Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Telephone: A Tribute

Telemania Hotlips PhoneBefore cell phones, voice mail, call waiting, text messaging and email, there was just the lowly telephone: a heavy, most likely black or pastel-colored aparatus (we used to rent them from Pac Bell, back in the 70s), either attached to the wall or connected by cord, with another squiggly chord that would eventually get tangled up and barely allow the handset to reach your ear properly.

We always hated if someone had a "0" in their phone number because "0" took a long time to spin back round the dial. "1" was best for quick calling. Later when push-buttons phones became popular, we received copies of The Pushbutton Telephone Songbook: Volume 1 and called our friends and played push-buttoned versions of "Row Row Row Your Boat" for them on the phone.

When someone called you the bell rang (because it was an actual bell): ring-a-ling-a-ling! And if you weren't home or didn't answer, it just kept doing that until the person on the line hung up. And that was that. The telephone inspired some pretty intense emotions when it came to human relationships and attempts at communication. There used to be this thing called a busy signal and if you were trying to call someone and the person you were calling was on the phone, that signal would blare in your ear. It sounded like this: EHH! EHH! EHH! EHH! EHH! Pretty annoying; not as annoying as call waiting, but pretty close.
Old Telephone CollectionWe used telephone directories, called Information and the Time Lady, and searched our pockets for dimes and a working phone booth.

Here are some songs from the distant past, all inspired by the telephone. You can sense the seething emotions in these performances. Will she call? Should I call? Will he call back? Why don't you answer? For God's sake, answer the goddamn telephone! Our current technology has not inspired such pop soulfulness.

The Jags - Back Of My Hand, 1979

Tommy Tutone - 867-5309/Jenny, live on "Fridays" 1983

Blondie - Hanging On The Telephone, 1978

Photo credit: John Carson collection at TelephoneTribute.com
Portable Cellular Phone Booth
The Payphone Project - Telephone Booths and Payphones From Around The World
Jim Pallas - PhoneyVents Telephone Art Project


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jpallas said...

I'm a real geezer. I talk about "dialing" the phone and my beer is in the "ice box." Thanks for the link.
I think you're a real "guerrilla girl" http://www.guerrillagirls.com/

I enjoyed the phone songs. Almost inspires me to start a list. there's lotsa oldies.
"Operator, Get Me Jesus On The Line" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuKmE4zR1Sw
I can't figure if this wacky version is for real or what!?

and then there's

Glenn Miller

I got my shoes shined up
I got my hair slicked down
'Cause baby I wanna hit the town
Call me - Pennsylvania 6-5000

I'm gonna shake you up (all night)
Rock you all night long (all right)
Baby you got something
Goin' on
Call me - Pennsylvania 6-5000

From International Lyrics Playground.

Write it down,in your book
On your wall,oh baby just call
Pennsylvania 6-5000

You got the look I like(oh yeah)
Come on and show it off
Whatever your doin' blow it off
Call me - Pennsylvania 6-5000

You know I just got paid
I got my hot rod wheels
So if you wanna find out how it feels
Call me - Pennsylvania 6-5000

Write it down,in your book
On your wall,oh baby just call
Pennsylvania 6-5000
In your room,in your bed
Keep it in your head,oh baby just call
Pensylvannia 6-5000

Hey oh(hey oh)
Hey oh(hey oh)
Na na na na(na na na na)
Pensylvania 6-5-0-0-0
Write it down,in your book
On your wall,oh baby just call
Pensylvania 6-5000
In your room,in your bed
Keep it in your head,oh baby just call
Pennsylvania 6-5000
Pennsylvania 6-5-0-0-0

Morningside said...

LOVE the goofy phone! My mom still has the rotary phone we grew up with. I saw the Jags at the Old Waldorf! Tickets were something like six bucks. Somewhere in my garage, I have black and white photos of The Jags, and an autographed cocktail napkin from the guys from Eye Protection (the opening band).