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Elvis may have found heartbreak down at the end of Lonely Street at the Heartbreak Hotel, but several other songs depict heartbreak in a phone booth.

You remember phone booths, don’t you? They once were in every gas station, hotel and airport. They spotted the urban landscape with random placements about town. A big clunky phone fastened to the wall inside a rectangular shaped plexiglass structure. But this phone had 3 coin slots affixed to the top. One slot for a quarter, one for nickel, and one for a dime.

Yes, these were PAY phones. And once upon a time in the pre-cellular land you could make a phone call on a street corner for a dime, depending on where you were calling. If you were calling “long distance” you had a pocketful of change cause those calls cost more.

They measured roughly 4 feet by 4 feet and were 8-9 feet tall. It was enough room for Clark Kent to transform into Superman.

Last week, Wedwand talked about the classic phone call song, Memphis. https://wedwand.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/old-phone-songs/

This week the focus is on the phone booth, the site of a couple classic 1972 heartbreaker hits.

Maybe you recall a hit by Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you wish I never bought that song up cause you had successfully erased it from your memory and now all you can sing in the shower these days is that desperate refrain, “And the operator says 40 cents more for the next 3 minutes, please Mrs. Avery I’ve just got to talk to her …”

It’s based on a true break up experience by author Shel Silverstein. Dr. Hook sings the story to life chronicling his one last desperation call looking for a lass named Sylvia. He seeks to salvage the relationship, prior to her impending marriage to another gent. But, all he gets is Sylvia’s mother who tells him to “just leave her alone.”

We know this song is from a phone booth because Hook kept dropping nickels, dimes and quarters for the next… 3 …minutes … please …as the above refrain says.

If you’re a glutton for punishment, here’s the video:

1972 was all about sad calls in a phone booth because likewise, Jim Croce was at a pay phone looking for an unnamed girlfriend who was now living in LA with his best old ex-friend Ray. He had to call the Operator, to give him the number if she can find it, because the number on the match book was old and faded. Yes, folks, there were real live operators back in the day who would try to help you place a call. Even if it was a heartbreak call.

Here’s something you may not have known about the song, Operator. At least, I never knew it, maybe you knew it but just in case you didn’t know it, here’s the inspiration for the song.

Apparently, Croce served a stint in the US Army. Since Sundays were when the long distance rates were the lowest, lines of soldiers would gather around the phone booths to call home. Croce observed while standing in line himself that many of these callers were phoning their hometown honeys because they had received a “Dear John” letter. They would plea, “Please baby, say it isn’t so.” Sad, but true.

My favorite part of the song is the last verse when the caller tells the operator to just forget about the call and “you can keep the dime.” The last vestige of hopelessness of a love lost, to the point where nothing matters, not even the dime.

And then there’s a song called, “Standing Outside a Broken Phonebooth with Money in my Hand.”

Betcha thought I made that one up?
Nope, it’s a real song by a band called The Primative Radio Gods.

Betcha thought I made that one up too?
Nope, it’s the real band who recorded the real song.

Now, this 1996 song came up when I was doing my usual Wedwand diligent research about phone booth songs, so I gave it a listen. From the first drum beat, I recall hearing it a few times on one of the local alternative stations.

The beat is kind of captivating. The lyrics somewhat mystical. The video, oddly entrancing. Take a look.

I have nary a clue what this has to do with phone booths, but if you do, call me up, invest a dime and we can be “Happy Together” trying to figure it out. You remember the number, cause you wrote it on the wall, 867-5309.

FOOTNOTE: Cover photo courtesy of my sister, Susan. She traveled all the way to Disney World this past weekend just to get the photo for this week’s post. Since the advent of the cellular phone, the Epcot Center at Disney World is the only place you can find a phone booth anymore, because that’s the place where dreams come true.

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