'Nazz' CD Liner Notes
It was the spring of 1967 that four unknown musicians came together in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was no accident, and those who have come to know and love their music believe it was more an act of fate than chance. The band featured Todd Rundgren (lead guitar), Carson Van Osten (bass), Thom Mooney (drums), and Robert (Stewkey) Antoni (lead vocalist and keyboards). But to backtrack a little, here's how these four members came to be known as Nazz. Todd and Carson had been working together in a 'white blues' band called Woody's Truck Stop at the time, Stewkeys folk/rock band Elizabeth was doing a show at the philadelphia club, Second of Autumn. Todd went up after a set and asked if Stewkey would be interested in singing with a new band he was forming (influenced by The Beatles, The Who, and Cream). Stewkey jumped at the chance.
Todd also recruited the forth member of the band. Thom was practicing drums one afternoon in the Artist's Hut (a local Philly club) for his band Munchkins when Todd walked in with his guitar and started jamming along. Impressed with the direction of Todd's music, Thom's interest was aroused. This was the beginning of a quartet of young, enthusiastic musicians, ready to make their mark in the rock world. They noticed a song called 'the Nazz are Blue' on the flip side of a Yardbirds single. Liking the sound of it, they put it to use. Thus came Nazz.
A few months later the band was ready for the public. Not wanting to be another flash in the pan, Nazz tried to develop it's own style. Clothes were important, and the more 'mod' the better. They did their first live performance in July of 1967, opening for the Doors, and continued playing the local club circuit as they worked on original material. In the fall of '67, John Kurtland Associates took an interest in managing the band, moving them to New York where they continued working on new songs and perfecting their sound.
In January of 1968 Nazz had it's premiere performance at the Boston Tea Party in Boston, Nazz. Their musical sophistication and tight arrangements impressed both the fans and local critics that night. About a month later Screen Gems TV and Columbia Pictures signed Nazz to their music and record division with recording and publishing contracts.. By April Nazz was recording their first album in Los Angeles. While on the West Coast, NAzz headlined at the Whiskey a Go Go. Sitting in the audience was Atlantic Records president, Ahmet Ertegun, who also liked what we heard.
A few months later, Atco records sent out a press release announcing a new record label merging Atlantic Records and Columbia Screen-Gems, then called SGC., The first band on this new label was Nazz, touted as 'One of the most original and musically exciting groups to come along in years'. The fanzines also picked up on the excitements, featuring Nazz in 16 Magazine, Flip, and Tiger Beat, even before their first album was released.
To launch Nazz's first album and single, SGC sent out an impressive "introducing Nazz" press kit. Included in the kit was a biography of the band which claimed "The net effect of Nazz is a cohesion and power seldom found in a rock band. Their music has vitality, charm and freedom, and in their concern for spontaneity and quality, they promise an important musical future." Not only was their outstanding musicianship stressed, but their youth as well - all four members were only twenty years old.
They were already recognising the talents of the youngest member, Todd Rundgren, crediting him with all song writing. The press kit went on to say he "carried their arrangements with his guitar parts, creates the vocal arrangements and supervises the groups musical direction and on-stage performances."
The album was officially released to the public in October, and was simply self-titled, Nazz.
The only single released from this album was "Hello, It's Me"/"Open My Eyes". It made it into the Top 50 on the national charts with each side receiving airplay in various parts of the country. The original version of "Hello It's Me" with Stewkey on lead vocals differs greatly from the later version Todd released with his own vocals and new arrangements.
The flip side of the original single, "Open My Eyes" was what they wanted the 'Nazz sound' to be all about. It's high production values illustrate the now infamous Rundgren 'wall of sound' production technique. It's power-pop style is indicative of the many and diverse musical influences of the band. It's easy to hear the resemblance between the opening chords of "Open My Eyes" and the Who's "Can't Explain". The guitar solo is reminiscent of the old Ventures tune, "Walk Don't Run."
although Nazz didn't produce this first album themselves, they did remake and produce both "Hello it's me" and "Open my Eyes." Because these were also the only commercially successful songs from this album, it was probably at this point that Nazz decided they would do their own producing in the future. Other tracks on this album also show various musical influences. The harmony- =packed "Crowded" is evocative of the Dionne Warwick hit, "Walk on By," and "Back of Your Mind" brings to mind Cream's "strange Brew." Jeff Beck's influence is also evident in "Lemming Song," which features a double-track phase guitar solo and a driving rhythm.
All these comparisons don't mean that Nazz didn't have a distinct sound all it's own. The press releases sent out by Atco (SGC) at this time raved "The four Nazz musicians have been slowly refining their own highly distinctive approach to rock. They, in no sense, seek to imitate anyone. Therefore, while synthesizing a great many aspects of what is now happening in popular music, they add their own musical insight and perspective."
The band was also notorious for it's electrifying live performances and a few of the tracks on this first album arose from marathon blues/rock jam sessions.
One example is "She's Goin' Down" which showcases the blossoming talents of each individual band member and features guitar and bass solos, plus the obligatory drum solo by Thom. "Wildwood Blues", another jam session-turned- song, belts out the story of the trials and tribulations of the band while performing in clubs along the Jersey shore. In fact, the scream just prior to the instrumental says, "Look, Harvey, a Crab," representing all the time they sat at the beach between gigs.
One of the songs, "If that's the way you feel" is a soulful ballad highlighting strings - Todd's first attempt at string arrangements.
After the release of this first album, the band did a few sporadic concerts around the country. Their management's concept at the time was to give Nazz a big push, playing only to large audiences in big places. But since they were still an unknown band, they couldn't book the big halls. This caused minor tension since they regarded themselves more as a performing band than a studio band. Soon after the release of the album, Nazz packed up and went to England to begin work on their second album Nazz Nazz.
Written by Merf Sohmers and Patti Hobart.