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. In late 2006 Raygun reformed and is still active as of late 2014. 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.


Members

Records

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

History

1980

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 Santiagos from UIC--joined the band briefly, but left almost immediately after joining. Many singers were tried, including Jim Colao's girlfriend until Marko enlisted his younger brother Jeff, who at the time was singing in a cover band, Condor, 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. Their third gig was on October 5 in Detroit, at a club called Nunnzio's; when the rest of the band went to pick up Strange, they found he had pawned his drum kit to buy drugs. They retrieved his drums and made the gig, but 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.

1981-1982

Naked Pezzati @ Tuts, 1981

With a stable lineup in place, Naked Raygun began to play regularly in Chicago. Initially the band played primarily loft parties around UIC, but soon began regular gigs at Oz. 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). By mid-1982, John Haggerty began joining the band onstage to play saxophone and occasional 2nd guitar. A review of their July 4th show at Exit actually calls Haggerty Raygun's "new guitarist/saxophonist".

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.

1983

The ultra-rare Durango and Haggerty lineup

In January 1983, John Haggerty joined Raygun on guitar. He had played sax on Swingo for Basement Screams, and occasionally joined Raygun onstage. This two-guitar lineup would exist only for a few months, but apparently put on some legendary shows (including a show on January 21, 1983 at the Metro, reviewed in Last Rites #1.) According to Haggerty, the band briefly discussed adding his guitar parts to the already-recorded Basement Screams, but in the end decided to release it as originally recorded. Santiago Durango later said that he had already decided to leave the band, and asked Haggerty to join as his eventual replacement. 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 took place before Basement Screams had been released; it's not clear if Durango was still in the band for the tour, as he left Raygun to join Big Black sometime in 1983 (Matter #4 from July said he was "ex-Naked Raygun"). Ironically, Jeff Pezzatti was playing bass in Big Black at the time. The Basement Screams EP was finally released in July or August.

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.

1984

Flyer for Eric Spicer's first show

Though Colao played on Throb Throb, he left the band in the 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." Spicer's first show was on July 14 at Tuts. 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 Jason Willis's 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 solely on Raygun.

1985

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.

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.

1987

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.

1988

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. Later that year, Raygun would record their second album for Caroline, Understand.

1989

Raygun returned to Metro for the record release show for Understand on April 22. Following the release, the band finally made it to Europe for the first time in their career, playing a 5 week series of gigs across the continent. A highlight of the tour came at their gig in London (5/19/1989), when Steve Diggle of the Buzzcocks joined them onstage for the encore. Several songs from the June 4, 1989 gig at AJZ in Verden, Germany would eventually be released on Last of the Demohicans.

Though it was not well known at the time, tensions within the band had been building over the past year. John Haggerty, in particular, had become increasingly dissatisfied for a number of reasons. Haggerty wanted to quit his day job, tour more, and generally make the band a full-time pursuit, and felt frustrated by the other members' reluctance to do so. In interviews after Raygun broke up, Haggerty also spoke of feeling that the band had stagnated musically. In a 1999 interview, Jeff Pezzati tacitly agreed, saying that he had fallen into the trap of writing too many songs around Haggerty's big-guitar sound.

A major source of conflict involved business matters. Karen Bemis, Jeff Pezzati's longtime girlfriend who he married in 1988, had been acting as the band's manager for several years, and Haggerty, Spicer, and Kezdy were apparently not very involved in the financial side of the band. Although the details are unclear (and, in fairness, Bemis has never told her side of the story), Haggerty felt that "Jeff and Karen pretty much called all the shots" regarding band matters, and Kezdy agreed that "(Bemis) was getting paid for things she had nothing to do with" (Alternative Press interview, 2006).

Haggerty attempted to voice his concerns to the other band members, but felt ignored; he would later say that "Jeff started to think of the band as 'his' band, and I wanted to think of the band as 'our' band, and ultimately, that's a deal-breaker". He quit in August 1989. Spicer, who was also angry at Pezzati for failing to keep them informed about money issues, also wanted to quit but was talked into staying on by Kezdy.

The remaining band members quickly recruited a new guitarist, Bill Stephens, who had previously played in Product 19 opening for Raygun at Metro. With an East Coast tour already booked, Stephens only had a week to learn the material, but stepped in without difficulty. The Chicago Sound bootleg CD documents one of Stephens' early gigs with the band.

1990

Having decided to carry on without Haggerty, the band remained active throughout 1990, and toured Europe again in May of 1990. Raygun...Naked Raygun was recorded during 1990 with producer Keith Auerbach. Pierre Kezdy described the recording sessions as "sort of semi-catastrophic" (Ink Disease interview 1990), perhaps portending the chilly reception that was to come. When the album was released in October 1990, it received generally mediocre reviews, mostly centering around the muddy sound and relatively uninspiring songwriting. Bill Stephens also was widely criticized simply for not being John Haggerty. Eric Spicer concedes now that "it wasn't great--the sound was all wrong", and Raygun...Naked Raygun certainly pales in comparison with the standard set by All Rise and Jettison.

1991-1992

With Raygun...Naked Raygun, the band had completed their contract with Caroline Records. Raygun continued to play local shows and do short tours during 1991, and played at Metro in July as part of the club's 9th anniversary celebration. However, by this point the band members' enthusiasm was clearly waning. Spicer would later say, "(the band) was becoming like a second job", and Stephens added "it just became this side thing". Somewhat ironically, by the end of 1991, the music that Raygun had pioneered and kept vital throughout the 1980's was becoming wildly popular, and other Chicago bands were starting to gain national recognition.

In early 1992, the band entered the studio to record four new songs, which would become known as "the last demo". By this point, both Spicer and Stephens had decided to leave the band, and Kezdy and Pezzati did not attempt to dissuade them. After one final show at the Riviera, Raygun called it quits. The band never issued an official announcement--they simply stopped playing shows.

For the next few years, most of the band members remained completely inactive musically. Pierre Kezdy joined John Haggerty in Pegboy in 1994, but Pezzati, Spicer, and Stephens essentially retired.

1997 Reunion

In March 1997, the final band lineup decided to re-record the "last demo", since the original tapes had been lost. The four songs were recorded with Steve Albini and subsequently released on the collection Last of the Demohicans in mid-1997. The band then re-formed and played three sold-out reunion shows at Metro on November 29-30 and December 1. Two shows were initially announced, but they sold out so quickly that a third had to be added. These shows, the first Raygun gigs in Chicago in five years, would eventually be documented on the Free Shit album.

At the time, rumors circulated that the band was writing new songs and preparing to record another album. However, these proved untrue, as after the reunion shows the band disappeared again. Jeff Pezzati formed The Bomb in 1999, Stephens continued playing in The Tarts, and Kezdy held down the bass spot in Pegboy; Spicer did not play in any other bands after Raygun.

1999

In 1999, Quarterstick Records re-released all of the NR albums, including the long out-of-print Basement Screams. All the albums, except Raygun...Naked Raygun came with bonus tracks and extensive liner notes and photographs. Despite the fact that most people never heard Basement Screams until 7+ years after their breakup, the opening track I Lie became one of the most well-known Raygun anthems. More reunion shows were rumored, but never took place for unclear reasons.

2006 Reunion Show

NR-JBTV2006.jpg

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) are 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.

2007 Shows and DVD

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In January 2007, Raygun announced that they are officially back together and began shows again. They played April 27th at the House of Blues in Chicago (with The Effigies, Bollweevils and Shot Baker) and May 4th/5th at the Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis. They were joined in Minneapolis by The Methadones, Shot Baker and Dillinger Four.

For the late Chicago show, Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers joined Raygun on stage to perform two songs - Suspect Device and Alternative Ulster. For the late show in Chicago and both shows in Minneapolis, Raygun was joined onstage by Dan Schafer to perform Sludgeworth's Someday.

They also announced that a CD/DVD of their Riot Fest weekend will be released on November 6th, 2007. It includes footage of their main show as well as the warmup shows.

On October 26th, 2007 Naked Raygun played at The Fest 6 in Florida. Raygun also headlined the first night of Riot Fest 2007 on Saturday, November 17. At the end of November, Raygun embarked on a West Coast tour, playing 10 shows in 10 days. They were joined by Swinging Utters and Shot Baker, playing gigs in Washington, Oregon and California. On December 22, 2007 Naked Raygun played a special XMas show at Reggie's Rock Club which was was preceded by a playing of their DVD.

2008

On January 12, 2008 Raygun played their first show in Detroit in over 15 years at Small's Bar. In March, Raygun played at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. On March 15 Raygun played a set at Cobra Lounge to celebrate its 2nd anniversary. Haunted Town Records released remastered versions of Throb Throb and All Rise on vinyl.

2009

Raygun plays two shows at the House of Blues on January 2nd and 3rd. On August 29th Raygun played a free Riot Fest preview show at a practice space. In September Raygun embarked on a small east coast tour with Shot Baker and Paint it Black. On October 9th, Raygun headlined a Riot Fest show at the Metro along with fellow 80s punks Rights of the Accused and No Empathy.

Interviews

References

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

External Links

Official and affiliated sites

Fan sites and discographies

Reviews

YouTube Clips