Jon Hardy, Jim Janota, and Crispin Wood – all hailing from Lexington MA – formed The Bags in the summer of 1985. They unleashed their unique blend of hard rock and punk on the Boston club scene in September of that year.
In 1987 they recorded and released their debut album Rock Starve. Charles M. Young wrote about Rock Starve in Playboy (March, 1988): “The Bags (from Boston) fall somewhere among the Ramones, Husker Du, and early Kiss. Their debut, Rock Starve (Restless), consists of thrilling guitar-bash riffs that pound like the sound of a herd of giant woolly mammoths going over a cliff, just enough melody rasping though shredded vocal chords and lyrics wholly unbesmirched by any panty-waist college-poetry influence.”
The Bags toured the U.S. in 1988.
In 1989, The Bags released their first single on Stanton Park (I Know / Hide And Seek). They also took top honors by unanimous vote, winning the 11th Annual WBCN Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble. Later on that year they released an album on Stanton Park under one of their many aliases, Swamp Oaf. Byron Coley wrote about Swamp Oaf in Spin (February 1990): “This Boston trio (perhaps best known for their non-thug work under the name the Bags) have a sense of compositional burl most redolent of early/mid period Blue Cheer. The guitar quick-switches between ass-puddle wah-boom and overblown zorch-flash with Leigh Stevens-oid flair, and these guys don’t get even close to the Zep cliche path most of their “peers” are treading.
In 1990 The Bags released their eponymous LP The Bags, again on Stanton Park. David Fricke wrote about The Bags in the 1990 Yearbook edition of Rolling Stone: “With the grade-A snarl and swagger of their self-titled second album, the Boston raunchers the Bags (Stanton Park LP) are shoo-ins for Kings of Garageland 1990. At their best, the Bags rip it up like the Meat Puppets-meet-Motorhead, a marriage surely made in bar-band heaven.”
In 1991 the band released two singles – one for Stanton Park (L. Frank Baum / Max Roach), the other for Italian label Helter Skelter (Dr. Lb. / Frilly Underwear). At the end of the year, after six and a half years of playing together, The Bags celebrated the release of their album Night of the Corn People (Stanton Park / Helter Skelter) by breaking up. The Bags left behind a large following and a reputation as a killer live band.
After a 12-year hiatus (save for a one-off reunion show in 1996), The Bags reformed and began writing and rehearsing songs. Their “debut” performance at the Middle East in February of 2004 sold out quickly, and the following June they released a live 2 song CD on their new Oaf Records label and returned to the ‘East for another sold out show.
The band spent the summer and fall of 2004 recording Sharpen Your Sticks, their first full-length album in 13 years. Brett Milano wrote in the Boston Phoenix (March 4-10, 2005), “Along with Bullet LaVolta, the Bags are the band most often credited (or blamed, in some circles) for introducing punk metal to Boston. Which means that they don’t have to worry too much about their sound having gone out of style since they last rocked. The new disc serves up 15 songs in 36 minutes: the sound is still metallic, but the songs are all punchy and punky. Meanwhile, the lyrics from Wood and Hardy amount to a puncturing of metal’s ponderous tendencies. Imagine the post-therapy self-loathing of Metallica’s St. Anger played for laughs and you’d have The Bags’ ‘Believer’ or ‘Ass Kicker’ (‘You’re gonna kick my ass, that I do know — kung foe’). So forget about this being just a respectable comeback and call it The Bags’ best album. Period.”Sharpen Your Sticks includes the song “Cavemen Rejoice” which was featured on the hit PlayStation 2 video game Guitar Hero.
In late 2005, The Bags released a re-mastered version of their 1991 “swan song” Night of the Corn People with a revamped booklet and bonus tracks. Originally released by Stanton Park Records just prior to the band’s extended 12 year vacation, Night of the Corn People was described at the time as “a feast of a set which contains enough hardcore guitar overkill to satisfy most heavy guitar rock fans, enough strange poetic weirdness and odd signatures to have children of the psychedelic revolution revolving in their jelly baths, and just enough rock-operatic genius to satisfy the self-seeking progressive lovers of ‘serious’ rock & roll” (Phil McMullen, Ptolemaic Terrascope, April 1992). “The Mole” – from Night of the Corn People – is featured in the film Air Guitar Nation (2007), and “I Smell A Rat” was covered by Sebadoh on their album Harmacy (1996).
In April 2007, The Bags released a mighty follow-up to Sharpen Your Sticks, the 14-cut, aptly-titled album Mount Rockmore. With ace producer Carl Plaster (Sebadoh, Buffalo Tom, The Mighty Mighty Bostones, etc.) at the helm, this new full-length marries the slash-and-burn aesthetic of Sharpen Your Sticks with some adventurous muscle-stretching that shows that The Bags haven’t lost their knack for righteous rock opera exuberance (case in point being the eight-plus minute song suite “Dark Days In the Valley;” the guys apparently still jam with Maloney…). All in all, Mount Rockmore is a loud, sharp, and frequently (cold) tongue-in-cheek record that defies anyone in earshot not to hoist the two-fisted devil horns. Many a smiling head will bang.
In September 2008, a collection of vintage recordings were assembled, re-mastered, and reissued in the form of The Bags ’89. Included are all the tracks from the eponymous LP The Bags, originally issued in 1990, along with the I Know /Hide And Seek single, and bonus tracks.