For this “Things That Bring Back Memories” post, I am going to pick something pertaining to the topic of “Music“. There are so many songs that I can remember from years ago, and since music is a huge part of our family, the memories come streaming back when you hear a certain song.
Do you ever have that tune that comes on the radio, and you can just automatically remember where you were, who you were with and what you were doing? It amazes me, how as I get older, I can’t remember things from last week – but have that certain song come on the radio on a “Flashback” day, and “BOOM”, I am back in the place I was when I heard it. Don’t know if it’s the side effects of my brain surgery, which they said might affect certain memory, but I’m so glad that I can remember some things of the “good old days.”
So to get on with this “Things That Brings Back Memories” blog post for this week, I’m going to pick “Jenny / 867-5309” by Tommy Tuntone, which was released in November, 1981. This is one of those songs, that with the first few notes, you know exactly what will come from the speakers. Great sound, great music and timeless!! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here it is:
The song “Jenny/867-5309” is one that most of us from the 80’s grew up with and could sing along to, with no problem. I remember years ago, when I lived in California, there was guy in Pomona that had this exact number. He always complained about people calling and asking for Jenny. When asked why he didn’t change his number, he said “I had it first”! Always cracked me up!
This is definitely one that is on the “One-Hit Wonders” list! You really didn’t hear much from them after it got so high on the charts. Back in the day, there were so many of those types of songs, and bands. I remember watching VH1 awhile back and seeing like the top 100 “One-Hit Wonders”. Of course, this song was on there, but I was just amazed at how many there were.
So, is there a song that brings back great memories for you? Leave a comment below, and let me know.
More Info on the Song “Jenny / 867-5309”:
“Jenny / 867-5309” is a song written by Alex Call and Jim Keller and performed by Tommy Tutone that was released on the album Tommy Tutone 2, on the Columbia Records label. It peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #16 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart in 1982. The song caused a fad of people dialing 867-5309 and asking for “Jenny”. The song is about a guy who gets Jenny’s number off the bathroom wall. He can’t work up the courage to call her, but thinks he can have her if he ever does. Songwriter Alex Call came up with it while sitting under a plum tree. He told us: “Despite all the mythology to the contrary, I actually just came up with the ‘Jenny,’ and the telephone number and the music and all that just sitting in my backyard. There was no Jenny. I don’t know where the number came from, I was just trying to write a 4-chord rock song and it just kind of came out. This was back in 1981 when I wrote it, and I had at the time a little squirrel-powered 4-track in this industrial yard in California, and I went up there and made a tape of it. I had the guitar lick, I had the name and number, but I didn’t know what the song was about. This buddy of mine, Jim Keller, who’s the co-writer, was the lead guitar player in Tommy Tutone. He stopped by that afternoon and he said, ‘Al, it’s a girl’s number on a bathroom wall,’ and we had a good laugh. I said, ‘That’s exactly right, that’s exactly what it is.’ I had the thing recorded. I had the name and number, and they were in the same spots, ‘Jenny… 867-5309.’ I had all that going, but I had a blind spot in the creative process, I didn’t realize it would be a girl’s number on a bathroom wall. When Jim showed up, we wrote the verses in 15 or 20 minutes, they were just obvious. It was just a fun thing, we never thought it would get cut. In fact, even after Tommy Tutone made the record and ‘867-5309’ got on the air, it really didn’t have a lot of promotion to begin with, but it was one of those songs that got a lot of requests and stayed on the charts. It was on the charts for 40 weeks.”
In some cases, the number was picked up by commercial businesses or acquired for use in radio promotions.
- In 1982, in San Jose, CA, Backstage Music, a record store, obtained the number and had a woman’s voice recording on an answering machine saying she was Jenny and advertising the store.
- In 1982, WLS radio obtained the number from a Chicago woman, receiving 22,000 calls in four days.
- In 1982, Southwest Junior High School received up to two hundred calls daily asking for Jenny in area code 704.
- Brown University obtained the +1-401-867 prefix in 1999, assigning 867-5309 to a student dormitory room which was promptly inundated with nuisance calls. In 2002 the university transferred the number to Gem Plumbing & Heating, a local business in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Gem began using the number in advertising campaigns both in Rhode Island and in eastern Massachusetts (area code 617), trademarking the number in 2005.
- A February 2004 auction for the number in a New York City area code was shut down by eBay after objections from Verizon; bidding had reached $80,000. The US Federal Communications Commission takes the position that most phone numbers are public resources that are not owned by carriers or their customers but did not rule out the number being sold as part of a business.
- A subsequent February 2004 auction for the number in area code 800 and 888 listed Jeffrey Steinberg’s Philadelphia business JSS Marketing for sale, including both numbers as part of the bundle. This circumvents eBay restrictions which prevent selling the numbers on their own.
- In 2004, Weehawken, New Jersey resident Spencer Potter picked up the number for free after discovering to his surprise that it was available in the 201 area code, hoping it would improve his DJ business. Unable to handle the overwhelming volume of calls, he sought to sell the number on eBay in February 2009. Although bids reached $1 million, his inability to confirm the identity of the bidders led him to sell it privately to Retro Fitness, a gym franchise with a location in Secaucus, New Jersey that felt the 1980s origin of the number tied in perfectly with their business’s retro theme.
- In 2006, Benjamin Franklin Franchising, a large national plumbing franchise, began using a toll-free version of the number (+1-866-867-5309), which it advertises as “867-5309/Benny”. In 2007, Gem brought suit against Clockwork Home Services, the parent company of Benjamin Franklin Franchising, alleging a violation of its trademark. Clockwork contended that Gem’s trademark was invalid. Effective in May 2007, Clockwork was ordered by a court to stop using the number in New England. As of 2011 +1-866-867-5309 remains in the hands of Benjamin Franklin Franchising as a valid method of reaching BFF customer support. According to Tommy Heath, lead singer of Tommy Tutone, “It’s ridiculous. If I wanted to get into it, I could probably take the number away from both of them.”
- In 2009, nutrition firm Natrient LLC leased +1-800-867-5309 from 5309 Partners Ltd for $25 million as part of a radio ad campaign.
- In July 2009, Jason Kaplan had the number assigned to a Vonage phone line in the name of a small business in area code 267 and then listed the entire business for sale on eBay. The auction closed at $5,500. Whereas telephone numbers are the legal property of the wireline carrier, the logic behind this company and several others was that Vonage as a VOIP provider did not own the numbers, making them open for sale, with eBay being the typical medium.
- When area code 855 was opened in 2010, +1-855-867-5309 was taken in the first 47 seconds on the first day, while Pennsylvania 6-5000 was assigned on the twenty-first day. A captive RespOrg “Voice Box International”, controlled by the same people who operate “5309 Partners” and “Five309 LLC”, also reserved +1-844-867-5309 in the first few seconds after that area code’s December 7, 2013 opening. In January 2013, Five309 LLC announced plans to use 855-867-5309 and 888-867-5309 to promote website JennySearch.com but as of 2013 that site is not being actively updated.
- In 2011, Alex Call’s biography “867-5309 Jenny, the Song That Saved Me” ISBN 978-1936185559 used the number in its title.
- Associate Justice Elena Kagan’s opinion in the unanimous 2013 Supreme Court case American Trucking Associations v. Los Angeles uses the number as a hypothetical placard on each truck inviting calls with safety or environmental complaints.
- In 2013, the number was still ringing up fifty misdialed calls daily for Florida realtor Carrie Routt in area code 850.
- According to whitepages.com, the toll-free number (+1-800-867-5309) is currently owned by Benjamin Franklin Plumbing.
More Info on the Band:
Tommy Tutone is a power pop band, best known for its 1981 hit “867-5309/Jenny”, which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although it is usually referred to as a San Francisco band, it was actually based in Willits, California, at the time that “Jenny” was released. The song became so popular that people in the United States to this day dial this telephone number and ask for Jenny as a prank. Regarding the famous number, “We had people threatening to sue us. It was the Buffalo Chief of Police’s daughter’s number in New York,” said frontman Tommy Heath.
A common misconception is that Tommy Tutone is the name of the lead singer; it is actually the name of the band. Tommy Heath is the lead singer. The name of the band developed from its original name, Tommy and the Tu-tones, to merely Tommy Tutone.
Heath and Jim Keller founded the band in 1978, with Heath acting as the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, also playing keyboards on occasion; Keller playing lead guitar and supporting vocals. Heath and Keller were the only constant members of Tommy Tutone during the band’s heyday, and the lineup featured a rotating membership of bassists and drummers. Bassist Jon Lyons (original name Jonathan Lyons Terlep) who replaced original bassist, Terry Nails (Steve Jones, Ozzy Osbourne) was later replaced by Greg Sutton, Pete Costello, and Jimmy James. Mona Gnader, the bassist in Sammy Hagar’s Waborita band, played with the band as well. Original drummer Mickey Shine (Clover and drummer on the first Elvis Costello album) was replaced by Victor Carberry for the band’s second album. Carberry was in turn replaced with Jerry Angel. Joe Lamond played drums in the mid to late eighties. John Cowsill of The Cowsills played percussion (and sang) on “867-5309/Jenny.” From 2001 onward, the band has consisted of Heath, James, Greg Georgeson (guitar), Andy Gauthier (drums), and occasionally Costello.
Tommy Heath became a computer analyst and moved to Portland, Oregon where he worked for a start-up called Cornerstone Revolutions, though he currently resides in Santa Rosa, California. In 2007, the band signed a recording contract with Spectra Records.
Jim Keller went on to become the director of Philip Glass’s publishing company, Dunvagen Music Publishers. He still performs in New York City.
Some Other Interesting Facts:
- Tommy Tutone is the name of the band, not the lead singer. The group, led by Tommy Heath and Jim Keller, originally called itself Tommy and the Two-Tones. They had a minor hit 2 years earlier with “Angel Say No,” which went to #38 in the US.
- The next time a real phone number was broadcast so prominently was the 2003 movie Bruce Almighty, which starred Jim Carrey as a regular guy who took the powers of God. When God wanted to contact Carrey, he would page him, and the number that displayed was a real phone number. For the DVD, it was changed to a generic 555 number.
- For years, Tommy Tutone has used a story that there was a Jenny and she ran a recording studio. They have also said it was inspired by a real girl who band member Tommy Heath met in a nightclub and 867-5309 was the phone number of her parents. None of this is true, but it got them a lot more media attention, since it made a better story.
- Long before he was a governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger used the song on his Workout with Arnold video.
- Many women have used the fictional Jenny’s telephone digits to brush off unwanted male attention. More than one guy has gotten a girl’s digits, only to discover they are 867-5309.
- During the the men’s restroom scene in the 1982 “Coach Returns to Action” episode of Cheers, graffiti can be seen on the wall near the door. It says “For a good time call Diane Chambers” and offers the 867-5309 Tommy Tutone phone number.
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