In Nervus Rex and in real life, Dianne Athey was tall and gorgeous, and had a lot of class (still is and does!). She grew up in Akron, Ohio and had a best friend who moved to England, did some rock writing, started a band, wrote songs, sang with devilish vibrato, and rocked harder than any other “chick” (Joan Jett excepted?).
Chrissie Hynde was Dianne’s best friend. And being D’s boyfriend for several years, Jonathan Gildersleeve was also a friend of “C. Hynde,” as he called her (Dianne always called her “Chrissie”). Both Dianne and Jon were ecstatic when The Pretenders hit the charts in 1979. We were in Los Angeles at the time as Nervus Rex, recording our debut LP with good ol’ Mike Chapman, producing.
We’d drive around in rented cars, singing along to Chrissie Hynde’s amazing voice on “Stop Your Sobbing,” “Kid,” and “Brass in Pocket.” That voice -- along with that tough, rockin’ attitude. Whoo hoo! We loved her and the amazing Pretenders.
So, once back in NYC months later, maybe in early 1980, The Pretenders -- and C. Hynde, of course -- came to town. Dianne asked her to come to one of our gigs (was it at Maxwell’s in Hoboken?) and since The Pretenders were so big, we didn’t get to open for them (unless I’m not remembering accurately -- which happens!). But Chrissie came to one of our shows, and made a drawing of her impressions of our band, Nervus Rex.
I’ll find it and scan and include in blogspot soon. . . it’s a cartoonish riot!
Anyway. Dianne and Chrissie had a very close friendship, and since I was also a friend of Dianne’s (and in her band!) she invited me along to hang out with her & Chrissie at D’s London Terrace apartment on West 23rd Street (just a few blocks from the Chelsea Hotel, where Chrissie most likely stayed, at least, where she theoretically belonged!)
In February, 1979, Sid Vicious (Chrissie’s friend) died. His girlfriend was killed at the Chelsea Hotel, and Sid was being held as suspect. Anyway, in light of that grisly memory, perhaps the Chelsea wasn’t a shoo-in (the Gramercy Park hotel was also a music biz hotel, so maybe The Pretenders stayed there?).
Anyway, maybe Dianne remembers these details.
So I was sitting on the carpeted floor of Dianne’s beautiful one-bedroom/semi studio apartment that night with two older, wiser, very cool “rock chicks.” I did a lot of listening, I’m sure, and threw out whatever witty remarks I could muster. We laughed a lot. Chrissie had recently started dating “Ray” (Davies) and they were in a tempestuous romance. I’m sure that heavy drinking had a lot to do with it -- Chrissie and Dianne drank a whole bunch of wine, and I’m sure I stuck to other stuff (like coffee, diet soda, whatever).
Chrissie: skinny, sexy, scrappy, kinda cranky, quick-tempered, brusque, outspoken, dark-humored, cool. Likable, in a smart, rockin’, tough girl way.
At one point, I had told Dianne & Chrissie about my ambition to move to London, England, and write songs -- I guess in a way, similar, to Chrissie’s story. I just felt so out of it in the U.S.A., and I hated the political climate. . . I needed to find out where I belonged in the world, and NYC just wasn’t cutting it. I always WAS an Anglophile. . .
“All right, go ahead. Move to England. Sure, you move to England. Good luck.” I couldn’t tell if C. Hynde was being ironic or sarcastic. . . but looking back, she probably was. She didn’t tell me to look her up or anything. . . not that I would have presumed at the time, but if it’d happened NOW, you can be sure I would have contacted her!
Oh well. I was just so young, optimistic, and humble. But I truly, naively believed things would be great in London. . . a place of destiny for me, I thought. But to no two singers the same fate befells. . .