Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Jack Lee Hangs Up The Phone

It's very hot (For where I live.) today and I am really no in the mood for writing anything long and complicated. I have a few ideas for posts floating around but they all need too much work. It's times like these that make it very tempting to get one of the AIs to write my post for me but I'm not convinced any of them is quite up to working unsupervised just yet.

There is one post I've been meaning to write that shouldn't take too long and I could maybe get the AIs to help me with the grunt work. It starts off on a sad note but it ought to cheer up as we go along.

The sad part is the news I saw widely reported across all my news feeds last week of the death at 71 of Jack Lee, guitarist and one of the three songwriters in the absolutely seminal yet incredibly obscure power-pop trio, The Nerves

The band only ever released one four-song EP. We almost certainly wouldn't be hearing about the death of any of them if one of those songs hadn't been "Hanging on the Telephone", which Blondie covered and made into a top ten hit in 1978 and I wouldn't be writing this if I hadn't happened across the original EP in a bargain bin a little while before that.

It had a black and white cover with the band's name in red over a picture of three much too good-looking boys in white jackets and disco shirts. I wasn't surprised it was in the bargain bin. It was cheap, though, and it looked sharp. I bought it anyway.

The ridiculous thing is, Hanging on the Telephone isn't even the best song on the EP. Well, it might be. Everyone's going to have their own opinion. For my money, the best is "When You Find Out", written by bass player Peter Case but ask me tomorrow and I might have changed my mind.

I won't have changed my mind about The Nerves, though. After I got that EP home and put it on the stereo, I thought I'd discovered the best power-pop band of all time. It's what I still think, more than forty years later. Whether that says more about me, The Nerves or power-pop itself is unclear.

Until very recently there was no video footage of The Nerves that I'd ever seen but a few months ago drummer Paul Collins posted a couple of clips he'd found in an unmarked tape box. The better of the two is this:

Paul went on to form The Paul Collins Beat, who were pretty good. I have an album by them, somewhere. Peter Case formed The Plimsouls, probably the most successful of all the bands associated with any of the three Nerves. 

Jack Lee doesn't seem to have done very much. He did write another song that  got covered and became a big hit. That was Come Back and Stay, a top thirty hit in the States and top five in the U.K. for that scourge of '80s AM radio, Paul Young. I  guess after you write that and Hanging on the Telephone you don't have to do much else. I hope he had a nice life, anyway.

And that would be about the end of this little tribute. There's not a lot more to say. Only I got to wondering as I was thinking of writing the post, if The Nerves really were the best power-pop band. I mean, I've always thought so but I'm not really a power-pop purist like some.

I could have spent the rest of the day looking up names and watching videos, trying to make up my mind if anyone else deserved the title but as I said at the top, it's hot and I'm not in the mood for doing much work. So I asked Bard 

 "Who are the five best power-pop bands of the 1970s to the 1990s?"

I thought I'd keep it tight. If I didn't put in a date we'd probably have the bloody Beatles.

Bard took longer than usual before coming up with what I have to say is a pretty solid list, complete with pictures, sources, song recommendations and a little bit of light critique.

Here are 5 of the best power-pop bands of the 1970s to the 1990s:

  1. Cheap Trick
  • Known for their catchy melodies, power chords, and energetic live shows, Cheap Trick is one of the most popular power-pop bands of all time. Their biggest hits include "I Want You to Want Me," "Surrender," and "Dream Police."
  1. The Knack
  • The Knack is another band that is known for their catchy melodies and upbeat songs. Their biggest hit, "My Sharona," was a number one hit in the United States in 1979.
  1. The Romantics
  • The Romantics are known for their 1980s power-pop sound. Their biggest hits include "What I Like About You," "Talking in Your Sleep," and "(I Wanna) Rock You Tonight."
  1. Big Star
  • Big Star is a cult favorite power-pop band that was active in the 1970s. Their music is known for its complex harmonies and catchy melodies. Their biggest hits include "In the Street" and "September Gurls."
  1. Dwight Twilley Band
  • Dwight Twilley Band is a power-pop band that was active in the 1970s and 1980s. Their music is known for its catchy melodies and Twilley's distinctive vocals. Their biggest hits include "I'm on Fire" and "The Heart That You Own."

These are just a few of the many great power-pop bands that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s. If you're a fan of catchy melodies, power chords, and upbeat songs, then you should check out these bands.

I have just two things to say about that list. No, wait, three:

  1. That's a rock-solid set of recommendations. They're all good and they're all power-pop and they're all in the correct date bracket. Straight A for Bard.
  2. I asked for "the five best power-pop bands of the 1970s to the 1990s" but Bard gave me "5 of the best power-pop bands of the 1970s to the 1990s". Subtle but significant difference there. Bard does not like to be pinned down to an opinion.
  3. I'm super-impressed with the formatting of the answer. I just cut and pasted the whole thing into Blogger and it gave me what you see. The only thing I changed was the size of the font on the opening and closing paragraphs to make it clear where Bard starts and stops.

In the Bard original, you can click on the images to get to the source. That doesn't work out of the box in Blogger. I wish it did. There are ways to do it but they're too much of a faff so I never bother. I don't know who's responsible for the way the links have been handled to get around that issue here, Blogger or Bard, but whoever it was, it's brilliant. *

In fact, I've left it the way it is just to show how much of the boring stuff Bard was able to handle for me. If I'd wanted, I could have sourced the songs it mentions and linked to YouTube, which would have taken maybe ten, fifteen minutes, tops. That's the easy part. That would have made a complete post, there or thereabouts.

Instead, I'm going to finish with The Romantics doing "What I like About You" and The Knack doing "My Sharona". If anyone ever did power-pop better than The Nerves it was probably one of these two. 

They didn't, though. 

Thanks, Paul, Peter and especially Jack.

* Footnote - When I posted this, all the images from Bard displayed properly. A few hours later, when I come to look at it again, they've all been replaced by the filename of the image and a hyperlink that dupicates the source link. Not sure why that happened or if everyone will be seeing the same thing but it rather undermines my praise for how smoothly it all worked... 


  1. I'm surprise the Greg Kihn Band wasn't on the list, but likely ol' Greg is overshadowed by Weird Al Yankovic's I Lost on Jeopardy.

    1. They'd certainly be a contender but there are a lot of power-pop outfits. I'd have rather had GKB in there than Big Star myself but I don't think it's an incorrect call. I just think there was a lot more to Alex Chilton than power-pop. This si why I wasn't about to make a list myself. I'd have been at it all day.

  2. Okay, I'm piggy-backing on this post, Bhagpuss, because I want to know what you said that made Tobold delete your comment. I've yet to ever see a comment from you that merited that, so I have my own suspicion as to why Tobold did it, but I'd like to know what you said first.

    1. Lol! That's really funny. Thanks for letting me know - I hardly ever go back after I leave a comment on Tobold's blog because there's no point tnetering into any kind of discussion with him.

      That was about as an innocuous a comment as I've ever left there, too. It was a joke, more than anything, although I was also making a valid observation, I think. It was literally one line and a link to a Wikipedia page. From memory I think I said "You might find this helpful" and then linked to this page

      I didn't actually read the wikipedia page past the opening paragraph, so maybe there's some implication I missed that upset him but I was just pointing out that you can't meaningfully compare video games with edge cutters or indeed software with hardware. I'm pretty sure if I'd just said that in text he'd have let it stand. I'm guessing he felt he'd been tricked in some way and reacted emotionally but it was just supposed to be a mild poke in the ribs.

      Has he banned me altogether or was it just that comment he he objected to? I guess I'll find out next time I try to leave a snide comment on some ridiculous post he writes. Anyway, if he has banned me, being banned by Tobold is a badge of honor. I'm pretty amazed it hasn't happened to me sooner. I obviously haven't been trying hard enough.

    2. Poking Tobold isn't too hard; just spout off something liberal. For all of his vaunted "moderate" stance, he gives liberals a lot harder time than conservatives.

  3. I had never heard Hanging on the Telephone. Not that I was a particular hip 13 year old when the Blondie version came out but I was surprised because I really liked it. Looks like it was never released in the US as a single. I thought the Blondie video for it was great, too, lots of energy.

    Thanks for prompting me to listen to it, What I Like about You and the 5 minute version of My Sharona. Fun!


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide