Some other bands Nervus Rex double-billed with back in the seventies/eighties: Bloodless Pharaohs (Brian Setzer’s band), The Erasers, Richard Hell & the Voidoids (“You look like you got BLOOD on your lips!” Hell pointed out to me one night when he was blitzed, between sets), Milk & Cookies (Sal, the bassplayer, is still out there rockin’ & I bump into him occasionally), The Sic F*cks (or at least, I remember them, playing -- Russel Wolinsky, Tish, Snooky, Andy Bale & Jason), The Foolish Virgins (had a thing for Jim Morrisson and the Doors), and some other cool combos I’ll remember soon enough. We played CBGB’s, Max’s, Club 57, The Space, The Mudd Club, Hurrah, Peppermint Lounge, and more. . . I’m not remembering every place, every club, every band, but that was a strange way of paying my way through a few years.
I probably felt guilty I wasn’t doing more, but between rehearsals, promoting, gigging, and schmoozing with lots of the inevitable “hanging out” in between, it was a real bohemian living, all right. Of course I finished college and graduated in 1978, and kept writing freelance, too.
But if you ask, was that a “survival Job,” being in a working band who actually made a (meager) living, making music? Sure!
Another English band that Nervus Rex double-billed with -- and I just loved; they were my favorites: SQUEEZE. Their amazing lyrics, melodies, vocals & musicianship gave them the early albatross (‘cause it’s hard to live up to, consistently) of “The New Lennon & McCartney.” Difford & Tillbrook were two very different personalities, South London boys who had a great time thrashing out intelligent pop songs onstage and having fun with it. They became a great hit in England, and also in our musicianly “New Wave” circles, circa ’79 - ’81, especially.
Managed by Miles Copeland (of the FBI agency, who also managed and booked The Police), they toured the U.S. often and made a splash with airplay and record sales. Being very pop & fun, Nervus Rex was a good double bill, and we had a great time sharing the stage.
Squeeze’s music was so uplifting and fun, I couldn’t stop dancing and singing along to every single song on Argybargy. What a great pop album! Few others come close, even today. . .
Anyhoo, because we worked together, I got to hang out with Squeeze & became friends with Glenn, especially. Chris Difford had an American girlfriend who became his wife, Cindy. So it was kind of hard to hang with him. . . though my designs on those guys weren’t anything more than platonic -- and perhaps wanting to work with them. After a bit, Jon Bentley became a great friend. . . he was sweet, cute, and so funny.
While in town and not into other shenanigans (he DID have a girlfriend, Jo, back home on the first tour or two), Glenn T. came over my Thompson Street apartment to play my rinky little studio piano and sing songs like “Paper Roses” with me. We even recorded a little on my TEAC 4-track. It was a riot, and such fun. We both loved classic, old country music. This was around the time they were working with Elvis Costello, who was writing “Good Year for the Roses.” Glenn & Chris wrote and recorded “Labelled With Love” with Squeeze, and that country ballad hit the British charts.
But one of the best feelings, ever, was to hear “Another Nail In My Heart” or “Vicky Verky” live, with all that adrenaline, the octave-unison double vocal of Glenn and Chris, with Gilson Lavis pounding away on drums, Jools Holland finessing on keyboards and Jon Bentley on melodic but driving bass. What a band! I still smile to think about how awesome they were at The Ritz & all. . . the levitating kind of energy from a band in top form.
But that’s not all! Stay tuned for more Squeeze stories whilst scraping by in seventies New York, just stayin’ alive and surviving in the belly of the beast. . . .