Nazz was a psychedelic and garage rock band from the 1960s. Though sometimes mistakenly called "The Nazz", the group's official name on all records and press materials is simply "Nazz", without the definite article. 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, keyboard) 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 Beatles or 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) except in Boston. "Open My Eyes" was the side SGC Records was promoting, but accidentally the flip side was played at the home of Boston"s WMEX Music Director and DJ Ron Robin. 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 derived sound. Disillusioned, Rundgren departed the group, along with Van Osten, soon after.
With Stewkey in charge, the band continued to tour during 1969 and 1970. Without the full band's knowledge or consent an unsuccessful Nazz III was released in 1970, in which Rundgren's vocals in the old tapes were replaced by his own. Mooney soon left, eventually playing with a variety of groups including the Curtis Brothers, Tattoo, Fuse and Paris. Stewkey played with Fuse alongside Mooney for a brief period, but then left. Rundgren went on to have a successful solo career. Rundgren's biggest solo hit was an up-tempo version of Nazz' first unsuccessful single, "Hello It's Me". Stewkey has been performing as Nazz again as of 2006 with an all new line-up.
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 the David Bowie song "Ziggy Stardust" which goes: "He was the nazz, with god-given ass..." but that song appeared in 1972, long after the first Nazz album, which appeared in 1968.
The term Nazz is also slang for "fool" in Nadsat.