Songs about Phone Numbers by Tommy Tutone, the B-52’s, Steely Dan + others: Gimme Five

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Sad to say, but the prevalence of cell phones in the modern world has made the ability to remember phone numbers less of a useful skill and more of a stupid human trick. After all, most contact info can be found, copied and stored without having to utilize the personal hard drive between one’s ears.

Consequently, those that were born at the dawn of the Information Age already place the once common dial telephone on about the same level as two cans and a long piece of string. So before society forgets the non-political definition of the party line (hint: ask your grandparents), let’s wax nostalgic about phone numbers and the plastic handsets that connected them via the music of Steely Dan, the B-52’s, Iron Maiden, Blondie and – of course – Tommy Tutone.

Wait, Iron Maiden? Read on …

TOMMY TUTONE, “867-5309/JENNY” (1981): This is maybe the all-time classic telephone song, if only because fans who thought they recognized an urban legend in the making really did start phoning this number (in different area codes) asking for Jenny. As far as the song itself goes, it’s never stated what Jenny’s reaction is to the singer’s musical outpouring of emotion. She’d have to admit, though, that her admirer is probably more than a little “disturbed.”

THE B-52’S, “6060-842” (1979): One doesn’t often think about phone numbers found in women’s washrooms, but the B-52’s did. And is the pay phone in the ladies’ room as well? It doesn’t matter: “Operator said/‘Your number’s been disconnected.’” Oh well; lost love means more time to go down to the beach and dance this mess around with a rock lobster or whatever.

BLONDIE, “HANGING ON THE TELEPHONE” (1978): This great song by the Nerves — a group of little known LA power poppers — was covered by soon-to-be-superstars Blondie in a way that captured the freshness and energy of the original. So, if both versions were pretty good, why was Blondie’s release so much more successful? Easy enough: the song was probably much more interesting to teenage boys knowing Debbie Harry was at the other end of the line.

STEELY DAN, “RIKKI DON’T LOSE THAT NUMBER” (1974): Great song that sticks to its central mystery: What’s going on here that makes keeping this phone number so important? It’s never revealed by Steely Dan; neither is the actual number for that matter.

IRON MAIDEN, “THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST” (1982): Okay, this song isn’t really about the debbil’s phone number, but if he had a phone, this would have to be the number, wouldn’t it? Or at least the area code … which would make area code 665 the proverbial “neighbor of the beast.” It turns out that the particular 3-digit designation “665” is used for the most northern bit of Baja California in Mexico, which is right adjacent to … well, in any case, the Eagles had already given up that secret a few years earlier in an allegory disguised as a hotel. It turns out that you-know-who really does live you-know-where.

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