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Thursday, January 19, 2012

1-19-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #17 (The Roots of “The Rex” -- Second Wave band Nervus Rex in ‘70’s NYC)


Even though my memory isn’t a paragon of accuracy, with dates and timelines I can be all right. With Nervus Rex, Shawn and I met in late ’76 (my upper east side apartment era). By early ’77, we knew we needed a drummer and a bass player. Although I later had a passionate affair with the electric bass (circa 1991) that continues to this day, in Nervus Rex, I was to play rhythm guitar, some keyboards eventually, and sing harmonies. (I also danced around because I’m kind of antsy and when I hear the music, it gets me boppin’.)

We got Miriam Linna (ex Cramps) to play drums a la Mo Tucker of the Velvets (lots of floor tom) and a very chipper, slim, curly-headed young guy on the bass, Lewis Eklund. He was into the Stones, and who could fault that in a bass player? Real rock & roll rhythm section!

Back to Shawn for memory: “Our first gig was at CBGB, early '77. It was early - about 10 PM and we were doing a soundcheck and then, without even leaving the stage, the sound guy said, "You're up now. This is your set.". So, we just started playing. People were just starting to drift in and get seated while, petrified and ambushed, we tried our best.”

From there, we kept improving, playing in the Krushenick’s loft, getting tighter. I had written lyrics for a melody of Shawns for an early N Rx song called “Dubrule 1250.” In true Velvets fashion, it was about a guy named Norman DuBrule who had horrific dreams, so he went to a hypnotist, Dr. Weems, who put him into a trance. . . Norman saw people burning, crosses -- much worse than what Neil Young sang about in “Southern Man.” I had looked up the Albigensian Heresy in history -- they were a French religious cult who were persecuted and burned at the stake circa 1250 A.D.

Anyway, after that song, I didn’t get to co-write in Nervus Rex with Shawn (bummer! That was to change in future groups) and “Dubrule 1250” got phased out of the set after Miriam left. As to WHY Miriam quit the band, I wasn’t totally sure why; sometimes I think I’m the last in line in the game of telephone, but then again, I didn’t clue in, sometimes: too much internal conflict and drama going on for me to be truly aware, esp. in the past. So I go to others who knew the score, luckily:

(From Shawn Brighton, co-founder of Nervus Rex) Miriam left when she met Billy. I was there for that event - went with her to his apartment, which looked just like hers; wooden record bins filled with vintage vinyl. I could see the look in their eyes and knew they were meant to be. She also was more of a purist and wanted to do roots rock and roll rather than the arty stuff I was coming up with at the time.”

In sum, Shawn says, “But I really think it was because she was in love and wanted to play with him.”

(from Miriam Linna, first N Rx drummer) “I only left the band because I ran off with Billy! I knew you guys were on the road to success, I absolutely knew it, and I loved the music we were doing together. I wish our time in a band together had been longer, but such is love and life.”

Regardless who sat on the drummer’s throne, we became scenesters of a sort. Shawn continues, “Don't forget the ‘happening’ that we had on Mercer street at my parents loft. It was considered the first official "punk" party. There were about 500 people in the street outside trying to gain entrance to the packed loft. We had 3 bands, us, The Fleshtones, and The Zantees - Miriam played with us and the Zantees that night - it was pre-Jonathan. It even made the event column in The Daily News the next day. It was just supposed to be a regular party but turned into an event. The cops shut down Mercer Street because of the crowds. Hilly Kristal was pissed. No one went to CB's that Saturday night.”

Right -- the loft parties back then. Wow. I do recall that one, dimly, but especially the one where we invited a young, out-of-town group from Athens, Georgia to play a party as their entrée into the NY music scene.

. . . But that’s for the next blog!!

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