By Cindy Phillips
I love making new discoveries. If I learn something new, I feel I have had a productive day. Of course sometimes I feel like a total idiot because I learn something that apparently the rest of the world has known about for years.
Last week, a co-worker pointed out that we can double click on any employee name and it brings up their V-card. Yeah, I am still not sure what a V-card is — or at least what the V stands for — but it gives me a plethora of contact information.
This co-worker used my name as the example and up popped my email address, my direct phone line, my fax number, my mobile number and my pager number. Wait, what pager number? I don’t have a pager. In fact, I am not sure anyone in the entire world has a pager any longer.
When I think of pagers I think of doctors. Back in the day when my girls were born, which was over 30 years ago, doctors wore pagers. It was how they contacted my obstetrician and told him it was time to come off the golf course and get his booty to the hospital.
Boomers know all too well about the rapid advances in technology. We make jokes with our kids and grandkids about our 8-track players, reel-to-reel tape recorders and vinyl records. They have seen these things with their own eyes, albeit in antique stores, but we still cannot convince them there was a time we had to get up off the couch to change the channel on the television.
This got me thinking about songs that would be obsolete today and why. See if you agree.
“Western Union” (sung by the Five Americans)—Poor guy gets a “Dear John” letter via telegram. The Western Union man shows up at his front door to deliver the news. When was the last time you got a telegram? When I think of telegrams, black and white movies of the 50s come to mind. I always loved when the telegram was being created and the word “stop” denoted the end of a sentence (though it was not a grammatically complete sentence). “Dear John. Stop. It’s Over. Stop. I wish you the best. Stop”
“The Letter” (sung by the Box Tops)—First of all, this song is complete fantasy. Guy jumps on an airplane the minute girl says she wants him back. These days you can barely get a guy to cross the street and meet you half way. Apparently the girl in the song tells him “she can’t live without him”, so he’s off buying a plane ticket. Today if said girl wanted to entice said guy, she would send him a sexy video of herself. Of course once the romance turned sour, said video would be uploaded to YouTube by said guy and would go viral within hours.
“Operator (That’s Not the Way it Feels)”—Jim Croce tugged our heart strings with this story of trying to reach his former sweetheart who ran off with his best friend. So he dials “0”, probably on a rotary phone, and asks the operator for her help. When is the last time you dialed “0” and got a live person? Is it even an option anymore? My guess is you get a recording that frustrates the heck out of you because it doesn’t understand your request.
“Take a Letter Maria”—R.B. Greaves crooned this one, asking his secretary to “take a letter.” Boomers know that means he wanted her to come to his office, steno pad in hand, so he could dictate a letter that would be transcribed from shorthand and completed with a manual typewriter. Ask an administrative assistant today (the term “secretary” is now derogatory) to take a letter and she will laugh in your face, point to your laptop and tell you to hit “send” when you’re done.
“Knock Three Times”—this was sung by Tony Orlando (accompanied by the beautiful Dawn, who was actually two women—so confusing). Tony is in love with the neighbor who lives below him. He listens to her dancing every night and wants to join her. But he’s not sure she is into him. Does he think to send her flowers? Give her a call? Write her a note? No, he tells her to bang a code on her ceiling if she is interested. If not, bang twice on the pipes. Today he would simply face-time her.
So what’s this “transistor radio” that Van Morrison refers to in “Brown Eyed Girl”?
Melanie mentions a “key” for her brand new roller skates. A key to unlock what?
Paul Simon sings about “Kodachrome.” Anyone today know what that is or what you do with it?
Glenn Campbell refers to the “Wichita Lineman.” What did he do for a living?
I’m sure there are dozens of other examples of obsolete lyrics that confound the younger generation when they stumble across an oldies station. Send me an email with your entries to this category. I’d do it myself, but I just got paged.
Cindy Phillips is a columnist for The Mountain Times, firstname.lastname@example.org.