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Repost: “867-5309/Jenny” (with a new opening)

Posted by purplemary54 on June 14, 2013

It’s been one of those nights when it seems like everyone has to give me a call.  As a result, I’ve been on the phone for a fairly significant amount of time.  I used to love talking on the phone.  Once, the BFF and I got on the phone around 9 or 10 at night, and managed to talk until nearly dawn.  We got a little loopy around 3 AM, and came up with the theory that one of our friends, who had been adopted, was actually the love child of John Lennon and Patti Boyd.  Which should tell you to never underestimate the weird inventiveness of sleep-deprived teenage fangirls.  I don’t hate being on the phone now, but sometimes–like when I’m trying to get out a blog post–it gets in my way.

Tommy Tutone wasn’t a person; it was the name of the band.  They were one of the pop-rock artists that came out of the San Francisco area in the late 70s-early 80s, like Huey Lewis and the News and The Tubes.  The video was in heavy rotation on MTV for years after the song charted in 1982.  It was also one of the better early videos, with the band members playing roles in a psychological mini-drama.

When you think about, “867-5309/Jenny” is a seriously creepy song.  For those of you too young to remember, writing names and numbers on bathroom walls was a big deal.  Guys used to get back at girls for perceived wrongs by making the girls sound easy, writing “for a good time call.”  There were probably a few . . . vivacious young ladies who weren’t opposed to entertaining random phone calls from strangers looking for no-strings sex.  But usually it was used as a tactic to smear the reputation of some otherwise proper girl for what was probably a trivial reason.  The song and video up the icky quotient by making the character in the song little more than a stalker: “Jenny, I got your number.  I need to make you mine.  Jenny, don’t change your number, 867-5309.”  It’s the kind of thing restraining orders were created for.

There was a little real life mini-drama about the song.  The reason songs, movies, TV shows, etc. always use “555” as the prefix to fictional phone numbers is that “555” never leads to any place real; it won’t connect you to anything.  (Remember, even before my time, the first three numbers of a phone number actually used to be a location of some sort.  That’s why all the phone numbers in a certain area all start the same.  I don’t know when area codes were added.)  But this song used what was a legitimate phone number.  As a result, places with the number “867-5309” started getting a lot of phone calls for some chick named Jenny. I have the feeling that number isn’t in use anymore, but you also don’t hear too many songs with phone numbers in them anymore.  (Squeeze’s  “853-5937” from 1987 was the last one I can think of; you probably shouldn’t call that number, either.)

Fun fact: Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan recently made reference to this famous phone number in an opinion she wrote.  That means one of the best one-hit wonders of all-time is now officially on the record in the United States Justice System, and will be enshrined in some official archive somewhere.  Totally awesome!

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2 Responses to “Repost: “867-5309/Jenny” (with a new opening)”

  1. Sandee said

    This number is eternally etched into my brain.

    • Tell me about it. I’ve gone years without hearing the song, and when I do hear it again, I still know each and every word of it. It’s like a fungus or something.

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