From Bell’s magnetic arm prototype in 1875 to our fancy smartphones you can get anything you need on today, the telephone has been a key communication device throughout history. It’s helped people connect, businesses evolve, and is the reason Grasshopper is here today.
There have been a number of songs about telephones throughout history ranging from the themes of love to escape, but they all revolve around the telephone’s central purpose: To get a hold of someone.
Here are 10 popular (and some terrible) songs about telephones:
1. Telephone Line (1976)
Starting out with phone noises at the beginning, Telephone Line is one of Electric Light Orchestra’s top songs. It was the theme song of the 1977 Film Joy Ride. A slow-moving and “romantic” song, it talks about a man trying to reach his girlfriend so he can hear her voice....Kind of creepy if you ask me!
This song was used in Adam Sandler’s 1995 hit Billy Madison at the part where Billy calls an old classmate to apologize for making fun of him in high school ten years earlier.
2. Back of my Hand (I’ve got your number) (1979)
“Back of my Hand” was written by the Jags, a British band and was #17 on the UK charts. Written in a time when payphones (what is a payphone?!) were used to make phone calls, the main line is “I’ve got your number written on the back of my hand.” Good thing we can now store numbers right into our cell phones!
3. Call Me (1980)
Sung by Debbie Harry, or more commonly known Blondie, Call Me was a hit 80’s song that was the main theme of the film American Gigolo. Known as someone a little ahead for her time, Blondie longs for her lover to come to her in this chart topper.
4. 867-5309/Jenny (1982)
Songwriters Alex Call and Jim Keller’s song, performed by rock band Tommy Tutone made the number more famous than the actual song! People dialed 867-5309 asking for Jenny after the song came out, even though there really was no Jenny.
Interpretations have said that the reason they choose that number is the numbers form straight diagonal lines from lower left to upper right on a touch screen phone. The number has even been listed on eBay for sale in several area codes!
5. Telefone-Long Distance Love Affair (1983)
“I call you on the telephone, but you’re never home…”
Remember the days when we were stuck if we were trying to reach someone who wasn’t home? Sheena Easton’s top US, European and Canadian hit is from her fourth album Best Kept Secret.
6. I Just Called to Say I Love You (1984)
A sweet, romantic song by Stevie Wonder, “I just called to say I Love You” was number one on the singles charts all around the world. It was featured in the 1984 comedy The Women in Red. But hey, simply calling someone to say you love them can really make their day!
The singer also sang the song at a public event two days after Michael Jackson’s funeral, changing the words to “Michael knows I’m here, I love you.”
7. Operator (1984)
Midnight Star’s top song Operator video starts out with a picture of a telephone and shows a phone operating room. The band uses “operator” as a double meaning in this song saying “Operate that body, operate on me.” The fun, dancing disco song topped charts for five weeks in late 1984.
8. Don’t lose My Number (1985)
There have been many interpretations of Phil Collins’ hit song. It is addressed to someone named “Billy” the singer is hoping to find; some think it’s about a young boy being kidnapped, some think it’s about the reaction of a small town to a gay boy. In the video, Collins parodys several other music videos of the time, including ones by Michael Jackson and Elton John.
9. Dial My Number (1985)
Romano Bais’ hit is a fun dance and disco song. The video shows different kinds of phones from corded to the rotary dial phones. The chorus line “I’m loving you on the telephone… Please operator, don’t drop the line” shows that two people can have a love connection over the telephone.
10. Telephone (2010)
Finally, a telephone song in the modern day and age! Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s 2010 chart topper Telephone appears to be a fun dance song but it has been analyzed deeper. Some say it is about the CIA brain tapping techniques, and by “ignoring” the phone calls, Lady Gaga is disassociating herself from reality. The video involves her escaping from prison.
This article was written by Allison Canty.