Listen to this track, a pop gem for the ages by a band that could have been but wasn’t, leaving the glory to others.  It’s “Hanging On The Telephone”, a tale of teenaged insecurity eventually taken to the major leagues by Blondie, but written and originally recorded here by The Nerves.

The Nerves are a band of legend, made up of three superlative songwriters who moved on to other things by the 80s; bassist Peter Case, who formed the Plimsouls and later established a solid solo career, drummer Paul Collins who formed The Beat (later re-named as Paul Collins’Beat after some confusion over the similarly named band from Britain, in turn re-named the ‘English’ Beat) and the writer of this song, guitarist Jack Lee.

The legend of this group stems partly from the fact  that they put out only one release in their very brief life as a group. It was the 1976 self-titled EP which contained four songs with composition credits representing all three members.  And, after making an impact of the burgeoning underground punk scene in LA, they split.

But, this song lived on. A cassette of the song reached Blondie, who later turned it into a hit off of their 1979 Parallel lines album.  It has since been covered by L7, Def Leppard, and Cat Power, and UK pop group Girls Aloud, among others, with some doubts as to whether or not it’s known by these artists that they’re covering a song by an obscure power-pop trio from the mid-70s.

Yet, at this point it hardly matters. The song itself is undeniable, a true anthem to insecurity in a relationship that hits all pop music targets, particularly in the traditions of power pop where the underdog is always the hero of the story.

For more information, I urge you to investigate Peter Case’s website, and the official website of Paul Collins’ Beat, still a going concern and touring regularly.  Also, check out Jack Lee on Wikipedia for further songwriting credits.


3 thoughts on “The Nerves Play “Hanging On the Telephone”

  1. I’m a big Blondie fan, but I’d never heard the original, or even known about it. Thanks! I like.

  2. You’re welcome, Leslie.

    I think yours is a pretty common experience. This is still my favourite song by Blondie (‘Rip Her To Shreds’ is the one that most closely rivals it). But, the Nerves version sounds more raw, and slight more off-balance, which given the subject matter, really serves it well.

    Also: Jack Lee wrote another song in the early 80s you might know, and for me is something of a guilty pleasure; “Come Back and Stay”, covered popularly by British blue-eyed soul singer Paul Young. Who knew?

    Thanks for comments!

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