Deep Cuts

Deep Cuts: Telephone Songs

telephone songsThe telephone is a curious beast.  On first glance Bell’s greatest invention served to make us closer, but did it really?

Perhaps like the train, automobile, and television what the phone really did was allow us greater distance.  The illusion of a copper umbilical cord connecting us was enough to rationalize at least some long distance moves, I’m sure, and if so certainly that false sense of connectivity has increased in a cellphone mad world. (Note: One of these days I’m going to slap the iPhone out of the hand of a parent ignoring his or her toddler.)

Or maybe not, I don’t know.  Dammit, Jim, I’m a writer, not a sociologist.  Regardless, the phone remains a potent symbol in popular music.  Here are some lesser known cuts on the subject:

“Hanging on the Telephone,” Blondie.  By no means a deep cut, but not the Blondie pick you expected, was it?  Besides, I had to include it here since I cribbed the title for this week’s memoir piece.

“New York Telephone Conversation,” Lou Reed.  Transformer belongs in every record collection, though not necessarily for this cut.  Still, it’s weird enough to be interesting.

“Telephone Call From Istanbul,” Tom Waits

“Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not,”  X.   The great Exene Cervenka is dealing with multiple sclerosis.  How unfair is that?

“Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand,” Primitive Radio Gods.  Again, not really a deep cut as it hit the top ten back in ’96, but it’s not in the regular rotation, either.  Just wait until some household cleaner figures out how to make a jingle out of this nugget.

“Answering Machine,” The Replacements.  My favorite song on this list, and it’s from my favorite ‘Mats album: Let It Be.  The balls on those guys to crib a Beatles album title, and the talent to back it up.

“Telephone Man,” Meri Wilson.  Cry foul again if you’d like.  This cut was top ten in the UK and top twenty in the US back in 1977, but unless you’re of a certain age or you are a Dr. Demento fan you might not know this earworm.  My sister sang this pretty much constantly for a few months there.  Constantly.

“You Didn’t Try to Call Me,” Frank Zappa.  A Mothers era cut, but not a Mothers era performance:

Okay, you ELO, Beatles and even Maroon 5 fans — I’ve left a bunch of room for you.  What are your telephone songs?  I’m listening.

8 replies »

  1. Boy, oh boy…I love The Replacements and X! Um, also ELO’s Telephone Line is awesome. I said it.
    How about No Phone by Cake? No phone, no phone, I just want to be alone today…
    Oooh! Sylvia’s Mother by Dr Hook & the Medicine Show! I love that song.


  2. ‘Memphis’ by Chuck Berry
    ‘Operator’ by Jim Croce
    ‘Under My Wheels’ by Alice Cooper
    ‘No Reply’ by The Beatles
    ‘Rikki Don’t Lose That Number’ by Steely Dan
    ‘Telephone Song’ by Stevie Ray Vaughan
    ‘Put Your Sweet Lips (A Little Closer To The Phone)’ by Jim Reeves
    …and, of course, ‘867-5309/Jenny’ by Tommy Tutone


  3. Would R.E.M’s “Strange Currencies” be allowed in?

    And I do hope we get to share a jail cell when we finally give in to the urge to send that parent’s SmartPhone flying into oncoming traffic, I really do.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.