Friday, December 16, 2005
The Nerves, Raw
I don’t want to offend any Blondie fans out here in Blogland. I love Blondie. However, the definitive version of “Hanging On The Telephone” was originally done by an LA band called the Nerves in 1976. Listen now as the stalker-level desperation in the vocals, the nervous 1/8th notes on bass, the hooky, trebly lead guitar and the demo-quality snap of drums all come together in biting pre-low-fi brilliance. They sound like a band struggling mightily with both their recording budget and their girlfriends. This is reaching-the-end-of-your-rope music.
Clad in powder-colored 3-piece suits, the Nerves were an edgy, raw new spin on well-dressed pop. “Telephone” was written and sung by Jack Lee, who was the emotional standout, the Lennon if you will, of this trio of songwriters. He would later put out a debut album called “Jack Lee’s Greatest Hits, Vol. I.” Damn right! In the McCartney slot is Peter Case, showcased here with the moody “When You Find Out.” It's as if Beatles For Sale were a 70's release. Case would later lead the equally brilliant Plimsouls and go solo. Third place goes to Paul Collins, who also had a band (called the Beat) and a solo career too.
Even in the bitter end, the Nerves were defined by struggle, as Case explains in the book We Got The Neutron Bomb: “Right before the Nerves broke up, we got these really stupid matching suits. I was drunk out of my mind and we got into a big fight in the dressing room at the Masque and we just told each other to fuck off and basically that was it for the Nerves.”