There's something wrong with my line
When I dial my baby's number
I get a click every time"
A popular way to convey details about someone's relationship is to have them sing about their telephone calls. One person is often singing about how much they want to call another person, or for another person to call them. The singer acquires his true love's phone number and has to muster the courage to call her; or maybe he's nervous because she promised she would call him and he's starting to have doubts. The song might convey a call's dialogue with one or two people singing about their conversation. The song could also take place in the aftermath of an attempted telephone call and describe its emotional toll.
While these types of Telephone Songs are popular, the genre also covers a wide range of situations involving telephone calls, including gossip, prank calls, and advertisements. As communication technology has evolved, so have songs about them. In many countries payphones and phone booths are disappearing, so songs that mention them are becoming rarer. Mobile phones are becoming more popular, though landline phones are still prevalent in popular culture.
- 10cc: "Don't Hang Up" is about a man trying to rekindle things while on the phone with his estranged wife. Fittingly enough it's the last song on the last album before Kevin Godley and Lol Creme left the band.
- ABBA: "Ring Ring" is about someone being Stood Up.
- AC/DC: "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" is about a hooligan who tells various subjects to call him so he can relieve certain issues.
- Adele: "Hello" is a Break Up Song about trying to call to apologize for breaking one's heart.
- Aquarium: "212-85-06" is a Russian rock song about calling another person's number to hear their voice.
- Backstreet Boys: In "The Call", the narrator calls his girlfriend so she doesn't suspect he's cheated on her with a girl he just met in a club.
- The chorus of "Worth It" is about difficulties communicating over the phone and text with a new love interest, while the music video consists of Bea running around picking up and hanging up a landline phone.
- "She Plays Bass" begins with worries about not getting texts from someone, before switching topics for the rest of the song.
- The Beach Boys: "Had To Phone Ya" has the singer trying to call his lover.
- Blondie: "Call Me" is about the day to day business of a call girl.
- Their song "Hanging On the Telephone" is about a women's frustration with a guy leaving her hanging on the telephone.
- Brooklyn Queen: "Emoji" exhorts the audience to text the singer various emojis.
- Garth Brooks' "Callin' Baton Rouge" (originally recorded by The Oak Ridge Boys, and then by New Grass Revival who feature prominently on Brooks' version) is about a truck driver making regular stops to call a woman he'd met in Baton Rouge the night before.
- Luke Bryan's song "Light It Up" is about the narrator continually checking his phone for a message from his love interest after a fight.
- Vicki Carr: "It Must Be Him" is about the narrator waiting feverishly for a call from her boyfriend despite his being no good for her.
- Jason Michael Carroll's "Hurry Home" has a man change his answering machine greeting to a plea for his runaway daughter to come back to him, so if she calls when he's not there to answer, the message will get through.
- Checkmates, Ltd.: "All Alone By The Telephone" is about waiting for one's lover to call.
- Ditto Sandy & Junior's "Baby, Liga Pra Mim".
- Chuck Berry: "Memphis, Tennessee", Aka "Memphis" is a song about a man calling "Information" to try and connect with a number in Memphis, Tennessee for his daughter Marie, home he hasn't seen in a while due to the breakup of his marriage. This song was also a hit for Johnny Rivers in when he covered it in 1964. It has been covered some 200 times.
- Neil Cicierega: "Numbers" takes samples from a bunch of other songs about telephones (most prominently Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" and the Ghostbusters theme), as well as ads for gimmicky 1-900 numbers, and mashes them all together.
- City Boy: "184.108.40.206" is about the singer's girlfriend refusing to answer his calls.
- Terri Clark's "Better Things to Do" is a phone conversation with her ex, who called hoping to find her miserable over the breakup. (Her response is to list mundane, tedious, or pointless things that are a better use of her time.)
- Claude François: "Le Téléphone Pleure" (The Telephone Cries) which has the singer calling his estranged daughter who doesn't recognize him.
- Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show: "Sylvia's Mother" (written by Shel Silverstein) is a parody of teen breakup songs where a boy pleads over the phone to be allowed to speak to Sylvia, only to be stymied by her mother.
- Elvis Costello: "No Action" (from This Year's Model) is from the perspective of a man who no longer feels anything for his girlfriend—mentioning several times how, every time they talk on the phone, all he wants to do is hang up.
- Jim Croce: "Operator (That's Not The Way It Feels)" is an attempt by a man to get in contact with his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend, the caller's former best friend, and let them know that he's gotten over the pain.
- Dead Cat Bounce: "Mary" is about the attempts that the singer Jimmy makes to reach Mary by telephone, and all of the issues he encounters in the process (including Mary having misplaced her original cellphone, Jimmy running out of call credit, and multiple wrong numbers). It turns out that Mary is just one of a number of calls Jimmy has to make to recommend that they check themselves for STIs after prior sexual encounters.
Automated phone operator: You do not have sufficient credit to make this call.
Automated phone operator: The number you have entered is 607790271. Please hold while we're retrieving your balance. You have topped up by - TWENTY! - Euro. Your new balance is - TWENTY! - Euro and - TWENTY! - cents.
- Dennis DeYoung: "Call Me" is about the singer asking a girl to call him on what's bothering her, which was implied to be about a "Dear John" Letter. The music video only shows him and his band taking a jam session at a Greasy Spoon.
- "Hotline Bling" is a Break Up Song about a guy angsting over how his girlfriend doesn't call him anymore for casual sex.
- In general Drake is known for including voicemails on his songs, particularly in his older music.
- Sheena Easton: "Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair)" where the singer longs to call her boyfriend though long distance but he doesn't reply.
- Electric Light Orchestra:
- "Calling America" is about attempting calling a girl in America (the band is British), but she doesn't respond.
- "Telephone Line" has the singer attempting to call his ex-girlfriend because he's lonely, but nobody answers.
- Paul Evans: "Hello This Is Joannie" is about a man calling his titular girlfriend to apologize after a bad fight, only to get her answering machine. He then receives a phone call from a friend telling him Joannie died in a car crash.
- Suzanne Fellini: "Love on the Phone" is about a woman who longs for the touch of her lover, but because of the distance, has to settle for phone sex.
- Foreigner: "Love on the Telephone" is about nervously maintaining a long-distance relationship.
- Fountains of Wayne: "Hung Up on You" tells the story of a guy who keeps calling his former lover from lots of different places, hoping to get through to her.
I can't dial the phone just now even though I know your number [...]
Ever since you hung up on me I'm hung up on you
- Gabriel O Pensador: in "2345meia78" goes to a payphone and calls every girl he knows, trying to get some action for the weekend.
- Tom T. Hall: "Tulsa Telephone Book" is about a guy who has a one-night stand with a woman named Shirley. He winds up falling in love with her, but Shirley disappears before he can find out her full name. So now he's reading and rereading the phone book, calling everyone with the first name Shirley in desperate hope of finding her again.
- Hinder: In "Lips of an Angel" the singer gets a call from his ex while his current girlfriend is in the next room.
- Rupert Holmes: "Answering Machine" was recorded in 1980, a song about an excited fiancee trying to phone his intended with a marriage proposal, but always getting her answering machine. That 30-second time limit is a real mood-killer.
- Joseph E. Howard and Ida Emerson: The 1899 song "Hello! Ma Baby", popularized by the short One Froggy Evening, is probably the Ur-Example. It has a man singing about his girlfriend, whom he only knows through the telephone.
- Billy Idol: "Crank Call" which is about, eh, crank calls.
- Alan Jackson: "Wanted" is the narrator calling to place a "want ad" apologizing to the woman who left him and asking her to come back.
- Carly Rae Jepsen: "Call Me Maybe" is about giving one's number to a love interest.
- IU: "Voice Mail" is about an Aborted Declaration of Love in the form of a voice mail message.
- The Kinks: "Party Line" is about a shared telephone line. The singer wants to get acquainted with a girl he keeps hearing speaking on this line, but can't get the privacy to ask her more.
- Kraftwerk: "The Telephone Call" is about maintaining a long distance relationship.
- Lady Gaga: "Telephone" is a Break Up Song where the singer pretends the phone has bad service and then tells their ex to stop calling.
- The Laurie Berkner Band: "Telephone" is about trying to call friends, only to find they aren't home to answer.
- Brenda Lee:
- "Bigelow 6-200" is about the singer waiting for her boyfriend to call her after an argument.
- "Ring-A My Phone" is also about waiting for a call, minus the argument.
- Logic, Khalid, and Alessia Cara: "1-800-273-8255" is about talking someone out of suicide. The title is the number of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, though it isn't actually mentioned in the song itself.
- Madness's "Close Escape" from Absolutely is a black comedy number from the point of view of an obscene phone caller.
- Maroon 5: "Payphone" has the singer "trying to call home" to find out how their relationship went wrong.
- The Marvelettes: "Beechwood 4-5789" has the singer encouraging a man she just met to call her.
- Milli Vanilli: In "Baby Don't Forget My Number", the singer urges his lover to call him if she needs him.
- Paul Misraki: The French song Tout va très bien, madame la marquise (incredibly popular in Russia and well known in Israel) is about a noblewoman (a man in the Israeli version) calling home to ask how things are, and receiving a Back to Front report about how everything is fine.
- Billie Myers: In "Kiss the Rain" the singer phones her boyfriend to express her worry that he doesn't seem as invested in their relationship as she is.
- New Edition: "Mr. Telephone Man" is about calling the telephone repairman because the singer hears a click when he dials his lover's number, probably because she keeps on hanging up on him.
- Parry Gripp:
- "I'm A Crazy Weirdo" is, well... a song about a self-proclaimed "crazy weirdo" calling someone repeatedly.
- "You're Driving Me Crazy" features someone complaining about someone who won't stop calling them.
- "This Is My Ringtone" is a person's ringtone that seems to exist only to gloat about the fact that the phone it's on is an iPhone.
- Pink Floyd's "Nobody Home" from The Wall is about the singer trying to get in contact with his ex-wife over the telephone, only to find that there's nobody home.
- Pretenders "The Phone Call" is about Domestic Abuse (or that's the most obvious interpretation).
- Charlie Puth: In "One Call Away", the singer assures his lover he'll be there if she calls.
- The RAH Band's "Clouds Across The Moon" is about an interplantary phone call from (presumably) Earth to Mars, and the technical difficulties such a thing entails.
- Eddy Raven has two:
- "Operator, Operator" (Covered Up Larry Willoughby): He's called her up to apologize, but she's hung up before he could, so he asks the operator to reconnect the number.
- "Who Do You Know in California". A man in an affair is outed when the mistress calls up his wife by accident, leading the wife to ask "Who do you know in California, and what's she doing calling here?"
- R.E.M.: "Star 69" is about the *69 feature on the telephone to call back the last person who called. The singer uses this feature to call back prank callers while posing as law enforcement.
- The Replacements: In "Answering Machine", the singer gets frustrated when he's trying to call someone but only gets the answering machine.
- Ray Stevens: "It's Me Again, Margaret" (Covered Up Paul Craft) is about a pervert who keeps making lewd calls to the eponymous Margaret. By the final verse, he's been tracked down and caught by the police. Guess who he calls with his One Phone Call...
- Rixton: "Speakerphone" has the singer calling his baby only when he's drunk, and demanding that she uses speakerphone because he knows she's not alone.
- Adam Schlesinger and David Javerbaum: "Text Me Merry Christmas", performed by Straight No Chaser and Kristen Bell, about sending one's lover a Christmas text message.
- Sully Sefil's "J'voulais" (I wanted) has the protagonist calling his girlfriend after a bank robbery that went wrong. He explains that he did it so they could have a better life and he didn't intend to kill anyone. At the end of the song, the man kills himself when cornered by the police.
- Blake Shelton's song "Austin" is about a woman calling a man she broke up with a year prior and only getting his answering machine - but to her surprise at the end of every message, he mentions her by nickname and says that he still loves her. At the end of the song he calls her back, and when she answers it, she echoes the messages he'd been leaving, confirming at the end that she still loves him.
- Skyhooks' "Balwyn Calling": The subject makes the mistake of giving his phone number to a girl he had sex with.
- Squeeze's "853-5937" is about a guy who keeps phoning the girl he loves, and getting her answering machine. In the last verse he phones a friend who lives nearby to pass on a message, and gets suspicious when he also doesn't answer.
- The whole trope wouldn't be possible without Alexander Graham Bell!
- Steely Dan's "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" was revealed by band member Donald Fagan to be about a crush he had on a college classmate (with others interpreting it as about marijuana or the phone number of a gynecologist).
- Cole Swindell's "Dad's Old Number": the narrator reflexively calls the number years after his father passed away; the song is his conversation with the stranger who answers.
- Tally Hall: Downplayed with "Two Wuv". The song is about the singer being in love with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson, detailing how obsessed he is with them ("I think that it'd be totally cool if I hung around your apartments and enrolled in your school"). In the song's bridge, he calls them and says he's from Tally Hall; they hang up on him, but this doesn't deter him. There are alternate bridges of the song have this section go on for longer, featuring creepy lines such as "I can come to your house. Like, right now."
- Tommy Tutone: "867-5309/Jenny" is about a guy who finds Jenny's number on some Bathroom Stall Graffiti and wants to call it.
- Travis Tritt's "Here's A Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares", which is a Break-Up Song where the singer leaves his ex by a payphone with a quarter to call someone else.
- Bobby Vee: "Anonymous Phone Call" is about the singer's emotional upset after a stranger calls to tell him his girlfriend is unfaithful.
- Village People: "Sex Over the Phone", which is exactly that.
- Torcadero: In "(617)" the singer generalizes his lovers based on their area code.
- The White Stripes has a number of songs involving calling people, which is Lampshaded in the liner notes to their final album where they include the word "telephone" in a list of all the people who have helped them out.
- "Wasting My Time" begins with a frustrating phone call where the narrator tries to get a straight answer from his lover on whether she's interested in him.
- The first verse of "Screwdriver" involves calling a friend and trying to come up with something to do.
- "Hello Operator":
Hello Operator, can you give me number nineCan I see you later, can you give me back my dime?
- The central conflict of "Effect And Cause", a break-up song of sorts about playing the Blame Game seems to be about the couple not returning each other's calls.
- "A Martyr for My Love For You" is told from the perspective of someone breaking up with their lover over the phone, recounting the story of their relationship and explaining why it won't work out.
- Meri Wilson's "Telephone Man", which is a song full of sexual innuendo about a woman getting the titular person to install a telephone in her apartment.
- Stevie Wonder: "I Just Called To Say I Love You" is about calling to express one's love even if there's no special occasion.
- The Two Ronnies as Jehosophat and Jones: In "Stuttering Bum" the singer is calling his love on the telephone, trying to overcome a nervous stutter as he does so.
- YonKaGor's "You're Just Like Pop Music" is a more modern variant. In this case, the singer talks about an old friend who stopped talking to him over an online chat client, most likely Discord. He assumes they each went their own separate ways, but somewhat isn't over it; he admits that their conversations sometimes pop into his head.
The last thing I remember was
Our call back in January
But nothing comes up afterwards
Been a while since I've seen you onscreen
- The theme of the Ghostbusters franchise urges listeners to call the ghost-hunting team.
- Both of the theme songs for Crank Yankers qualify: "Come one, come all, 'cause we're havin' a ball. We're just makin' some calls to strangers!" and "This the new edition Mr. Telephone Man. Somebody playin' on the lines, run as fast you can!"
- In a What Could Have Been for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, there was going to be a Telephone Hour parody about Josh Chan being on the apps. It is featured as a demo on the fourth season soundtrack set to the tune of the original song. (Presumably to get a feel for the song so the melody would've been changed so as not to get sued.)
- Sesame Street
- In "Telephone Rock", Little Jerry and the Monotones ask the operator to "put some rockin' and rollin' on the telephone." Eventually the operator calls the police on them. At the end of the song, Big Bird says "I wonder how they got that piano in there?"
- Monty in "Watermelons and Cheese" advises the characters how to properly answer the telephone, saying you should't say "watermelons and cheese" (unless you're a watermelon or a cheese).
- Jim Backus' "Dirty Old Man" has a gentleman making obscene phone calls with his profanity and double entendres bleeped out with cartoon sound effects. The first woman he calls sounded like "an old walrus." When the second woman actually wants to take him up on a night of fun, he hangs up and stammers "What the (bleep) is the world coming to?? She was a pervert!!"
- Nichols and May:
- Their "Telephone Sketch" deals with a guy trying to get his dime refunded from a coin phone after he makes an errant call. He goes through red tape cut lengthwise and in the end is completely thwarted.
- Their "Mother and Son" skit has an aerospace engineer having a guilt trip laid on him by his mother over the phone for not calling her frequently enough.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus' "The Phone-In" is ostsensibly a panel discussion where listeners call with questions. The topic is farming but the calls coming in are from what sounds like a clandestine love affair with some cheating going on. The studio guests actually engage the callers. When an actual call about farming comes in, the presenter intones "I'm sorry but we only want questions about farming!"
- In Bells Are Ringing, the song "A Perfect Relationship" is about how a telephone operator has a crush on one of her clients. They can only hear each other's voices, too bad she put on an old woman voice to talk to him at first and is now stuck.
- "The Telephone Hour" in Bye Bye Birdie has a bunch of characters singing over the telephone that Hugo gave his fraternity pin to Kim, which symbolizes they're in a serious relationship.
- "The Smart Phone Hour" from Be More Chill is a reference to the above song. It features Jenna, Brooke, and Chloe spreading gossip about the party from the night before—namely Rich setting a fire at the house.
- Undertale, has the "Wrong Number Song", which is sung by a caller during a random even in Snowdin who realizes they got the wrong number.
Oh it's the wrong number! The wrong number song!
We're very very sorry that we got it wrong!
Oh it's the wrong number! The wrong number song!
We're very very sorry that we got it wrong!
- CollegeHumor has a sketch called "The Other Side Of Adele's 'Hello'". Mike Trapp is Adele's ex-boyfriend and she keeps calling him during their meeting. He keeps picking up and talking to her because he's afraid... that she's gonna write a song about him.
Adele: [singing] Hello, can you hear me?
Mike: Barely. It sounds like you're calling from the middle of a windstorm or something.
Adele: [singing] Hello from the ouuutsiiiiiiide.
Mike: Go inside.
- In the theme song for Kim Possible, Kim tells the audience to "Call me, beep me" if they need to reach her for help. The chime of her communication device is incorporated into the music.
- Phineas and Ferb episode "Backyard Aquarium": "When Will He Call Me" is a song about Candace's distress over waiting for Jeremy to call or message her.
- The Steven Universe song "Full Disclosure", from the episode of the same name, is about Steven not answering Connie's persisting phone calls because he feels he needs to push her away for her own safety. Steven's custom ringtone for Connie is the refrain.
- The Sonic Boom episode "Mister Eggman" has a "The Villain Sucks" Song done as a homage to Bye Bye Birdie's "The Telephone Hour".