Eccentric new wave performer Wazmo Nariz (real name Larry Grennan) holds a number of unique distinctions: he and his "Wazband" were one of the first two Chicago punk/new wave acts signed to a major label (both he and Skafish were signed by Miles Copeland to IRS). He is also the only Chicago punk/new wave artist to have a single released on England's prestigous Stiff records label, the only artist to include a reference to LaMere Vipere on a record (though he was not a regular), and the only Chicago punk/new wave artist to be mentioned in Incredibly Strange Music, vol II (Re/Search Publications, 1994). In that work, record collector Candi Strecker defines the Wazmo mystique as follows: "Wazmo was weird, even though he looked very normal. On (his first)album, he's wearing a polyester salesman's suit and sports a blowdried hairstyle, but his gimmick was that he always wore two neckties--fat polyester ones at that. ...his voice has operatic qualities. (I don't know if he was trained or was imitating the genre). His sound was bizarre and unique." (p. 93).
A favorable review by L'il Dougie in Gabba Gabba Gazette#8 (Summer 1978) of Wazmo's first 45 on the local Fiction label "Tele-tele-telephone" credits Wazmo, "an infrequent visitor to Chicago's punk bars", with "combining Brian Ferry, Sparks, and weirdness into his own style". The single was a modest local hit, and was re-released in England on the Stiff label with a different b-side "Wacker Drive". This record features Wazmo haltingly describing a failed relationship over a plodding, Devo-esque guitar riff. The key lines are as follows: "..uh, then I go to LaMere's/ and uh I see her/ and uh/I just want to Wacker/Wacker Drive". Of course, had he gone to the club more frequently, he would have known to call it LaMere.
After hearing the follow-up ep on Fiction, Miles Copeland signed Wazmo to IRS where he recorded "Things Aren't Right", a record rife with sexual innuendo, local Chicago references, and Wazmo's trademark histrionic vocals. Although the single from that album "Checking Out the Check-out Girl" was a modest hit (receiving club play at both O'Banion's and New York's Mudd Club) IRS dropped Wazmo after the album was released. He released a second album on Big Records, "Tell Me How to Live" in 1981. He toned down the weirdness level for this album slightly, but without commercial success; one album track "Sister Theresa" - a tender love ballad to a nun- received limited airplay on WXRT. In 1986 he recorded a final 12 inch single as Wazmo- "Yahoo Eeee", a snippet of which can be heard in Johnathon Demme's film "Something Wild". However, the song does not appear on the movie's officially released soundtrack.
Since disbanding the Wazband, Wazmo has been a frequent sideman on Stan Ridgway's albums,as has Wazband keyboardist Jeff Boynton. Bruce Zelesnick, the Wazband's drummer, is an official member of Ridgway's band.
A few years back, a local scenester purchased a copy of "Tell Me How to Live" for .99 at a local thrift store. He found the album had a personal message from Wazmo to a local radio station staffer inscribed in pen on the sleeve. The inscription is a fitting epitaph to Wazmo's recording career (and by extension, to the careers of similarly overlooked artists from Chicago's first punk/new wave generation): "When your radio station is wrong, you know the rest of the world is out of step, not you".
- Wazmo Nariz - Vocals
- Jeff Boynton - Keyboards
- Jeff Hill - Guitar and back-up vocals
- James E. McGreevey III - Bass
- Bruce Zelesnick - Drums
- "Tele-tele-telephone" b/w "Gadabout" (Fiction Records, 1978)
- "Tele-tele-telephone" b/w "Wacker Drive (Stiff Records, 1978)
- "Checking Out the Checkout Girl" b/w "Who Does It Hurt" (IRS Records, 1979)
12 inch singles
- "Yahoo Eeee" b/w "Yahoo Eeee(dance mix)" (Bigtime Records) 1986
- The EP (Fiction Records, 1979)
- "I Hate My Life"
- "Touchy Feely People"
- "I Just Want to Have Sex"
- Things Aren't Right (IRS Records, 1979)
- The Mind Is Willing, but the Flesh is Weak
- Who Does It Hurt
- Luncheonette Lovers
- Checking Out the Checkout Girl
- This Is Your Elbow
- The Oven
- Germ Proof Cleaners
- Al's Radiator
- Tell Me How To Live (Big Records, 1981)
- On Right
- Iron on Courage
- Welcome To The Eighties, Ladies
- What Lays, Lays
- House of Woo
- Hymn for Humans Perfect For Ants After 8:00
- Sister Theresa
- She Needs It
- Don't Say Always, If You Mean Never
- The Refrigerator Saga