up on drums and they recorded a demo, which would eventually be included on the Basement Screams CD reissue. The band's first gig as Naked Raygun was in August at the original Oz. In October, they played their third gig in Detroit, where the audience walked out on them. Strange left in December, and the band tried out various replacements. One short-term replacement was John Lundin, who quickly switched over to keyboards. For their New Years Eve gig at Oz, Jim Colao rejoined as the full-time drummer.

The origin of the band's name remains somewhat unclear. According to a 2006 interview in Alternative Press, Marko Pezzati claimed it was chosen more or less at random, although he had insisted the name include "nude" or "naked". However, in the same interview, Durango stated he came up with the name as a tribute to the Sex Pistols. Although many believed the band's name was a play on "Ronald Reagan", this is apparently not the case.


Naked Pezzati @ Tuts, 1981

With a stable lineup in place, Naked Raygun began to play regularly in Chicago. In March of 1981, Raygun recorded live tracks for the Busted at Oz comp - the first time Raygun appeared on vinyl. Marko Pezzati left the band in 1981 (likely April/May, from CR 13&14) and was replaced by original Silver Abuse member Camilo Gonzalez. John Lundin left April/May 1981. Because he was not replaced, Naked Raygun ditched the keyboards and became a four piece. The band closed out 1981 by playing a New Year's Eve gig at O'Banions with Trial by Fire (according to CR #18).

In this period, Raygun's music was very experimental and quite different from the more straight-ahead Buzzcocks-influenced punk sound that would later bring them fame. Durango, in particular, would frequently experiment with his guitar sound, changing nearly from gig to gig. In a 1992 interview, Steve Albini raved "I mean, they were so weird back then. Totally left field. Going to see them live at that time was totally invigorating because they were so damn weird. It was like a space age rockabilly band. With this bizarre jungle drumming going on. And periodically they would take too much drugs or whatever, and Santiago would come out with this completely underwater guitar sound. It would just flatten everybody." Albini later wrote an extended paean to the early Raygun incarnation in the liner notes for Basement Screams. Frustratingly, very little recorded output exists from this period, save for the 222 S. Morgan St. demo, four songs on Busted at Oz, a few poor-quality demo tracks on the posthumous Last of the Demohicans CD, and Basement Screams.


In March 1983, the band embarked on their first tour, a 10-day East Coast swing in March including a show opening for Mission of Burma in Washington DC. This tour actually took place before Basement Screams had been released. After the tour, John Haggerty, who would occasionally join Raygun on stage to perform Swingo on sax, joined up on guitar. This two-guitar lineup only played a few gigs, including the Basement Screams record release show at the Cubby Bear. These gigs were apparently incredible, but it is not known if this lineup was ever recorded. In July or August, Raygun finally released the Basement Screams EP. Durango left Raygun to join Big Black in mid-1983 (Matter #4 from July said he was "ex-Naked Raygun"), although ironically, Jeff Pezzati was still playing bass in Big Black at the time.

During this time, Durango and both Pezzati brothers lived in a coach house at 1129 West Drummond in the Lincoln Park neighborhood (according to the liner notes of Last of the Demohicans). Steve Albini described the "Naked Raygun house" as a central part of the Chicago punk scene during this time. It was at this house where Big Black's lineup formed, when Durango was distracted from watching a football game by the sounds of Pezzati and Albini practicing in the basement, and asked if he could play along with them.

With Haggerty on lead guitar, the band recorded Throb Throb in the summer of 1983, which because of funding would not get released until 1985. The Flammable Solid 7-inch, containing two songs from the album and an alternative mix of "Libido", was released in late 1983.


Though Colao played on Throb Throb, he left the band in spring/summer of 1984 before the record was released. He left under less than amicable circumstances, as he disagreed with the rest of the band about going on an West Coast tour before releasing Throb Throb to raise funds. Colao felt that going on a cross-country tour with no record to sell was a financial mistake, and wanted to play only larger local gigs until they had the cash to release Throb Throb. Colao was replaced by former DV8 drummer Eric Spicer. In a posting on his MySpace page, Spicer joked that he wound up joining the band solely because "I just made sure I never missed a practice." Despite changing drummers and encountering delays in releasing Throb Throb, Raygun steadily gained popularity and toured the Midwest (in the summer) and the West Coast (in September/October), and opened for the Ramones at the 5000-seat Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. Though still not having released a full-length album at this point, Raygun did release songs on the "Code Blue" cassette compilation and WNUR's The Middle of America Compilation. Many of the songs that would make up their next LP All Rise had already been written by this point, as evidenced on an audience recording of the August 11, 1984 show at the VFW#18 in Kansas City. As the band gained wider acclaim, Jeff Pezzati eventually decided to leave Big Black in late 1984 to focus on Raygun.


Throb Throb was finally released in early 1985, followed by East Coast gigs in April and June. The album was very well received and established the band as one of the top American post-punk bands; a review in Maximumrocknroll pegged them as "one of the most important bands in the country". By this point, Raygun was becoming a huge draw in Chicago, graduating from clubs like the Cubby Bear and Tuts to regularly playing the Cabaret Metro. Raygun also began what would become a hometown tradition by playing a Thanksgiving show at Metro--infamously, Pezzati took a chainsaw to a turkey onstage and threw the remains into the audience.

Camilo Gonzalez played on the tours after Throb Throb was released, but subsequently left the band and was replaced by Pierre Kezdy. Kezdy joined shortly before All Rise was recorded, but did not contribute any songs to the record, which was mostly written by Pezzati and Haggerty. Although according to a fanzine interview the band was targeting a Christmas release, All Rise did not hit the stores until 1986.


All Rise was released in the spring of 1986 to nearly unanimous praise, garnering rave reviews from everyone from alternative media stalwarts like Trouser Press to the New York Times. The first to feature the Pezzati/Haggerty/Kezdy/Spicer lineup, this album is still generally considered the definitive Raygun album. Although by this point the Chicago punk scene had splintered somewhat, Raygun continued to be immensely popular, the only band that could bridge the gap between older scenesters and hardcore punk kids. The band played several high profile all-ages gigs at the Metro, one of which (9/14/1986) was vividly memorialized by Greg Dunlap in the liner notes to the 1999 reissue of All Rise.


The band had completed their contract with Homestead Records by releasing All Rise, and early in 1987 released Pierre Kezdy's Vanilla Blue as a single on their own Sandpounder Records. Subsequently, ex-Minor Threat guitarist Lyle Preslar signed the band to a three-album contract with Caroline Records. Raygun recorded Jettison, which would be their first Caroline release, in Chicago with producers Iain Burgess and Larry Sturm. Pierre Kezdy and Eric Spicer also contributed songwriting to the album; as they had both joined shortly before All Rise was recorded, they had not written songs previously for Raygun.

The band had become such a huge local draw that they could no longer play the 1100-capacity Metro, and moved up to the 2500-person Riviera during this year. The November 20, 1987 Riviera gig was professionally recorded by Tim Powell of Metro Mobile recording, and several songs (including their cover of Stiff Little Fingers' "Suspect Device") would be released on Jettison and as bonus tracks on the 1999 album reissues. (Powell had previously recorded the band for Busted at Oz with a completely different lineup and, according to Jeff Pezzati, only 30 people in the audience.)

Despite receiving critical acclaim and drawing big crowds in Chicago, Raygun's members still held down day jobs (Pezzati worked at a design engineering firm, Spicer at Kinko's, and Haggerty tended bar), which perhaps contributed to the relatively small amount of touring they did. The band regularly played New York City and Washington DC, and would play weekend gigs around the Midwest, but as John Haggerty would later note, "we didn't get out of town very much, probably less than what most people think" (Alternative Press interview, 2006). Certainly Raygun toured much less than contemporaries such as Black Flag and Husker Du. The inability (or reluctance) to tour more would later become a bone of contention for Haggerty in particular.


After the release of Jettison in May, Raygun did an extensive East Coast tour, playing 25 gigs in 30 days (according to an interview in Ink Disease fanzine.) A shorter West Coast tour followed, including a gig at the famed 924 Gilman Street club in Berkeley. (How the band members coped with the no-alcohol policy at Gilman Street remains unclear.) Jettison was also well-received, with many reviews noting that the band had evolved toward a more varied sound, thanks to all four members contributing songs.

2006 Reunion Show


On November 5th, 2006 Raygun played their first show in over 9 years at Riot Fest 2006. The lineup was the final one - Pezzati, Kezdy, Stephens and Spicer. It created quite a buzz and folks from all over the US (and Europe!) traveled to Chicago to see Raygun.

To promote their show, Raygun made their first televsion appearance in 10 years on October 19th, 2006 on local Chicago music show JBTV. It featured a continuous interview with Jeff, Bill and Pierre along with the video to Home and a few live concert videos (Managua, The Sniper Song). The show also had a bunch of videos from fellow Riot Fest acts. Part two of the Raygun interview appeared on on the October 25th show of JBTV.

Raygun also played a secret, invite-only show at the Cobra Lounge in Chicago on October 19 as a warmup for the Riot Fest show--their first gig since the 1997 reunion shows at the Metro. Video of three songs (Vanilla Blue, Knock Me Down, and the set closer Managua) has showed up on YouTube.

On November 3rd, Raygun did an short interview and played live on Q101's Morning Fix. The interview was at 8am and they played Vanilla Blue towards the end of the hour. On November 4th, they played another warmup show at Subterranean (with 4 Star Alarm, The Bomb and The Briefs) under the pseudonym Holyy Lazarski Nahane.



  • Going Underground by George Hurchalla - Throb Throb release/recording dates and Colao's take on leaving.

External Links

YouTube Clips