Naked Raygun Biography

Formerly Negro Commander, a band whose life span extended to a single show, Chicago, Illinois, USA’s Naked Raygun were their city’s premier hardcore band of the early 80s. Despite appearances to the contrary, their name was chosen prior to the election of US President Ronald Reagan. Dropping bass player Marco Pezzati for Camilo Gonzalez of the Wayouts at the same time as they lost their original name, the rest of the band comprised Jeff Pezzati (vocals) and Santiago Durango (guitar). No drummer featured in the original line-up until Jim Colao was recruited. Santiago then moved on to Big Black and Arsenal, and was replaced by John Haggerty who had already played saxophone at early shows. Their recording career had begun with the documentary 1981 Chicago live compilation, Busted At Oz, released on Autumn Records (it also featured the Effigies and Strike Under, from whom later members would come). New drummer Eric Spicer (ex-DVA) was drafted in 1983 as the group began to take shape. ‘The old line-up didn’t have a common, long-term goal. We just had practices, we just played some songs we had in our heads... We never talked about records, we played any show in Chicago we could get...’.

They played their first New York date at Gildersleeves later that year. It had taken the band three years to complete their first tour, after which they announced two further tours in 1984. Their first record release had been 1983’s cacophonous Basement Screams EP on Ruthless Records (run by Big Black and the Effigies, and entirely different to the label of the same name operated by rapper Eazy-E). However, their debut album was a vastly superior artefact in showcasing their talents, with individual songs of great quality including ‘Surf Combat’ and ‘Gear’, while ‘Metastasis’ benefited from Pezatti’s trademark malevolent vocal inflections. The jazzy intonations of ‘Libido’, meanwhile, served as an early indication of a willingness to change their mode of address. In 1986, Pierre Kezdy deputized for Camilo on bass, and their All Rise album of that year proved to be their finest moment. The group moved from Homestead Records to set up their own Sandpunder label, before another shift to Caroline Records. Their admiration for the work of the Buzzcocks was compounded when they were joined onstage by a drunken Steve Diggle on their 1989 UK tour to promote Understand? After an emotional final gig at Chicago’s Maxwell’s venue Haggerty left (to join Pegboy) to be replaced by Bill Stephens (ex-Product 19). However, his contribution to 1990’s Raygun... Naked Raygun failed to fill the gap adequately, and Naked Raygun subsequently ground to a halt.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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