New York City-based new wave outfit Nervus Rex was founded in 1976 by singers/guitarists Shawn Brighton and Lauren Agnelli, the latter a respected rock critic who wrote for Creem magazine under the punk alias Trixie A. Balm. Agnelli's friend, and former Cramps drummer, Miriam Linna, along with bassist Lew Eklund completed the lineup, which made its debut at the legendary CBGB's. With their boy/girl harmonies, acid-surf guitar sound, and twitchy rhythms, Nervus Rex quickly earned a significant fan following, although Brighton's angular pop craft proved too much for Linna, who soon handed in her resignation and joined rockabilly revivalists, the Zantees. Soundman Jonathan Gildersleeve, who played drums in an incarnation of bubblegum hitmakers Ohio Express, was tapped as Linna's replacement in time for the 1978 release of Nervus Rex's debut effort "Don't Look." Issued on the quartet's own Cleverly Named Record Co., the single was an underground smash on both sides of the Atlantic. It even won "Best Independent Single of the Year" honors from Britain's New Musical Express. East Coast tours in support of the Pretenders and Squeeze followed, but in 1979 Eklund left the lineup, citing creative differences. With new bassist Dianne Athey, Nervus Rex signed to producer Mike Chapman's Dreamland label. Their eponymous 1980 debut LP suffered under the weight of Chapman's dance-pop production aesthetic, however, and reviews were negative. Worse, a tour with fellow Dreamland act Spider was abruptly scrapped when Spider's guitarist fell ill with typhoid fever, which forced both bands into quarantine. With Dreamland's finances in shambles, Nervus Rex dissolved in 1981. Brighton later formed synth-pop group, the Puppets, while Agnelli resurfaced in beatnik satirists, the Washington Squares.
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