Backstage Pass: Take a 'One-WayTicket' back in time with The Nerves

Before Blondie came along and tarted up “Hangin’ on the Telephone” with the airbrushed desire of Debbie Harry’s vocals and polished it with spotless production, the now-classic power-pop number was destined to be forgotten by history.

Recorded originally by a San Francisco power-pop trio named The Nerves, “Hangin’ on the Telephone” would become Blondie’s first U.K. Top Ten hit. And what of The Nerves?

After one EP of punchy, thrilling garage-rock bursts that boasted more hooks than a meat locker, The Nerves called it a day. Peter Case (bass/vocals) and Paul Collins (drums/vocals) formed two-thirds of The Nerves. Jack Lee, the guitarist/vocalist who penned “Hangin’ on the Telephone,” rounded out the group, which formed in the mid-’70s and was done by 1978. Blessed with three members who had an uncanny ability to write irresistibly catchy songs that bristled with punk energy, The Nerves were gone in a flash. But they did go out with a bang, appearing on the infamous “Magical Blistering Tour” with fellow punks The Ramones and Mink DeVille before bowing out.

After the split, Lee had a brief solo career, Case moved onto soul-punk heroes The Plimsouls — who would record Case’s classic specimen of jangle-pop “A Million Miles Away” — and Collins wound up with The Beat.

Now, 30 years after their demise, comes The Nerves’ first proper LP, One Way Ticket. Put out by Alive Records in association with Bomp, the release packages the EP’s “Hangin’ on the Telephone,” “When You Find Out,” “Working Too Hard” and “Give Me Some Time” with a clutch of bruising live tracks and sketched-out demos.

How did this compilation, One Way Ticket, come together and why did it take so long to put out?

Paul Collins: It originally started when Get Hip records wanted to do a comprehensive Nerves package some six or seven years ago. There were different ideas as to which label would be best suited for the project, but all of the group seemed to be in agreement that it should come out.

Time went by, and no one could agree on a label. That’s when Patrick from Alive Records contacted me about putting out a Nerves compilation. I said, “Double the offer on the table and it might happen.” And he did. That very same week all members of the group were paid a generous advance on royalties, and I turned over all my archives thinking it was a done deal.

Time went by, and as I was living in Madrid, Spain, and thinking that one day soon I would receive the finished product in the mail, I was very surprised to find out that not only was the deal not done, it had gotten very near to being terminated due to conflicts within the group. Thanks to the unbelievable patience of Patrick, he saw the project through, and thanks to him, and him alone, we all have the pleasure of seeing a very small but influential group’s work documented for all time.

With regard to the previously unreleased live stuff and the demos, where did you find these recordings, and why was it important to release them?

Peter Case: They were all over. Boxes stashed in garages and basements. I don’t fool myself into thinking it’s too important. But it did seem like a good idea.

Paul Collins: Peter Case should take most of the credit for the track listing as he was in Los Angeles and able to work closely with Patrick on the release. I think he did a good job presenting the musical world in which we lived. As with most compilations, things get left out. In this case, I think Peter himself overlooked some of his own gems.

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