Nowadays, the chance to see The Nervebreakers live is shrinking smaller than a diaper pin on a denim jacket. So, to help all fans of Dallas punk who might not have been around when the band was making local music history, DC-9 asked a few prominent figures about their memories of The Nervebreakers from back in the day, when they opened locally for the holy trinity of classic punk: The Ramones (in '77), The Sex Pistols (at their famed Longhorn Ballroom show in '78) and The Clash ('79). For the love of all that's anti, that is a fucking incredible claim to local fame.
And that's not all. During that same peak period, The Nervebreakers had a song covered by The Angry Samoans, acted as Roky Erickson's touring band (they also warmed up for him), and held up local airwaves (although not nearly enough) with the single, "Hijack The Radio."
We spoke to guitarist Barry Kooda earlier this week in "Local Music 'Mericans," in advance of the band's reunion show Saturday at Dada, and here are some thoughts from folks who witnessed their din among a swirling circle of moshers. Real moshers, that is, when moshers were a genuine threat to your safety if you got too close, and something you missed if they were absent at a show. Not the kind you see crowd-surfing during Papa Roach's set at Edgefest, savvy? Anyway, back to The Nervebreakers:
First up, KNON's Mark Ridlen, aka DJ Deluxe, who will be spinning at the show this Saturday and was a kid and fan in '77:
"I was privileged enough to see them with The Ramones, and they went neck and neck with them. When they opened for the Sex Pistols, they flat out blew them away. Pure theater, especially before the Pistols. By the time the Pistols gig happened, the rest of the scene had caught up to them. It was a fun period: Early pre-punk happenings were starting around town. I wish there was footage. I do have a few slides."
"I remember Tex [Edwards] wearing the ripped up T-shirt, and [Sex Pistols' manager] Malcolm McClaren practically taking fashion notes at the Longhorn Ballroom. Such a surreal place for a punk rock show, so cowboy-ish. If I never saw them again then that was enough, but I'm excited to be spinning at the reunion show at Dada. But seriously though, at the Pistols show there was no comparison. The Nervebreakers smoked The Pistols."
Check out this memory from the never-boring banks of Kessler's Theatre's Jeffery Liles:
"When I was still in junior in high school, the drinking age in Texas was still 18 years old, so it was still possible for a teenager to sneak into a club to see a band. One night I managed to slip in the back door of the Hot Klub on Maple Avenue, and there was a punk group called The Nervebreakers setting up. For some reason, there was a folding aluminum chaise lounge set up in the middle of the stage. Apparently, Tex Edwards, the lead singer of the band, had broken his leg during a previous show; so when the time came on this particular evening, he drunkenly lumbered up there on crutches and then clumsily crashed down on top of the yard furniture, where he remained for the duration of the performance. And while it might have been frustrating for Tex to have to perform an entire gig lying down sideways on a flimsy piece of yard furniture, the rest of the band more than made up for it with frenetic energy that other punk rock bands in Dallas at the time just couldn't touch."
"I'll always remember them for their performances at the Hot Klub. In fact, the first place I ever met Kessler Theater technical director Paul Quigg was at a Nervebreakers show there."
Quigg, who performed and toured with the Nervebreakers in the early '80s, had this to say from The Kessler's live sound outpost:
"Doing the East Coast tour as their guitar player was one of the funnest things I've ever experienced. We played most if not all the places that would become legendary in just a few years. I'm grateful Thom asked me!! Oops ... my cab is here."
David Walker, class of '78 at Dallas' Bryan Adams (!) High School, has been working concerts in DFW for decades. He remembers The Nervebreakers experience:
"In 1977-'78, not real clear, this classmate of mine named Donald Lemaster rented a ballroom at the now-extinct Holiday Inn Northpark, and hired The Nervebreakers, another band I can't recall and a Dallas punk band called the Toys. I helped set up the beer station. Four or five trash cans full of can beer like Schlitz, Falstaff, Lone Star.
"That show was my first real exposure to punk. Especially when the Toys did the Patti Smith version of 'Gloria.' The Nervebreakers were great that night and even greater at the Longhorn Ballroom. They're one of only six bands in history that got to open for the Pistols in the U.S. I'm proud to have known them for a long time. It's gonna be a great show, man."
And finally, the man putting their Saturday night reunion show together, Deep Ellum dad (and exceptional local artist) Frank Campagna, Sr.:
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"It seemed in the late '70s, about all Dallas had playing at the rock clubs ... Mother Blues, Gerties, Sneaky Pete's, et cetera ...were generic rock cover bands. I grew up in the Northeast and was a punk rocker from way back, but down here progressive country was happening or classic rock KZEW Q102's format. That still remains the same to this day.
"Nervebreakers were the first act I found that were original, new and exciting. Musically I could relate to them, as they were inspired by the same '60s underground garage-and-Nuggets sound that paved the way for the Ramones, Dead Boys, Stooges and so many more. As the original music trend spread, they were always at the top of the heap locally. It was exciting to see them dust the Ramones, Sex Pistols and the Clash with their homespun take on punk rock."
Frank, cmon! They dusted ALL THREE of the sacred classic punk triangle?
"Yeah! Those national headliners were good, but Nervebreakers were playing together for years before any of those guys picked up an instrument. It was obvious in every song they'd play. Actually when they played the long defunct Manhattan Clearing House in the late '70s, on Main at Exposition, this was my introduction to Deep Ellum."
Snooze you lose, Dallas. The Nervebreakers are live this Saturday night, July 27, at Dada for a party hosted by Campagna's studio, Kettle Art. Check out their promo vid for the show here.