You probably know The Nerves’ “Hanging on the Telephone” from its cover by Blondie, the second single from their third album, Parallel Lines. Though this cover was a hit in the UK, it took the album becoming a hit in the US for the song to become known on this side of the pond. Blondie’s version isn’t particularly different from the original. And because The Nerves didn’t last, Blondie’s version has remained the definitive one.
Blondie’s version is the one The Ophelias know, of course. The Ophelias are a Cincinnati-based indie pop band who have been active since 2015. (Not to be confused with the San Francisco-based neo psychedelic Ophelias from the late ’80s.) They last appeared on Cover Me in 2020 with a Joni Mitchell cover.
And they take a different approach than the Nerves or Blondie. There is no opening telephone ringing but, more importantly, the pace has slowed dramatically stripping the song entirely of its peppy new wave energy. The Ophelias play pretty standard rock instruments, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, drums, piano. But they are backed by strings, which further transform the song into a ballad. Lead singer Spencer Peppet’s voice is plaintive and her emotional intensity rises as the song progresses.
Instead of the agitated sexual energy of the original or Blondie’s famous cover, The Ophelia’s version has a more forlorn, subdued longing which feels like a complete reinterpretation of the meaning of the lyrics. Check it out below: