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Monday, February 13, 2012

2-13-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #41 (Nervus Rex’s First Recording Session & Our Growing Pains. . . )



Being that I’m a daring gal if nothing else (“too headstrong to learn the piano from me,” as my mother hmphed more than once), I’ll plow right through and recollect about some of the early N Rx experiences and growing pains.

(Of course I’ve been writing these blogs out of sequence -- they’re not paying me to be an editor and/or do a chronological blog -- and really, do we care??!!)

As before stated, our first drummer, Miriam, left the band to be with Billy Miller and become a Zantee and co-founder of Norton Records. Our then-bassist, Lewis Eklund, worked somewhere like a music store (if he’s out there or Shawn remembers, let me know where) he knew a slightly older guy who played drums by the name of Jonathan Gildersleeve.

Yes, I’m pretty sure we got Jon G. in the band because of Lewis Eklund. So we met with this guy, Jon, who was a big guy, tall & imposing, who had a great shag haircut and piercing, intelligent eyes. He had a crazy, lopsided smile, a quirky drumming style, and a love of gin -- but he knew pop music inside and out. At the apartment he shared with Dianne Athey and their cat, Natty Dread, he’d run a regular “radio show” at a given time every day. Jonathan would pretend he was a dee jay, and spin his favorite records for an hour or so. Such a music lover -- he taught me about a lot of new and old music that was cool.

The four of us -- Shawn, Lewis, Jonathan & me -- went into the renowned RPM recording studio (12 East 12th Street) in the heart of Greenwich Village. Steve Israel co-produced two tracks with us, “Don’t Look” b/w “Love Affair.” Shawn and I both had roaringly awful head colds the day we went into the studio -- but it worked out advantageously, somehow. When the cold is in my head, not throat, I can sing high notes better -- funny, huh?

Now, I thought Lewis was a pretty great bassplayer --just listen to those cool bassparts on “Don’t Look,” very Stones-y, which was his favorite band after all. But his cocky personality and odd sense of humor didn’t quite jibe with Shawn’s -- or mine. So. . . after a year of working with him, Shawn was ready to switch bassplayers. I felt really awful about Lew being asked to leave the band (bands are really like little dysfunctional families, with problems but love and loyalties, usually).

Then, it turned out that Jonathan had a plan in mind: to recruit his beautiful, talented, artist girlfriend, Dianne Athey, into the band as our new bassplayer. I was very fond of her, and regarded her as an older sister more than a friend. . . she gave me lots of great advice about life, love, and finances.

Dianne was the first person to explain what a credit rating was, and why it behooved me to start building mine up by obtaining a credit card and paying it off regularly. Thanks, Dianne! That was one very useful life lesson I’ll always remember *-)

We greatly enjoyed the blue cheese/cashews/sprouts/pear salads at the Broome Street Bar, and had a good time in the band together. Because our boyfriends were in the band with us, and being young (and feisty), we were often at odds with our guys. And yes, being attractive girls, we did have our fans. . . but that wasn’t much of a head turner as much as the need to occasionally get away from the pressure of being in a much-liked band with demanding boyfriends who didn’t always act like grownups (as if WE were much better at that!).

Dianne also handed me my first alcoholic drink. We were at the Ritz, either hanging out or in-between playing a show there. The place was packed -- and I get so nervous being in crowds. Shawn was avoiding me, running after some model-type girl (or vice-versa). At any rate, I was so angry -- fit to be tied -- and Dianne saw how upset I was. She handed me a screwdriver -- and even though it tasted bad to me, I took it as “medicine.” I might have had two of them. Then I still wanted to kill that other girl! I think we very nearly had a “catfight” there, at the Ritz -- but my faulty memory, again, keeps that detail at bay. But OI do know that Dianne definitely handed me my first vodka drink. . . I don’t touch the stuff now, but it was like a rite of passage at the time, and kind of amusing in retrospect.

Dianne was tall and gorgeous, and once she was in the band, Shawn found a way to push me behind my keyboard stack (my Panther organ and synthesizer, which I used to add little parts to the musical mix, though I could never say I’m any kind of good keyboard player) more and more. . . Dianne was certainly the femme fatale in the band, and I was the cute little enthusiastic waif.

To this day, I admire and respect Dianne for her character, great laugh, good looks, and musicianship. She’s still a friend, whether we spend much time together or not. I only hope we’ll play again together in some way, somehow. . .

Until next blog, “Don’t Look” while Dianne and Jonathan’s erstwhile Ohio crony makes it big in the rock music world with a fabulous voice, look, and attitude: Chrissie Hynde comes to town.


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