Heartsignals (updated)

Various types of communications media…letters, telegrams, telephone calls…have long played a role in popular music. Just for some weekend fun, here are some songs, ranging from the light-hearted to the very sad, in which various forms of communication make an appearance.

Conventional Mail:

Please Mr Postman, The Marvelettes (1961)

Return to Sender,  Elvis Presley (1962)

Unconventional Mail:

The Carrier Dove, (1836)

Telegraph:

Western Union, The Five Americans, 1967

Telephone:

Sylvia’s Mother, Dr Hook (1972) (also recorded by Bon Jovi in 2003)

Memphis, Tennessee, Chuck Berry/Johnny Rivers (1963/1964)

Operator, Jim Croce (1972)

Missing You, John Waite (1984)(also recorded with Alison Krauss in 2007)

Why Haven’t I Heard from You?, Reba McIntire (1994)

Telephone: Lady Gaga (2009)

Telephone Line:  Electric Light Orchestra

Broadcast Radio:

Border Radio, Dave Alvin  (also this version)

Marine Radio:

Ship to Shore, Chris De Burgh

Newspapers and Magazines:

Escape (The Pina Colada Song), Rupert Holmes

My True Confession, Brook Benton

How about e-mail and text messaging?…are there any good songs featuring these media?

Here is a collection of songs featuring e-mail that I found…haven’t listened to them all. There are quite a few songs referring to text messaging, haven’t found any particularly impressive ones so far.

This post is an updated version of my earlier post on the same theme: fixed some broken links and added some communications types.

23 thoughts on “Heartsignals (updated)”

  1. I’ll add one: “Hearts of Stone”, recorded by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes (written by B. Springsteen.)

    A man takes a call from his ex, who is heartbroken and misses him. He has … ummm … moved on, but he comforts her as best he can:

    “I can’t talk now, I’m not alone
    So put your ear close to the phone
    This is the last dance
    The last chance
    For hearts of stone”

    It’s a painful reminder of back when telephone service — POTS, the old copper wire system — was so good that people (lovers) would talk for hours, sharing confidences in whispers.

    I personally almost never make a phone call now for any reason, the experience is so garbled and difficult that it’s demoralizing. I end any call feeling like I have failed in some fundamental way. Nor do I answer the phone, because it’s in a drawer somewhere. This has had consequences at work — never answering the phone means I can’t be in charge of anything. But the frustration and pain of cell phones is too much to bear at any moment.

  2. Today’s landline phones do seem to have lower fidelity than the older landline phones…I don’t have any numbers on this, but wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of lossy compression was being applied to reduce bandwidth requirements. (even though voice telephony must by now be a small % of total network bandwidth consumed, compared with data and video)

  3. BRetty: “It’s a painful reminder of back when telephone service — POTS, the old copper wire system — was so good …”

    Back in the days when the US was a serious country and Bell Labs was a significant component of that greatness, improving the quality of the sound over phone wires was a major focus. Then when Bell Labs invented cell phone technology — and years later when computer chips made it practical — it turned out that most people preferred the convenience of a phone in their pocket and would gladly sacrifice the quality of a fixed landline. As far as the market goes, the People Have Spoken … even if they can hardly understand what anyone is saying on that convenient cellphone.

  4. “Back in the days when the US was a serious country and Bell Labs was a significant component of that greatness, improving the quality of the sound over phone wires was a major focus.”

    Actually, figuring out how to compress calls so more could be transmitted over a single circuit without the customers raising hell was the major focus. See Shannon, Nyquist, et al. Progress marches on.

  5. At the same time, the cost of a long distance call went from tens of 2024 dollars per minute to essentially free.

  6. MCS
    At the same time, the cost of a long distance call went from tens of 2024 dollars per minute to essentially free.
    I am quite willing to trade off the lesser quality for the much lower cost.
    Though one loss is Bell Labs. So many innovations came from Bell Labs.

    A family joke was that my cost-conscious grandmother would keep conversations short when she made the call, but would talk on and on when we called her. Being both Scotch and more able to laugh at oneself than most people, she’d agree if you ever brought up that point.

    I recall that one time I was able to add a song to a list of theme songs that David posted. This list is, as far as I can tell, so complete that I can’t add any song to it.

  7. It would not be accurate to imply that Bell Labs was focused only on compressing calls to push more data down the wires. In reality, Bell Labs was focused on both reducing the cost and improving the quality of telephony. A relevant fascinating book is: “The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation”, by Jon Gertner (2012). Well worth reading.

    Of course, the big factor which enabled AT&T to drive down costs while maintaining/improving sound quality was the advances in technology permitting digitalization of signals, which was inherently more efficient than the original analog transmission method. Digitalization also permitted the Patriarchy to automate telephone exchanges and fire hundreds of thousands of American women who had previously worked as telephone operators. Bad Patriarchy!

    The Patriarchy then pursued financialization and offshoring in the electronics industry, which destroyed even more jobs for American women while creating jobs for untold millions of Asian women. Perhaps the Patriarchy has a soft spot for Asian women?

  8. “Telegram Sam” by T.Rex, sometime early ‘70s;
    “Radio Radio” by Elvis Costello, 1978-ish;
    “Left of the Dial” by the Replacements, 1985-ish

    There was that song “Video Killed the Radio Star” by I forget who, which was probably only well known because MTV pushed it hard when that started up.

    Not sure the T.Rex song has anything to do with Telegrams, per se, all I remember is the line “Telegram Sam, you’re my main man”.

    The Costello song is explicitly about radio in a paranoid way – “I wanna bite the hand that feeds me / I wanna bite that hand so badly”

    The Replacements song is about where you found the alternative / college rock radio stations in the ‘80s. Contains the line, from the time of ‘80s hair bands, complaining of bands “playing makeup, and wearing guitar”.

  9. Odd memory connection – this post reminded me of a DJ who asked callers to list songs that had any month of the year in it. He got excited with the initial calls, but got roundly deflated when someone called in the Neal Sedaka song.

  10. Sort of in the odds and ends category of communication, a song called Radar Love. 1973 by the entirely forgettable group Golden Earring.
    Anticipating cell phones????

    “When she is lonely and the longing gets too much
    She sends a cable, coming in from above
    Don’t need no phone at all”……….

    “We’ve got a thing that’s called radar love
    We’ve got a line in the sky
    We’ve got a thing that’s called radar love
    We’ve got a thing that’s called
    Radar love”

  11. Tacitus: I was going to mention that song, but you got there first. I need to transfer a copy to MP3 and get it in the car’s playlist. OTOH, I have to watch my speed–that song has a strange effect on my right foot. :)

    And yes, they’d be in the One-hit-wonder hall of fame. If such a thing exists. Hmm?

  12. RCPete

    Regards playlists. I’m pretty involved with a competitive high school robotics team. Recently they started a playlist….music to work by and all.
    When asked to contribute a selection or two I was stymied. The stuff I listened to at their age was mostly of the Jerry Jeff Walker variety….too much drinkin’ and cussin’ to be appropriate.

    I settled on Ride of the Valkyrie.

    Tacitus

  13. Tacitus…”The stuff I listened to at their age was mostly of the Jerry Jeff Walker variety….too much drinkin’ and cussin’ to be appropriate.”

    Kids today….

  14. Magazines & Newspapers, “American Pie” – Don McLean
    Adding broadcast news “Dirty Laundry” – Don Henley
    More telephone songs:
    Jenny/867-5309 – Tommy Tutone
    “Telephone Song” – Stevie Ray Vaughn
    “Wrong Number Again” – Aaron Neville
    “Long Distance Call’ – Muddy Waters
    Pennsylvania 6-5000 – Andrews Sisters

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