Jack Lee

born on 25/3/1952

Jack Lee (musician)

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Jack Lee (Born March 25, 1952) is an American songwriter and musician best known for composing the song, "Hanging on the Telephone," which was covered by the New Wave band Blondie.


Alongside Paul Collins (later of The Beat) and Peter Case (later of The Plimsouls), Lee formed the seminal, yet short-lived Los Angeles power pop trio The Nerves.[1] Lee played guitar for the group - favouring a thin, unembellished, almost rhythmic playing style - along with composing and singing most of the group's songs. The band, originally based in San Francisco, made the move to Los Angeles in 1976, and began putting on a series of self-promoted and self-financed concerts, providing a focal gathering point for many members of L.A.'s nascent punk scene, as well as giving many of L.A.'s early punk bands their initial shows (The Weirdos, The Screamers and The Dils, among others). This 'Do It Yourself' aesthetic (although not usually associated with music extant pre-punk) was also reflected in the Nerves' self-financed and self-released 1976 EP - the four songs from which (two of them Lee compositions) all going on to much-deserved reverence, if not mainstream recognition, amongst punk and power pop circles. Though in hindsight influential, this self-contained recording and gigging strategy most likely placed undue stress upon the relationship between the three band members. The Nerves' existence, always tenuous, finally disintegrated in the aftermath of another self-financed venture - this time a cross-country tour in the summer of 1977, with the band covering almost twenty-five thousand miles in a single 1969 Ford LTD Wagon and playing with such notables as the Ramones, the Diodes and Mink DeVille. Though the press surrounding the band was nearly always positive and newer material sounded strong, it was not enough to hold the band together. The Nerves finally tore apart in 1978, less than a year before Blondie would turn one of Jack Lee and the Nerves' songs into a new wave classic and bonafide chart hit.

"Hanging on the Telephone", Lee's most famous and enduring composition, originally the lead track on the Nerves' lone 1976 EP, found its way to the ears of the members of Blondie during the recording sessions for what would become the group's widely successful third album, Parallel Lines. The original song was written in 1973 while Lee was living in San Francisco and references the contentious relationship with the mother of the woman he was living with. It may also refer to his prior relationships with the mother's of his first two children. The song was originally recorded in 1975 at the Different Fur studio in San Francisco with local musicians and later the song exploded as the lead-off track on Parallel Lines, going on to become a UK Top Five hit. Lee's signature song remains a popular cover choice of bands today (most recently revived by indie singer/songwriter Cat Power), even if most groups are unfamiliar with any version predating Blondie's. Lee also contributed a further number to Parallel Lines, entitled "Will Anything Happen?", as well as the song "You Are My Lover" for Suzi Quatro, which appeared on her album Suzi...and Other Four Letter Words (like most of Suzi Quatro's records, the album was produced by Mike Chapman, who also produced Blondie's "Parallel Lines" in the same year). Lee later lent a 1983 hit to British singer Paul Young, called "Come Back and Stay", the song may have been in context to one of his two teen sweethearts (with whom he fathered respectively a son and a daughter) or to his wife and mother of his two youngest daughters. This theme of loss of love, heartbreak and abandonment was derived from sharp life experiences which repeated again and again.

Following Parallel Lines' success, Lee slowly put together and released a solo album entitled Jack Lee's Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 in 1981, which featured re-worked recordings of Nerves songs, as well as new material. However, with the exception of this LP, and a self-titled album released in 1985, little since has been heard from Lee, who seemed content to largely resign from the commercial music world. Nevertheless, the strength of Jack Lee's songwriting and interest surrounding his first group remained fervent, so much so that in 2001, Spain's Penniman Records [1] re-released the Nerves' EP as a deluxe 25th Anniversary ten-inch record with extra demo and live material culled from their whirlwind 1977 tour. In 2008 Alive Records released Nerves compilation One Way Ticket, which includes Jack Lee solo track "It's Hot Outside."

Currently, Jack Lee is at work on a new album and plans to tour with his band, Jack Lee Inferno, which made an appearance April 1, 2007 at The Radio Heartbeat Powerpop Festival in Brooklyn, New York.


  1. Dougan, John. [Jack Lee (musician) at All Music Guide Biography: The Nerves]. AMG. Retrieved on 16 May 2010.
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