Nazz was a psychedelic and garage rock band from the 1960s. The band was formed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1967 by Todd Rundgren (lead guitar) and Carson Van Osten (bass guitar). Thom Mooney (drums, formerly of the Munchkins), and Robert "Stewkey" Antoni (vocals, keyboards) joined before their first concert, opening for the Doors in 1967.
Nazz was marketed by their manager, Michael Friedman, as a teenybopper band along the lines of The Monkees. The group signed with SGC Records, releasing Nazz in October 1968. The album was not commercially successful and neither was the first single, "Open My Eyes" of which the flip side was "Hello It's Me" (#41 Canada). "Open My Eyes" was the side SGC Records was promoting, but in Boston WMEX Music Director and DJ Ron Robin accidentally played the flip side. He was impressed and added it to the station's playlist. Reaction was strong and "Hello It's Me" became a number one hit at WMEX in 1968. Several weeks later it was on the playlist of Boston's other Top 40 radio station WRKO and eventually at other stations across the country. SGC Records presented Ron Robin with a Silver Record which reads "WMEX, Where it All Began. Thanks!".
After a brief trip to England in October 1968, cut short by visa problems, Nazz recorded their second album, originally entitled Fungo Bat in Los Angeles in late 1968 and early 1969. (A fungo bat is a special baseball bat used only for practice; it is not intended to hit pitched balls.) The album was originally intended as a double album but was shortened to a single LP before being released as Nazz Nazz in May 1969. Much of what was cut was experimental, piano-based Rundgren material, heavily influenced by singer/songwriter Laura Nyro - a far cry from the group's original Beatles-Who-Yardbirds-Cream derived sound. Disillusioned, Rundgren departed the group, along with Van Osten, soon after.
The band continued to tour during the rest of 1969, recruiting Craig Bolyn (guitar) and Greg Sempler (bass). Mooney departed at the end of the year, but Stewkey continued to tour in 1970 using the Nazz name. 1n 1971, without the full band's knowledge or consent SGC released Nazz III, in which most of Rundgren's vocals from the old 'Fungo Bat' tapes were replaced by Stewkey. Stewkey and Mooney later reconnected and played with Fuse for a brief period using two monikers, Fuse or Nazz, depending on where they were gigging. Mooney would leave again, and Fuse evolved into "Sick Man of Europe", and later (without Stewkey) Cheap Trick. Mooney eventually played with a variety of groups including the Curtis Brothers, Tattoo and Paris. Rundgren went on to have a successful career, releasing several albums as a solo artist and others with the band Utopia. Ironically, Rundgren's biggest solo hit was an up-tempo version of Nazz' first unsuccessful single, "Hello It's Me" from his 1972 Something/Anything? album. As of 2006, Stewkey has been performing as Nazz again with an all new line-up.
The group gained wider recognition thanks to the inclusion of "Open My Eyes" on Nuggets (1972), the genre-defining anthology of American 1960s garage punk and psychedelia compiled by musician Lenny Kaye, and the three Nazz LPs were reissued by Rhino Records on LP in 1983 and subsequently on CD.
In 2009, Spectra Records released 3 albums by Nazz. They were "Nazz vs. Todzila," "13th and Pine' and "Hello It's Crazy Me."
Nazz took their name from the song "The Nazz Are Blue" by The Yardbirds from their album Roger the Engineer. That song, in turn, took its title from Lord Buckley's comic monologue, "The Nazz," which is a re-telling of the tale of Jesus of Nazareth.
It is also often erroneously said that the band took its name from a line in David Bowie's song "Ziggy Stardust," but Bowie wrote the lyrics in 1972, four years after the release of the first Nazz album in 1968. Bowie used the term as a slang noun in the sense of "top dog" or "coolest." (“Ziggy played for time / Jiving us that we were voodoo / The kids were just crass / He was the nazz / With god-given ass”)
Although the group's name on all records and press materials is simply "Nazz" (without the definite article), in practice they were almost always referred to as "the Nazz." Band members regularly used this form of their name in radio commercials for their albums and shows.
Another band was briefly called the Nazz, releasing just one single before renaming themselves Alice Cooper.
The term "Nazz" is also slang for "fool" in Nadsat.
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