Even though their earliest stuff like "Basement Screams" and "Throb Throb" is all nothing short of awesome, I still consider the "Vanilla Blue" single to be Naked Raygun's high-water mark. "Vanilla Blue" also re-adjusted their career-curve a little bit, popping up as it did between "All Rise" and "Jettison", at a point when every Naked Raygun album after "Throb Throb" was incrementally less interesting, making this single even more of a standout.
I first heard this single in sort of an odd way, on a tape that John Stabb of Government Issue had, before the vinyl even came out. GI were in between back-to-back shows at the Anthrax and CBGB's, late in 1987 (a recording of the CB's show eventually became the "Strange Wine" EP), and since I was following the band around for the weekend, we all slept overnight on the hallway floor outside of Scott Munroe's apartment. I guess Naked Raygun and Gov't Issue had just played some shows together, leading to them having "Vanilla Blue" and "Slim" on tape, which John almost couldn't wait to play for us: "You gotta hear this new Naked Raygun song!". Of course, the song was brilliant, with the spaghetti-western intro making for an impossibly good head-fake at the beginning. Then there's the song itself, with Jeff Pezzati's soaring vocal-- it's amazing how long he can hold those notes-- and the unforgettable "Lost control again today" refrain, which strangely comes off as more defiant than desultory.
If there had been an actual song on the b-side, the "Vanilla Blue" single would come close to breaking into my Top Three Best Two-Song U.S. Punk 45s Ever (1. Weirdos "We Got The Neutron Bomb"/"Solitary Confinement", 2. Gang Green "Alcohol"/"Skate To Hell", 3. Last Rights "Chunks"/"So Ends Our Night"); as it is, it falls just outside of it. Not that "Slim" sucks or anything; in fact, I didn't end up seeing the movies "Dr. Strangelove" and "Blazing Saddles" until after I had this record, but when I finally did, it was like I'd seen 'em already. "I am depressed." "Darn near lost a $400 handcart!" "Piss on you, I'm working for Naked Raygun!"
Naked Raygun -
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Postscript: When I first started thinking about blogging, I figured that "Vanilla Blue" would be one of the 80's gems that I would post right away once I started a music blog; I mean, it's on swirly colored vinyl and the band released it themselves, so there's gotta only be about 500 or 1000 copies floating around, right? Wrong-- turns out there must've been 10,000 copies made (I think you can even still buy it through the band's web site), and every music blog in the world has already posted it, unless they're just using the bonus tracks from the CD re-issues and just pretending that they have the vinyl. So, since this is a pretty skimpy excuse for a post, as an extra bonus I'm going to add some tracks from a live Naked Raygun set that I've had kicking around for 23-some-odd years-- a crystal-clear soundboard tape from Bielefeld, Germany. I don't know the exact date of this show, but it's "Jettison" era, meaning sometime around 1988. The full set is about an hour long, but I'm posting just the encore they did-- four songs, including a Buzzcocks cover and a Government Issue cover (on their end, Gov't Issue would sometimes cover Naked Raygun's "Treason").
Oh, yeah, and then I also scanned a 10-page Naked Raygun interview from the Fall '88 issue of my favorite West Coast hardcore zine of all time, Ink Disease. You can click on the individual pages to get a bigger view.
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