Nazz - Fungo Bat
1. Forget All About It
2. Only One Winner
3. Magic Me
4. Gonna Cry Today
5. Meridian Leeward
6. Under The Ice
7. Some People
8. Rain Rider
10. Old Time Love-Making
11. Featherbedding Lover
12. Take The Hand
13. How Can You Call That Beautiful
1. Loosen Up
2. Sing You A Song/Good Lovin’ Woman/Sing You A Song (Reprise)
3. It’s Not That Easy
4. Plenty of Lovin’
5. Letters Don’t Count
6. Kiddie Boy
7. Christopher Columbus
8. Hang On Paul
9. Not Wrong Long
10. You Are My Window
11. A Beautiful Song
A leap-year post seems appropriate for this album that never was! This is a reconstruction of the unreleased 1969 Nazz double-album Fungo Bat. Recorded amidst the actual disintegration of the band, the album was paired down to the single-album release of Nazz Nazz, with the remaining material seeing the light of day as the posthumous Nazz III in 1971. This reconstruction those two albums and attempts to present what a finished Fungo Bat would have sounded like, using Todd Rundgren’s personal acetates as a blueprint. I’ve also personally remastered the tracks to not only function as a cohesive whole, but to be a more listenable album with a more balanced high-end and more articulated low end, what I perceived as sonic limitations of the original album.
Philadelphia hometown kids making good, teenaged garage-rockers Nazz miraculously scored a record deal with Colgems and some high-profile gigs opening for such luminaries The Doors and The Bee Gees. Although stifled by performance venues for being underage, the quartet was also marketed as a heavier alternative for teeny-boppers and scored their first hits in 1968 with “Open My Eyes” and “Hello It’s Me”, penned by their prodigal guitarist: one Mr. Todd Rundgren. Being simultaneously influenced by the electric Blues of the British Invasion, yet also distinctly (and curtly) American, Nazz seemed to have a fast and high trajectory behind their self-titled debut, effortlessly courting Garage Rock and shades of Psychedelia and creating the template for Power Pop. But some things were just simply not meant to last, as the cracks in the band began to show upon the sessions for the sophomore album.
Taking cue from the newly-released Beatles The White Album, Rundgren planned Nazz’s follow-up also as a double-album of newly composed songs. Additionally, much of the material was ballad-heavy, influenced by his current obsession with keyboardist Laura Nyro– much to the chagrin of the rest of the band, who just wanted to rock! While on tour in Europe in January 1969, Nazz booked studio time at Trident Studios to start tracking the album. With one song in, the British Musicians Union immediately shut the four 19-year old Americans down and ejected them from the studio.
Returning to their home base of ID Sound Studios in Hollywood with The Electric Prunes’ James Lowe behind the board, the quarter restarted sessions for the double album, with the intention of self-producing the album entirely. Political divisions between the band members further hampered progress– a Rundgren resolved to refine his vision of the sprawling double album by secretly replacing singer/keyboardist Stewkey’s organ parts with session musicians, and a Stewkey who outright refused to sing on Rundgren’s pop ballads that, to him, sounded more like solo efforts.
Stewkey and drummer Thom Mooney pleaded with their label to intervene with the as-yet unnamed double album (although the inside-joke “Fungo Bat” had been used to designate recordings meant for the album, it was not actually meant as the album title proper, contrary to general belief!). Colgems Records put the hammer down on Rundgren and made the executive decision to trim the double album down to a single LP length, claiming it too pretentious for such a new band to release such a mountain of material as their second-ever release. Rundgren acquiesced and the “Fungo Bat” material was reduced to a single LP of the most band-oriented songs and released as Nazz Nazz in April 1969… but not before the outright resignation of bassist Carson Van Osten, who had tired of the band drama.
After a handful of replacement bassists and several gigs to support Nazz Nazz, Rundgren, too, tired of the drama–or probably what he considered artistic compromises in his burgeoning solo career–and quit the band as well. Stewky and Mooney continued until 1970 as a trio and with fill-in musicians, only to officially call it quits shortly thereafter. But record labels being record labels, Colgems wouldn’t let it rest and went searching for the remaining, partially unfinished leftovers from Nazz Nazz. Still in possession by Mooney, he reunited with Stewkey and Lowe to finish the material, which was ill-advised by the pair yet ultimately released as Nazz III in May 1971, leaving a most puzzling epitaph to a short-lived band. But is it possible to take a second swing at Fungo Bat, to hear the album Todd Rundgren originally wanted to release?
Luckily, a set of extremely rare production acetates have survived over the years, which blueprinted Rundgren’s vision of how the 24 songs were to be constructed. Those rough-ish mono acetates were only recently released in December 2022, demonstrating that the Rundgren-helmed Nazz had actually intended to create a fairly impressive double album that covers a majority of the pop landscape in 1969, and even veers into Progressive Rock territory! For this reconstruction, we will use the aforementioned acetates as merely a guidepost, and combine the final Nazz Nazz and Nazz III albums into a more-or-less finished Nazz Nazz double-LP as Rundgred envisioned; this includes Stewkey’s 1970-overdubbed vocal versions rather than Rundgren’s original guide vocals, as they sound more complete and, well, finished. Although the record has also been recently corrected that the material was never intended to be named “Fungo Bat”, we will use this title regardless in the name of historical continuity of music nerdity.
It is also of note, that I have extensively re-EQed this album, as I thought this was a really great double-album ruined by very curious ear-piercing equalization choices. In trying to make a more listenable master, I have significantly calmed down the high end– specicily 3dB cuts at 1kHz, 2kHz and 5kHz, with some songs even receiving an additional cut at 3kHz. Conversely, there was a severe lack of low end on this album, so I have added some bottom to it as well. It is conceivable that I have eliminated some of this album’s charm; to them, I say you are free to listen to the originals at any time.
Side A opens with the fantastic “Forget About It All” from Nazz Nazz, which hard-edits into the Stewky-vocal version of “Only One Winner” from Nazz III, as demonstrated on Rundgren’s acetates. This is again hard-edited into “Magic Me” from Nazz III, also as mapped out on Rundgren’s acetates. This is followed by the killer trio of “Gonna Cry Today”, “Meridian Leeward” and “Under The Ice” from Nazz Nazz. Side B opens with Nazz III’s “Some People”, followed by Nazz Nazz’s “Rain Rider”. This is followed by the superior Stewkey-vocal version of “Resolution” and “Old Time Love-Making” from Nazz III, “Featherbedding Lover” from Nazz Nazz, and the record concluding with the Stewkey-sung versions of “Take The Hand” and “How Can You Call That Beautiful”.
Side C goes a bit down the rabbit hole, opening with the banter of “Loosen Up” and the chatter of “Sing You A Song”; note that although Rundgren’s acetates contain the entire four minutes of the “Good Lovin’ Woman” interlude, but I am only using the 40 seconds of it as heard in the bonus track from The Fungo Bat Sessions– and we are all better off for that! This is followed by the Stewkey-sung versions of “It’s Not That Easy” and “Plenty of Lovin” from Nazz III. Next is “Letters Don’t Count” and “Kiddie Boy” from Nazz Nazz and the highlight of the album, “Christopher Columbus” from Nazz III. Side D opens with the manic psyche-pop of “Hang On Paul” and “Not Wrong Long” from Nazz Nazz, followed by “You Are My Window” from Nazz II and “A Beautiful Song” from Nazz Nazz, crossfaded as originally intended to become one 17-minute epic album closer.
Nazz - Nazz Nazz including Nazz III - The Fungo Bat Sessions (2006 Sanctuary Records)