The 1980s produced a number of one-hit wonders in the pop music areana, including the infamous Tommy Tutone and their 1982 hit song
Our story begins one spring morning in 1981, when a musician named Alex Call was sitting under a plum tree in Marin County, Calif., hoping to write something that sounded like the Kinks or the early Stones.
He came up with four chords (E minor/C/G/A), seven numbers and one name. A friend, Jim Keller, who was in a band called Tommy Tutone, helped him figure out what the song was about and they had fun with it, assuming it would never see the light of day. If you are under 65 and have ever turned on a radio, for better or worse you know the rest.
In “Jenny,” a young man laments not having the courage to dial a number found scribbled on a wall but finds some comfort in the notion that he can someday call this girl and sweep her off her feet. Though not explicitly stated in the lyrics, it’s strongly implied the name and number were harvested from a bathroom wall, which also implies “Jenny” is a gal of easy virtue and can be had for the price of a phone call:
Even decades after the song dropped off the charts, phone customers unfortunate enough to have been assigned an
The biggest complaints about the new phone exchange come from Nina Clemente ’03 and Jahanaz Mirza ’03, the two students with the telephone number
“It’s so annoying,” Nina said. “It’s the worst number to have in the world.”
The girls receive an average of five “stupid” messages every day on their machine, in addition to a slew of hang-ups.
“It’s as if they are really expecting Jenny to pick up the phone,” Clemente said.
Unfortunately, the problem is not getting better, and people just keep calling. Some ask for Jenny, some play the Tommy Tutone song on the girls’ answering machine, and some males even leave their phone numbers in hopes of finding a date.
In 2004 a New Jersey disc jockey named Spencer Potter requested 867-5309 as his phone number and got it, then he also got first-hand experience with the maxim of being careful what you wish for:
Mr. Potter, who was living in Weehawken, N.J., and working as a disc jockey for weddings and parties, needed a phone number for his business. On a lark he asked if
867-5309was available. To his surprise, it was. It seemed like a great deal for a music-oriented business — the most famous musical phone number (though you might get arguments from fans of Glenn Miller’s “PEnnsylvania 6-5000” or the Marvelettes’ “Beechwood 45789”) as his very own business signature.
Instead, it was something of a disaster. Almost as soon as he plugged the phone in, it began ringing off the wall.
You would think the jokes would get old. But no, he still gets about
30 callsa day: from drunks at bars, from the guy at the auto body shop in Odessa, Tex.; from Alyssa, 15, and her mom, Janice, on their way back from cheerleading practice in Morris County; from hapless collection agencies unlikely to ever get their money; from Leah, 13, in North Bergen whose friend Tyler told her to call; from bored cold callers who figure, why not?
Over the years, Mr. Potter and his roommate have posted their own dumb messages on the voice mail, like the guy with the number in Redmond, Wash., whose answering machine has a bunch of guys singing the song and the message: “If you guys are calling and want to leave a message like this, trust us, we’ve heard it before.”
The song gave rise to its own lore, which asserted that the “Jenny” in the song was the lead singer’s real-life girlfriend (or ex-girlfriend): “I heard a more elaborate story that the number actually belonged to one of the band member’s
Other explanations leave off Jenny’s suing the songwriter but have her becoming angry with him and changing her number (which, ironically, is the one thing the song begged her not to do). In another flavor of the tale, the band was sued by a sheriff who had both a daughter named Jenny and the notorious
Whether there was ever a real Jenny anywhere with that very phone number is debatable. Those who attempt to dial
An adjunct to this legend is the rumor that due to the overwhelming number of prank calls now made to
Sightings: The song “867-5309/Jenny” served as the centerpiece for a 2003 Cingular television ad touting number portability:
On 3 July 2014 Joe Maddon, manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, set his team’s batting lineup using position numbers 8-6-7-5-3-0-9 (with zero standing for the unnumbered designated hitter).
Applebome, Peter. “Jenny, Don’t Change Your Number; You Might Want to Sell It on eBay.”
The New York Times. 31 January 2009.
Brener, Julie. “New Phone Exchange Leads to Confusion, Prank Calls.”
The Brown Daily Herald. 10 September 1999.
Duke, Alan. “‘867-5309’ Number for Sale on eBay.”
CNN.com. 2 February 2009.
Neal, Alan. “Don’t Give Your Number to This Guy.”
The Ottawa Citizen. 23 August 1999 (p. B4).
Brown, David. “Joe Maddon Makes Rays Lineup ‘867-5309’ to Honor Tommy Tutone’s ‘Jenny.'”
Big League Stew. 3 July 2014.