Naked Raygun, Chicago's most beloved punk rock sons and fathers of the "Chicago Sound", was formed in 1980 by guitarist Santiago Durango and bassist Marco Pezzati. Santiago, a native of Columbia, had briefly played in one of Chicago's first punk acts, Silver Abuse. The new duo called upon Marco's brother, Jeff, to sing and they made their debut as a threesome (no drummer) called Negro Commando. Negro Commando played one show before changing their name to Naked Raygun and adding drummer Bobby Strange. This line up was very short-lived, though, and Bobby Strange was quickly replaced by Jim Colao.
Naked Raygun made their vinyl debut on Busted At Oz, a 1981 compilation of Chicago punk bands that was recorded live at Oz, an early Chicago punk club. By 1983, Marco had left the group and Camilo Gonzalez (formerly of Silver Abuse) was Naked Raygun's bassist. The group released their first EP, Basement Screams, on Ruthless Records the same year. Basement Screams would become a highly sought after item because it went out of print while the band was still in existence. During this time both Santiago and Jeff were also playing guitar and bass, respectively, in Big Black. Santiago, who wrote most of Naked Raygun's material at the time, soon dropped out of the band altogether to concentrate on Big Black, while Jeff left Big Black to concentrate on Naked Raygun. John Haggerty, whose guitar tone would become one of the most envied in punk rock, replaced Santiago in time to record the Flammable Solid 7" EP, also released by Ruthless.
In 1984, Naked Raygun signed with Homestead Records and recorded the Throb Throb LP. With Santiago gone, everybody took part in the songwriting. Jim and Camilo, in particular, strayed from typical punk rock style, often coming up with different and bizarre lyrics and structures. This resulted in Throb Throb being a varied and terrific album. At this time, Chicago's punk scene had divided into two virtually separate camps. One was the older crowd, the early scene represented by bands like the Effigies, who had a definite idea of what they thought the Chicago sound was (or should be). The second scene was represented by bands like Articles of Faith. This group was made up of younger kids more in tune with the national hardcore scene and musical styles. These two scenes didn't like each other at all but Naked Raygun was one of the few bands who play out to a positive response from both sides. Raygun was quickly become one of Chicago's most popular bands.
After Throb Throb, Camilo Gonzalez and Jim Colao left the group. Eric Spicer took over on drums and Pierre Kezdy (formerly of Strike Under and Trial By Fire) was the new bassist. This line-up would later been seen as the definitive Naked Raygun line-up. The new band recorded All Rise in 1985. The record, written largely by Jeff Pezzati, was much more straightforward than Throb Throb, but was still fantastic. After All Rise, the group took some time to record a follow-up. The Vanilla Blue single was released on the band's own Sandpounder label in 1987. "Vanilla Blue", written by Pierre, would quickly become a Naked Raygun standard. The B-side was a goofy tribute to actor Slim Pickens.
In Chicago, Naked Raygun had become a huge draw. They had become so popular, in fact, that promoters would often reschedule their shows so they wouldn't conflict with a Naked Raygun gig. Despite the fact that Haggerty and, particularly, Kezdy, rarely moved on stage the band still put on an exciting live show. The group was also given to tossing out unique "souvenirs". Things like suckers, fly swatters, magnets, and toy guns would have "Naked Raygun" stamped on them and thrown out to the audience by the band, usually prompted by a chant of "free shit" from the crowd.
By 1988, the group had signed with Caroline Records and released the Jettison LP. Everybody took a part in the songwriting of Jettison, resulting in a more diverse album. Critics tend to name it as the high point of Raygun's career. The following year, the band released Undertand?, which was a solid album that showed the band moving in more of a power pop punk direction. The group was at the height of their popularity, especially locally. They were also able to do their first European tour. However, following their tour, John Haggerty left the group.
John soon resurfaced in a new band, Pegboy, with his brother, Bloodsport drummer Joe Haggerty, and two former members of local hardcore act Bhopal Stiffs (John had helped produce their demo in 1987). Meanwhile, Naked Raygun had decided to continue on without John. They hired a new guitarist, Bill Stephens, and in 1990 released the disappointing album Raygun... Naked Raygun. It met with negative reviews, although locally the band was so loved that many overlooked the album's weakness. Many blamed the loss of John on the weakness of the record, claiming Bill Stephens was not able to fill Haggerty's shoes. This may be, but the fact also remains the most of the songs weren't that great and the lousy production didn't help. Still, the band soldiered on, but rumors grew about discontent within the group. Naked Raygun continued to play shows until 1992, when they simply stopped. There was no announcement of a breakup. The group simply stopped playing.
In 1997, Naked Raygun's final line-up returned to the studio to re-record a four-song demo they had recorded in 1992 (the original tapes had been lost). The new songs, along with some live songs, demos, and compilation cuts, appeared as Last of the Demo-hicans on local label Dyslexic Records. That same year, in honor of the new release, Naked Raygun played two sold out reunion shows at Chicago's Metro Club (a live album recorded at those reunion shows, Free Shit, appeared on Haunted Town Records in 2001). In 1999, Quarterstick Records, an offshoot of Touch And Go, reissued the bulk of Raygun's catalog (Basement Screams through Raygun... Naked Raygun) with bonus tracks.
BASEMENT SCREAMS EP (Ruthless, 1983)
FLAMMABLE SOLID 7" (Ruthless, 1983)
THROB THROB LP (LSR/Homestead, 1984)
ALL RISE LP (LSR/Homestead, 1985)
VANILLA BLUE 7" (Sandpounder, 1987)
JETTISON LP (Caroline, 1988)
TREASON 12" (Caroline, 1989)
UNDERSTAND? LP (Caroline, 1989)
HOME 7" (Caroline, 1990)
RAYGUN... NAKED RAYGUN LP (Caroline, 1990)
FREE SHIT CD (Haunted Town, 2001 - live from reunion shows)
LAST OF THE DEMOHICANS CD (Dyslexic, 1997)
HUGE BIGNESS 1980-1992 CD (Quarterstick, "Greatest Hits" collection)
THE ART OF THROB THROB LP (Jettison, 1990)
BUSTED AT OZ LP (Autumn, 1981) "Bomb Shelter", "When the Screaming Stops"
CODE BLUE tape (Last Rites, 1984) "No Sex", "Only In America"
MIDDLE OF AMERICA LP (H.I.D., 1984) "I Don't Know", "Stupid"
FLIPSIDE VINYL FANZINE vol. 2 LP (Gasatanka/Enigma, 1985) "Metastasis"
SUB POP 100 LP (Sub Pop, 1986) "Bananacuda"
RAT MUSIC FOR RAT PEOPLE vol. 3 LP (CD Presents, 1987) "Rocks of Sweden"
All Things Naked Raygun
A good site with discography info, lyrics, and a couple interviews.
Interview from Flipside #46
A fairly short 1985 interview from Flipside.
Interview from Suburban Voice #16
Interview by Al Quint, also from 1985.
An 8 question Interview from Godsend 14
Ex-members of Naked Raygun...