Friday, February 10, 2012

2-10-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #38 (Growing Up in Public at CBGB’s pt. 4- 1977 & the end)

All right, well, I was talking about change at the end of the last blog. . . and how I kind of

“grew up in public” at that great divey club on the Bowery, CBGB’s. So many good things happened there, esp. in the early days. I met Danny Fields, who I really liked because he was smart, cool, warm, humorous, and, well, if you ever met him, you know he’s a guy who not only knows rock music & legends (like the Doors and Iggy Pop), but he managed the Ramones early on. He was a great gossip but also able to keep confidences -- his expressive eyes and knowing nod gave a feeling of being in on something very intimate and exciting.

Anyway, I really wouldn’t want to hear any dirt about Danny Fields because I was very fond of him (not in “that way,” but just as a great human being) and he made you feel special just by paying attention to you. That’s what I want to be known for, too: making others feel special. And that, my friends, is a special talent. . . I also thought that Terry Ork, Television’s jolly elflike manager with the dark glasses and booming chuckle, was a laugh and lots of fun. Sadly, he’s gone now.

OK, so there were people who made you feel good, and others you just wanted to avoid. Some of those people were in bands, one of whom I won’t name but he was a guitar player in a band that played often at CB’s, a short and skinny guy who acted very slimily around girls and tried to stick his tongue down my throat one time when I naively accepted a ride uptown with him (to be dropped off at my then-boyfriend’s studio apt.). Ugh! Anyway, he’s deceased now, so I don’t want to speak ill of the dead. . . he did play a pretty good guitar and cut a good figure onstage back in the seventies.

So, come ’77 or so, the fun nights at CB’s came fewer and farther between. Unfamiliar faces popped up more and more, and where I’d formerly waltz in and see somebody I knew, it just didn’t happen anymore. On my 21st birthday, I sat in the audience (rare for me -- I hate sitting down at clubs; leaning against a wall in the back is more my style) at CBGB’s while the Dead Boys played. They weren’t my faves, but I didn’t know where else to go and I was on a date with a guy I wasn’t too keen on. If we went somewhere with loud music, I wouldn’t have to talk or hear him talk. . . he was one of the few inane guys I (briefly) dated. Most of my “dates” were pretty darn interesting, or at least in some ways felt worth my while.

Well, in 1978, Nervus Rex were playing CBGB’s one slow February night, and two of our musician friends, Clem Burke and Jimmy Destri, were taking Blondie producer Mike Chapman out on the town in NY. As we happened onstage, the half-sodden Chapman was told by our friends that he should listen ‘cause we were good -- I think that’s what happened.

So, after our set, this drunken Australian nutter (skinny, med. Height, thinning reddish hair, big blue eyes) comes backstage to drawl, “I’m going to put you on the CHARTS!! I’m going to make you STARS!!” Ever the polite girl, my other’s pride, I nodded and smiled, yes, of course. Then I cornered our worldy older drummer, Jonathan Gildersleeve, to ask, “Jon, who IS that weird guy?”

Jon could hardly breathe, he was so excited. “That’s Mike Chapman!!!” he whispered.

“Oh.” I sort of knew who that was, but my cynical side wasn’t convinced of his ability to do all that Charting and Starmaking. I don’t know why. . . I just didn’t trust it. Shawn, on the other hand, went with it -- but I still am not sure how he felt at that moment.

Anyhoo. Once we got signed and started to work on our debut album with Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn (of the ChinniChap Production company), the whole scene in NYC and at CBGB’s never was the same. Talking Heads, Television, Patti Smith, the Ramones, Blondie: they all went on tours and became recording artists of note. Nervus Rex didn’t fare too well once our album was in the can and held back for a year before it was released to lukewarm reception and low sales. The B-52’s came out before us, and we were labeled “B-52 like,” only not as good. It was sad, but that’s the breaks.

Things change, and if you can’t change with the times, He who marries his generation becomes a widow in the next (Leonard Cohen).

It was time to find another survival job and maybe ship out. . . so let’s talk about Chrissie Hynde, Squeeze, and running off to Blighty for 18 months to lick my wounds after Nervus Rex broke up.

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