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Just a few comments about the Rock, Etc., column in the October 1 Reader:

Historically, Naked Raygun's earliest years (documented on the 1981 compilation Busted at Oz) consisted of a sound a lot closer to the punk of England's the Fall, and even Chicago's own Silver Abuse, sort of an antimusic punk rock. One of Raygun's feature instruments of that period was a synthesizer, which was more of a new-wave tool for other bands back then. I first saw them play back in '81 or '82, opening the night at the legendary Club C.O.D.'s, onstage before Husker Du, the Effigies, and the Dead Kennedys, in that order. Raygun was constantly booed, with the audience constantly yelling at them, "Get off the fucking stage!" but they never got off. They kept playing, wasting time between songs, playing more nonhardcore stuff, pissing off the audience. They relished the audience banter. Pezzati sneers in reply to the audience on one Busted at Oz interlude, "The stage doesn't fuck!" Hmmm. Misplaced modifiers as a source of comedy. Smart. Funny.

The boys were here to stay.

Between '81 and '83, Raygun revamped their sound, focused on new lyrics, and hit Chicago with the best musical assault any Chicago punk band had done to date. To witness the Durango/Haggerty two-guitar attack was a blessing. I myself happened to see them a couple of times.

That era culminated with Basement Screams, which had to be one of the hottest records of the year on Chicago's college radio. Schizophrenic? That record held its own on all alternative rock formats. The album cover itself was state-of-the-art, long before Adobe Photoshop. The facilities/process (involved in the creation of the album cover art) made the record credits on its own merit alone. At that time, Raygun was bidding to be the best Chicago punk band ever, with a sound like no other back in 1983. If I'm not mistaken, even Dave Grohl did a Basement Screams cover of "I Lie" with his group Foo Fighters. I guess even he remembered its impact.

The momentum from the success of Basement Screams carried over into one of Chicago's hottest seven-inch singles, Flammable Solid, minus Durango, to my surprise. I don't own a copy of it, but "Surf Combat" b/w "Gear" made for a crazy summer. That record went quickly out of print, selling out. I once asked Pezzati if it would ever be reprinted. "No. I ran out of 'flammable solid' warning stickers," which they themselves were placing on the solid black record covers to complete the artistic effect. He did mention that the new songs would be on their new upcoming album. The momentum from that amazing seven-inch culminated with Throb Throb, and the rest is history.

That said, maybe Throb Throb did more for punk rock than a lot of records, but the era culminating in Basement Screams did more for Naked Raygun than you're allowing within your review; it's just too bad that the earliest recorded stuff wasn't also picked up by Quarterstick Records.

At the time of their breakup, Raygun had the longest successful run (about 11 years?) of any Chicago punk band, leaping from (an audience-hated) obscurity to the top of the punk heap in less than two years, and remaining there for nine more. They, as a band, were always smarter than the rest of us. I myself always thought that the early booing was an inside joke, created by themselves. Power to them for having a constant evolution.

Eleven years is a long time, so be aware that some people grow to prefer the taste of steak over raw meat, so don't fault them for trying to grow. Punk rock died in the 80s because too many people were worrying about the bands at the top "selling out," when they should have been worried about writing their own songs and discovering new bands/material. Your impressions about their discography only continue to perpetuate all of that negativism. Quarterstick was only trying to celebrate their history by rereleasing all of it, unbiased.

Speaking of raw meat, I was at Metro that Thanksgiving night. I believe it was Haggerty on the chain saw, with Pezzati being the good host, tossing out the pieces of bird--well, at least those pieces not already flung about by the chain saw.

And finally, the intro to "Rat Patrol" (on Throb Throb) has four notes, not three: (in order) B, D, E, and C sharp. I checked the record.

Keep up the good work.

Rodney Anderson

WNUR "Fast 'n' Loud" DJ (1983-1987)


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