Hanging on the Telephone

Song Review by

"Hanging on the Telephone" was first recorded by a little-known L.A. new wave pop outfit called the Nerves. The group had a brief lifespan, managing only to release a single self-titled EP before disbanding, but not before having the opportunity to share a live bill with Blondie on one of their first visits to the West Coast. The like-minded Blondie must have liked what they heard, deciding to record "Hanging on the Telephone" for their third album, the platinum-selling Parallel Lines. The track's driving power and infectious melody would lead off the album and spearhead its commercial breakthrough, becoming the group's first single to crack the Top Ten in the U.K.

Producer Mike Chapman beefed up the sound and imposed a tough rehearsal schedule and diligent work ethic in the studio, tightening up the rhythm section and pushing Deborah Harry's rough and ready vocal's to the fore. All the hard work payed off, the track kicks with bristling energy right out of the gate. Harry, in particular, answers the call, belting out the opening lines after a few mock telephone rings with confidence while guitarist Frank Infante's biting guitar lines cut sharp shards between the steady pulse of bass and drums. The energy level remains high with help from a compact arrangement and Harry's rushed phrasing as she conveys the lyrics' inherent frustration, trying to make contact with her boyfriend (flipping the gender pronouns of the original) through the phone, "I'm in the phone booth/It's the one across the hall/If you don't answer/I'll just ring it off the wall/I know he's there/But I just had to call." The attack lightens with drummer Clem Burke's chopped beat and skittish keyboard effects moving through the bridge where Harry repeatedly asks with wounded softness, "Oh, why can't we talk again?/Oh, why can't we talk again?" The chorus is just as compact but allows some breathing room for harmonizing on the title line with a bed of organ helping to fill out the sound. After powering through a hooky guitar solo, the band sprints to the finish, Harry's vocal getting throatier with each line, finally demanding, "Hang up and run to me!" with singalong "whoa-oh" backing vocals driving home one last hook before the band smashes to a grand finish.

The 2001 reissue of Parallel Lines includes a rather faithful live version of "Hanging on the Telephone" recorded in Dallas, TX, in 1980.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Parallel Lines 1978 Capitol 2:22
No Image 1981 Polygram
The Best of Blondie 1981 Chrysalis Records 2:33
The Platinum Collection 1994 Chrysalis Records 2:17
Teenage Kicks: 46 Classic Punk & New Wave Tracks 1995
Various Artists
PolyGram 2:22
The Remix Project 1995 Chrysalis Records / Capitol 0:00
Denis 1997 Disky 2:22
The Best of Blondie [CEMA Special Products] 1999 EMI-Capitol Special Markets / CEMA Special Markets 2:23
Atomic: The Very Best of Blondie 1999 EMI Music Distribution 2:22
Complete Picture: The Very Best of Deborah Harry and Blondie 1999 EMI Music Distribution 2:22
Non-Stop 70's Party 1999
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution / DJ Specialist 2:08
Wow That Was the 70's 1999
Various Artists
Disky Communications 2:21
Greatest Hits of the 70's [Disky Box] 2000
Various Artists
Disky 2:21
The Best Pub Jukebox in the World...Ever! 2000
Various Artists
Virgin 2:17
Complete Collection 2001
Various Artists
Disky 2:21
No Image 2001
Various Artists
Simply The Best (Netherlands)
70's Pop Generation: Dancing in the City 2002
Various Artists
Simply The Best (Netherlands) 2:22
Greatest Video Hits 2002 Capitol
No Spitting [CD3] 2002
Various Artists
Disky 2:21
60 Classic Punk Tracks 2003
Various Artists
Disky 2:21
Best of Blondie [Collectables] 2003 Collectables 2:23
No Thanks! The '70s Punk Rebellion 2003
Various Artists
Rhino 2:21
Best of Blondie [Platinum Disc] 2003 Platinum Disc 2:23
Blondie [Collection] 2003 Platinum Disc 2:23
Singles Box 2004 Capitol / EMI Records / EMI Music Distribution 2:22
Video Hits 2005 Capitol
New Waves: 45 Original 45's from the Post Punk Era 2005
Various Artists
Family Recordings 2:18
Power Pop Anthems 2005
Various Artists
Virgin / EMI 2:19
Greatest Hits: Sound & Vision 2006 Chrysalis Records / Capitol 2:20
No Image 2006 Capitol
Essential 2011 Capitol / EMI / EMI Gold 2:22
Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux/Ghosts of Download 2014 Noble Id 2:20
Classic Driving Songs
Various Artists
Spectrum Music 2:21
Massive Hits! Punk Rock
Various Artists
EMI 2:21