Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Technical Communications Means

YouTube playlist for this article,
playlist compilation article

Telephone and mail correspondence—mostly referenced in songs, movies, and a few TV shows are the technical communications means I'm talking about. At the time of those media release, they reflected the prevailing technology for non-f2f interactions. Back then, letters did not reach recipients within seconds, older phone calls person-to-person required manual dialing on a rotary dial (woe if numbers were 8s, 9s, or zeros and your dialing finger slipped), and there was no Caller ID nor answering machine. Cheap mass mailing? Fuggedaboutit!

Especially regarding songs that mention phones, references to phone call costs (dime, 40 cents more, …) and dialing contrast sharply to current call charges and keypad or memory-number inputs. One carryover from dialing days seems a bit amusing to me: the feature called "redial". And how about "speed dial"? Another anachronism: "operator", an occupation that has gradually faded from phone call prominence but for which there are several songs that feature that term.

I've grouped some lists and links as follows:
  • Songs that Feature Letters
  • Songs that Feature Phones
  • Movies that Feature Phones and Letters
  • TV Shows that Feature Phones
Songs that Feature Letters

"Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" (written 1935), Billy Williams (recorded 1957).
Lyrics excerpt—

I'm gonna sit right down and write myself a letter
And make believe it came from you
"Love Letters in the Sand" (1957), Pat Boone.
Lyrics excerpt—

On a day like today
We passed the time away
Writing love letters in the sand
"Please, Mr. Postman" (1961), Marvelettes.
Lyrics excerpt—
please mr.postman
deliver the letter
the sooner the better
"Return to the Sender" (1962), Elvis Presley.
Lyrics excerpt—

So then I dropped it in the mailbox
And sent it special D.
"Sealed With a Kiss" (1962), Brian Hyland.
Lyrics excerpt—

I'll send you all my love
Everyday in a letter
Sealed with a kiss
"PS I Love You" (1962), Beatles.
Lyrics excerpt—

As I write this letter,
Send my love to you,
"All My Loving" (1964), Beatles.
Lyrics excerpt—

And then while I'm away,
I'll write home ev'ry day,
And I'll send all my lovin'to you.
"The Letter" (1967), Boxtops.
Lyrics excerpt—

my baby just a-wrote me a letter.
"Take a Letter Maria" (1969), R B GREAVES. (See the guy dictating into a tape recorder, starting about :29.)
Lyrics excerpt—

So take a letter Maria, address it to my wife
Send a copy to my lawyer
Songs that Feature Phones

"Beachwood 45789" (1962), Marvelettes. (Note that both "Beechwood" and "Beachwood" appear in search results. An image of the record label shows the correct name to be Beechwood. Oh, sunnybeeches!)
Lyrics excerpt—

Beechwood 4-5789
You can call me up and
Have a date any old time
"634-5789" (1970), Picket Wilson.
Lyrics excerpt—

All you gotta do is pick up your telephone and dial now…
"867 5309/Jenny" (1982), Tommy Tutone.
Lyrics excerpt—

Jenny, Jenny who can I turn to? (8-6-7-5-3-0-9)
For the price of a dime I can always turn to you.
"Call Me" (1965), Chris Montez.
Lyrics excerpt—

Call me, don't be afraid, you can call me
"Call Me" (1999), Blondie. (Note someone writing "636-1636" on someone's forehead at 1:18.)
Lyrics excerpt—

Call me on the line
"Reunited" (1979), Peaches and Herb.
Lyrics excerpt—

I wished I could climb right through the telephone line
"Memphis" (1959), Chuck Berry.
Lyrics excerpt—

Long distance information, give me Memphis Tennessee
Help me find the party trying to get in touch with me
She could not leave her number, but I know who placed the call
'Cause my uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall
"Wichita Lineman" (1968), Glen Campbell.
Lyrics excerpt—

And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line
"Back in the USSR" (1968), Beatles. (Paul performs in Kiev in 2008.)
Lyrics excerpt—

Honey disconnect the phone
"Rings" (1974), Lobo.
Lyrics excerpts—

Ring ring telephone rings

Ring ring door bell ring

Ring ring golden ring

And let the wedding bell ring
"Ring Ring" (1973), ABBA. (See Agnetha and Anni-Frid use their index fingers to simulate dialing a telephone, about 2:34.)
Lyrics excerpt—

Ring, ring, why don't you give me a call
Ring, ring, the happiest sound of them all
Ring, ring, I stare at the phone on the wall

Related: YouTube audio mix using ABBA's "Ring Ring" and Blondie's "Hanging on the Telephone"
"Happy Together" (1967), Turtles.
Lyrics excerpt—

If I should call you up, invest a dime
"Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" (1978), Rod Stewart.
Lyrics excerpt—

Give me a dime so I can phone my mother
"Sylvia's Mother" (1992), Dr. Hook. (Note there's a phone booth in the background.)
Lyrics excerpts—

Sylvia's mother says "Sylvia's busy"
"Too busy to come to the phone"

And the operator says "40 cents more for the next 3 minutes"

And Sylvia's mother says "thank you for callin'"
"And, sir, won't you call back again?"
"Amish Paradise" (1996), Weird Al Yankovic.
Lyrics excerpts—

We haven't even paid the phone bill in 300 years

There's no phone, no lights, no motorcar
"Telephone" (2009), Lady Gaga.
Lyrics excerpt—

Call all you want, but theres no one home,
And you're not gonna reach my telephone.
A small subcategory—Operators

"Operator" (1972), Jim Croce.
Lyrics excerpts—

Operator, could you help me place this call,
'Cause I can't read the number that you just gave me,

You can keep the dime.
"Operator" (1975), Manhattan Transfer. (Note the bent arm and fist by the ear to simulate holding an operator's set.)
Lyrics excerpt—

Please give me Jesus on the line
"Smooth Operator" (1984), Sade. (OK, so it's not about a phone operator.)
Lyrics excerpt—

He's a smooth operator,
smooth operator,
smooth operator,
smooth operator.
Movies that Feature Phones and Letters

Enemy of the State (1998), Will Smith.
Will's character gets tracked via cellphone usage, before current common GPS outfitting into phones.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), Keanu Reeves.
The phone booth serves as a good vehicle, as it could transport several people at any one time.

Superman (various releases and stars).
Superman typically switched out in a phone booth. One movie did reflect the downsizing of phone booths to a payphone surround, with Clark looking perplexed, needing to find an alternate changing room.

Matrix (1999), Keanu Reeves.
Characters travel through payphones lines. At the time the movie was in theaters, payphones were still common. Try to find a payphone these days.

My Best Friend's Wedding (1997), Julia Roberts.
This movie has both phones and letters. Julia's character drives a wagon while talking on a humongous cellphone, indicating an agedness in technology. In a different scene, she keeps a draft email, but inadvertently, the email goes out, resulting in stressful circumstances.

Vanity Fair (2004), Reese Witherspoon.
Correspondence letters are prominent in this story.

TV Shows that Feature Phones

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, featuring Lily Tomlin as Ernestine, the phone operator—one of many characters Lily developed. (Note she is at a switchboard, and at a later point, dialing the phone.)

Keeping up Appearances.
The main character Hyacinth often converses using a phone—YouTube instance, starting about 2:16. One clip shows Hyacinth dissed and thwarted in her attempts to use a phone.

"Night Call", a Twilight Zone episode.
A woman receives mysterious phone calls, but is regretful when they stop. They had been from her deceased fiancé, and he finally hung up on her.

As my compilation turns out, my focus is more on phones—letters seeming to loom not quite as large—in songs, movies, and TV shows. In any case, I hope visiting links brought entertainment, enlightenment, and a-muse-ment nevertheless. Note: Other resources (besides linked YouTube videos and lyrics sites) include Google and Wikipedia—mainly for release-year information—and IMDB for movie references.


whilldtkwriter said...

Well, good timing for me to have published this article just in advance of Lady Gaga's music video "Telephone" (premiered Thursday March 11), which also features Beyonce.

whilldtkwriter said...

Revisited and revised links to music videos, and replaced and added links to the YouTube playlist at

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