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Group Members: Todd Rundgren
All Music Guide:
Inspired by a variety of British Invasion groups, from the omnipresent Beatles to cult favorites the Move, Todd Rundgren and his Woody's Truck Stop colleague Carson Van Osten formed the Nazz in 1967. Taking their name from an obscure Yardbirds song, the Nazz were arguably the first Anglophiles in rock history. There had been many groups that drew inspiration from the Beatles and the Stones, but none had been so self-consciously reverent as the Nazz. One of their first singles, "Open My Eyes," twisted the riff from the Who's "I Can't Explain," and much of their music felt like homages to Brit rock from the Kinks to Cream, thereby setting a precedent that was followed by scores of North American guitar pop bands from the Raspberries to Sloan.
Playing lead guitar and bass, respectively, Rundgren and Van Osten were joined by drummer Thom Mooney (formerly of the Munchkins) and lead vocalist/keyboardist Stewkey (born Robert Antoni). The Nazz had their first gig in July 1967, landing an opening slot at a Doors concert. By September, the group received some financial support from the local record store Bartoff & Warfield, who also put them in touch with John Kurland, a record promoter who was looking for a guitar pop band. Kurland took a shine to the Nazz and signed on as their manager. Throughout the fall, they practiced in their new home base of Great Neck, New York. Kurland and his associate, Michael Friedman, prevented the band from gigging regularly, believing that a lack of performances would increase demand for the group. The managers were were convinced that the Nazz could be marketed as a sharp, stylish boy band for the teenybopper audience, and helped the quartet members to refashion themselves in that mode.
With a wardrobe of clothes and an album's worth of material ready, Kurland and Friedman had the Nazz sign with SGC Records -- an offshoot of Atlantic Records and Columbia-Screen Gems -- in the summer of 1968. Their debut album, Nazz, appeared in October, supported by the single "Hello It's Me." Although the song would later become a major hit for Rundgren as a solo artist, the dirgey original version barely scraped the national charts, largely due to mismanagement. The managers wanted the Nazz to play only large halls, which was virtually impossible for an unknown, unproven band with a newly released debut album. As a result, most of the group's publicity was limited to glamour shots and puff pieces in teen mags. Ironically, many of the articles emphasized the band's "electrifying" live performances.
"Hello It's Me" managed to reach number 71 on the charts, and the record -- particularly the Nazz's self-production of "Open My Eyes" and "Hello It's Me" -- attracted some good notices. Taking this as a cue, the Nazz headed to England to cut their second album, but they became embroiled in work visa problems. Undaunted, they returned to America and began work on an ambitious self-produced double album named Fungo Bat. By the time it was released in April 1969, it was trimmed to a single album and titled Nazz Nazz. Although the project's scale was diminished, the music remained dizzyingly diverse, as the record ran the gamut from psychedelic rockers to pop ballads. One problem emerged, however. In the process of editing, much of Rundgren's newer, Laura Nyro-influenced material -- which he had sung himself -- was left on the shelves. Neither the management nor his bandmates gave Rundgren much encouragement to sing, nor was his new introspective direction warmly received by his colleagues. Faced with a no-win situation, Rundgren left the group not long after their summer 1969 tour; by that time, Van Osten had already departed the band.
Stewkey took control of the Nazz, erased Rundgren's vocals from the album sitting in the vaults, and replaced them with his own. The result was released as Nazz III in 1970, but it stiffed. Mooney departed the group, later to play with such bands as the Curtis Brothers, Tattoo, and Paris. Stewkey joined Fuse, an Anglophile power pop group featuring future Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen. Mooney also played with Fuse, but left before Cheap Trick bassist Tom Petersson joined and the group became Sick Man of Europe.
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. In 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 as a solo artist and 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."
In 2011 The Bangles covered Open My Eyes on their album Sweetheart of the Sun.
Origin of the band's name 
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.
The term "Nazz" is also used in the Blondie song Walk Like Me on the album Autoamerican; " Tell that girl you'd like a dance, and tell that man that you're the Nazz; tell me that you're not the last walking in parade."