Monday, January 14, 2008
Hanging on the Telephone — The Nerves (1976)
According to rock lore, Jack Lee knew he had written an enduring classic that would catapult his L.A.-based power-pop trio, The Nerves, to stardom as soon as he finished writing Hanging On The Telephone. If this story is true, he was only half right.
Hanging on the Telephone appeared on The Nerves' self-titled, self-released 1976 EP and, well, neither fame nor fortune ensued. By 1978, the band had split, with Lee going solo, bassist Peter Case forming the Plimsouls and drummer Paul Collins establishing The Beat (and forcing a certain Birmingham ska group to change its name to The English Beat in North America. But I digress.)
Of course, the song did turn out to be an enduring classic, thanks to Blondie, whose note-for-note cover (right down to the ringing telephone at the start of the record) kicked off its 1978 breakthrough LP Parallel Lines. Heart of Glass, One Way or Another and Sunday Girl may have been that album's hit singles but Hanging on the Telephone and another Lee composition, Will Anything Happen?, were the album's best songs.
In fact, one could easily argue Blondie's version of Telephone is definitive, thanks to its killer guitar solo, Clem Burke's hyperkinetic drumming and Mike Chapman's shiny production, all of which are missing from the original. The Nerves' version is rickety and the production strictly demo-quality; that said, the record does have a lo-fi charm all of its own. And, you know what: Listening to the original, you gotta think: This is the sort of song that makes a band famous.
Hanging on the Telephone, original Nerves version (link expired)
Buy it here