Saturday, March 12, 2011

That's How I Got This Great Tan

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 -

(files taken down by request)

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.

Naked Raygun -

(files taken down by request)


jeffen said...

As far as blatant novelty filler goes, "Slim' is surprisingly durable.
Can't agree that NR grew less interesting as they went along though. "Understand" is one of my favourites of theirs.

Brushback said...

See, that's where I diverge from most people-- or, everyone younger than me, at least. I'm one of those people who thinks "Tim" was The Replacements' first bad record.

Give me the early stuff, before the bands start smoothing things out and sounding too much like a diminished version of themselves.

Brushback said...

I just gave "Understand" a quick run-through, and while it's got some good songs ("Treason", "Wonder Beer", "OK Wait"), it just sounds so clunky and boring next to their earlier stuff. It just doesn't have that spastic live energy that everything up through "Throb Throb" has.

Brushback said...

All that aside, please take note:


Holly said...

Thanks for the live tracks! I think Peacemaker may still be my favorite NR song. So many memorable lines:

"I'll pound sand right up your ass".

"Our moral codes differ - you are scum & that is all"

"A trail of filth follows you around"

"I am right & you are wrong - you are wrong, that is all"


BTW, you were the inspiration for my latest blog post, which you should check out. :-)

Brushback said...

Don't forget, Steam are from Connecticut, and so are The Wildweeds.

Youth Korps, too

Vanilla Bruce said...

can we talk about how this is also one of the best-sounding slabs of vinyl in our collections?
It just jumps right of the speakers, I assume whoever mastered it is responsible.

Brushback said...

It is a pretty great-sounding record, especially for being on solid-colored vinyl (which tends to make things sound wimpier or more brittle, in my experience).

Now let's talk about how great the soundboard tape is, huh? (actually, the guitar could've been mixed a bit louder)

Anonymous said...

Wow. Did they really make you take the file down? Yeah, now I'm sure instead of downloading it, just hundreds of people will run out and get an out of print single and they'll make tons of money.

Brushback said...

Yeah, I gotta figure it was from Touch and Go/Quarterstick, since the tracks were on the CD re-issues from maybe a dozen years ago.

Holly said...

That is crazy bulls*it.

Brushback said...

I actually had a hunch that something might happen -- I'd even mentioned in an e-mail to someone a few days earlier about how I try to keep things quiet around here, and how I was working on a Naked Raygun post but otherwise try to avoid certain bands and labels because they attract too much unwanted attention.

I hope a few people got to hear the live tracks, at least, because I liked how they came out.

Holly said...

I started to count how many T&G 7"s & lps I have, as well all the cds I purchased to theoretically "replace" the lps ... but it was like counting sheep, no end in sight!

Someone at T&G does not understand how to NOT irritate their most loyal customers...

Brushback said...

Yeah, T&G's the toughest when it comes to stuff like this, even though "Vanilla Blue" isn't even a T&G 7" -- I had some Didjits files deleted a long time ago, before I knew to watch out for them...

I'm not sure how I would handle stuff like this, if it were my record label. I mean, I'm not posting files to rip people off, it's more like I'm saying "here's this neat record that I bought 20 years ago, check out this cool band", like a history lesson, but I guess it doesn't matter.

The blogs that put up links to full new releases the month they come out, if I had a label that would piss me off.

Heck, I used to call up Touch and Go back in the 80's when I wanted to interview one of their bands for my zine, and they were more than helpful to me then. I guess things were different back then, the scene was so small that you'd be happy just to find one person who cared.

Anonymous said...

For me this was their last great record, 'Jettison' that followed this was kinda dull compared to the mighty 'All Rise' that preceded Vanilla Blue.

I was hoping to see Naked Raygun in London last August, but they cancelled. Grrrrrrr.

Brushback said...

"Soldiers Requiem" is actually one of my top handful of favorite Naked Raygun songs ever, but other than that, the rest of "Jettison" did kinda suck.