Sunday, July 19, 2020

Hanging On The Telephone



Let’s go all the way back to 1958. The Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace” opens with this intro: “Hello, Baby. Yeah, this is the Big Bopper speakin'. Oh, you sweet thing. Do I what? Will I what? Oh baby, you know what I like.” 60 years ago, and yet it’s not the first song about a telephone. Head back another 20 years for Glenn Miller’s “Pennsylvania 6-5000.” Whatever the history, telephones and unrequited love go hand in hand. The music video is Blondie from Parallel Lines, a cover of the 1976 release by The Nerves, but Debbie Harry and Co. weren’t done with the phone; in 1980, an odd mix of punk and disco hit its peak with the Giorgio Moroder produced theme to the film American Gigolo, "Call Me."

My favorite of the telephone songs is my wife’s least favorite in the world: Jim Croce’s “Operator.” (“Seriously, he can’t make his own phonecall? Is he really hitting on her?”) From the 70s as well, there’s Yes’s “Long Distance Runaround” and ELO’s “Telephone Line.” “Okay, so no one’s answering.” Yep, unrequited love and technology. There’s “Cats in the Cradle,” from Harry Chapin and Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me.” Telephones spell trouble. Another of my favorites comes from 10CC, “Don’t Hang Up,” an epic mini-opera about how the phone plays its role in crushing our designs on love.
Funny, we don’t memorize phone numbers anymore, but there isn’t anyone who doesn’t know Jenny’s, 867-5309. On the flip side of that, Michael Stipe uses that little trick from the 90s to get ahold of his special someone: "Star 69." (If it wasn’t for Star 69, btw, I may never have dated and married my wife – I forgot to leave my number on her answering machine.)
Here’s one I don’t understand. It’s 2012 and Adam Levine of Maroon 5 is calling from a “Payphone.” Did they even have payphones in 2012?

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