Tommy Tutone Gave Us the Only Telephone Number We All Remember

Tommy Tutone at The Whisky - A Rood Photo

By DONNA BALANCIA Photos by A ROOD PHOTO

There once was a time when people had to remember each others’ telephone numbers.

While technology has taken that skill away, just about everyone knows “867-5309.” It’s Jenny’s number, of course, made famous in the hit song by the band Tommy Tutone.

At The Whisky last week, Tommy Tutone played their retro radio tune about the most famous phone number in the world, “8675309/Jenny,” plus they performed plenty of other numbers as well.

It was in the pre-cell phone days of 1981 when the band released their fateful second album, Tommy Tutone 2, from which the lead single would reach No. 4 on the charts. The song “867-5309/Jenny,” was written by Tommy Tutone guitarist Alex Call with Jim Keller.

Tommy Tutone at The Whisky – A Rood Photo

The most-dialed telephone number ever became part of American pop culture. It was etched in the brain of every MTV-era college kid on the planet who may have prank-called it while partying at the frat. After all, nobody knew who was calling on the other end of the line. With a phone call there was inherent mystery.

At The Whisky, lead singer Tommy Heath and the band showed the reason for their lingering popularity. They ran through a fun setlist that brought back some of those familiar feelings to the Sunset Strip crowd.

Tommy Tutone at The Whisky – A Rood Photo

At a time when text messaging is more popular than ever, there aren’t too many songs about the excitement of waiting for a response to zap onto the handheld.

So maybe it’s no coincidence that a notable performance during Tommy Tutone’s night at The Whisky was the band’s emotional cover of yet another telephone song, “Operator,” released in 1972 by the late Jim Croce.

In that most beautiful and haunting song, the caller in a phone booth pleads to the operator to help him “get through” on the line, an obvious and heartbreaking metaphor. Today, the instant gratification of texting leaves no room to wonder, and makes  romance as dead as the telephone itself. 

But life goes on, and so does Tommy Tutone, who will be on the road and performing shows  worth checking out, regardless of your preferred mode of communication.

On Saturday, May 11 Tommy Tutone will join fellow 1980s underground heavyweights The Romantics, PIL, The Bangles and China Crisis for the Like Totally Music Festival the Huntington Pier.

Then the band will meet up with Rick Springfield Greg Kihn July 13 in the Wente Vinyards in Livermore,  Calif.

Tommy Tutone – 867-5309/Jenny