Classic Songs that are Lost on New Generations

Operator, Jim Croce

Oh, could you help me place this call?
You see the number on the matchbook
Is old and faded…

Oh, let’s forget about this call
There’s no one there I really wanted to talk to
Thank you for your time
Oh, you’ve been so much more than kind
You can keep the dime.

What’s an operator and why—or how for that matter—would I give her a dime?

The Letter, The Box Tops

“Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane
Ain’t got time to take a fast train
Lonely days are gone, I’m a-goin’ home
My baby, just-a wrote me a letter”

Letter? What’s a letter?  For that matter, why would a band go by the name “The Box Tops?”  What’s that all about?

Kodachrome, Paul Simon

“When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder I can think at all
And though my lack of education hasn’t hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall

They give us those nice bright colors
Give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away”

What is Kodachrome and why do I need it to get nice bright colors and take a photograph? Isn’t that what a phone is for? Can you imagine having to wait to see the results of taking pictures? The anxious and hopeful anticipation as one went to the Fotomat (look it up) or local store, paid for the pictures, then opened the envelope to see if you’d captured the moment well.

While music is universal, often the lyrics once so impactful lose their effect over time. I’m willing to bet the vast majority of people born after the advent of email and text messaging have never received a hand written letter. Nor would they understand the concept of speaking to an operator to get a number or other information.

The idea of a “long distance” or “collect” call—except perhaps for those in prison—is something lost to history. Way back when one paid extra to call long distance—in this example Cumberland, RI to Boston, MA—I had a cousin going to school at Boston University, When he got back to school he would call his parents “collect” to tell them he had arrived. They would refuse the call, thus saving the cost and being assured of his safe arrival.

The distances that separate us become meaningless when one can video chat instantaneously across the globe.

During World War II, relatives at home would be reeling from the official government telegram—“we regret to inform you that your son has been killed…“— reporting the death of their loved ones while letters written by that same loved one would continue to arrive sometimes weeks later.

While technology has in many ways improved lives, it has also stripped away the personal touch of many forms of communication. Tweets and Snapchats have supplanted the thoughtfulness of a hand written note; addressed, stamped, and mailed to a friend, acquaintance, or loved one.

Or the skill required to speed dial a rotary phone trying to win a contest on the radio. (You did what?)

And I lament those long gone forms of communication. Even those frustrating busy signals (a what?) had a special place in the communication hierarchy. And every time I hear Croce sing, “you can keep the dime,” I recall those wonderful moments when I found forgotten change in a payphone (a what?).

Ah well, the times they are a’changin’.


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2 thoughts on “Classic Songs that are Lost on New Generations

  1. Good one, really enjoyed this one. I do enjoy telling my 23 year old grandson about all the wonders of the 50’s and 60’s.

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