Today, we don’t pay tribute to a movie or a book, but to one of the most used and least appreciated inventions of our modern age: the telephone. And we’ll do this by playing you five tracks about this humble yet torturous device. Because a telephone is more than a tool for one person to connect to another person. Today we talk about the calling, the wanting to be called, the anxiety you have while waiting and the weird calls – and some novelty songs too.
For those of you who thought we’d kick off with Blondie‘s Call me, you’re wrong.
… because that other track by Blondie is much more appropriate for this selection. Yes, you can call Blondie all day, but “Hanging” talks about that lump in your throat when you’ve mustered enough courage to grab that phone and you’re waiting for the other person to pick up. Oh pick up, please…
LIL LOUIS & THE WORLD – I called u (but you weren’t there)
But maybe (s)he isn’t there. And sometimes that’s a good thing, as proven in this track by Lil Louis, who gets a less than lovely call from his former girlfriend. Lil Louis may be only remembered for the late 80s track where he used the sound of a female orgasm (French kiss, if you’ve forgotten), a track we really hated. Whereas we did like “I called you”, but that never became as much of a hit. Shows you how much we understand about the world.
GREEN VELVET – Answering Machine
See, if every time you pick up your phone, you hear this sort of stalkerish abuse, one understands why you’d buy an answering machine. Like Green Velvet did in 1997 and he was kind enough to upload the neverending torrent of good news he could listen to. Or to summarize nearly five minutes in one sentence: “I don’t need this shit.”
ANDREAS DORAU – Das Telefon Sagt Du
Is this selection becoming too gloomy? Let’s hurry over to Germany then for Andreas Dorau‘s wonderful anthem about the telephone. If anything, it will change the way you listen to the phone’s sound forever. Isn’t the pre-dial sound much like “Du” (or the English translation “you”)? Try it, then try to forget it. Can’t do it, eh? Add to this powerful lyrics: “Everyone knows this sound / ‘BT’ sends it through your phone / this signal means ‘free’ / and that’s how it makes me feel.” Then, in full ego-boosting mode (possibly channelling Snow White), Andreas asks its phone the name of that dashing young gentleman (Du/you) and, why stop when everything’s going great, his next question is who’s the dream of every woman. And again, that lovely telephone praises Dorau’s ego.
Probably best known for the 90s tracks “Girls in love” (which isn’t as sweet as the title suggests: it’s about a 16-year-old girl who commits suicide when her boyfriend cheats on her), “Das Telefon sagt du” isn’t the first or only novelty hit by Dorau (at which point we’d like to stress we really really love this sort of novelty tracks and we don’t mean it in any condescending way). In the early 80s Dorau, together with the Marinas, celebrated the arrival of spaceman “Fred vom Jupiter” (of which we’ve picked the extended version – more Fred!).
This is not the original video of “Das Telefon” (we’re not even sure there was one), but this video by Borja Martín may be the quirkiest thing you’ll see all day.
HELENA VONDRACKOVA – Ruf mich an
And finally, Ruf mich an, a song – we must admit – we only discovered while browsing YouTube in search for a decent finale. The year is 1969 and the almighty video hadn’t been invented. Sure, you had scopitones and even in those days shows devoted to teenagers liked to insert some video footage of a band who was touring the region (sadly, never at the time of recording). So what they did was have the band over and record them playing their single in whichever setting was available, peculiar and out of the ordinary. Hence, the footage you sometimes find on YouTube of the likes of Sonny & Cher etc. in a circus tent, in a stable or – in case the producers were less creative – in a dark room. Because, apparently, nothing screamed “1960s teenager” as much as putting your favourite artists in a stable and making them perform their latest hit.
We of the Avenue Kurtodrome were already aware of this phenomenon, so we didn’t blink an eye when Helena Vondráčková started singing to us from between a flock of camels (even though Camel #1 looked as if (s)he’d preferred Black Sabbath). Helena singing “Call me, doesn’t matter how, where or when” while sitting on a horse? Sure, why not? However, 85 seconds into the video, Helena is no longer the focus of the song: suddenly – settle down, David C. – a pig is swinging itself into the screen and Helena decides nothing is more fun than swinging along. Remember all those people talking about the “swinging sixties”? We had no idea this is what they meant…