May 22 – What Was That Number Again?

The world’s most famous phone number became that on this day in 1982 – one hit wonders Tommy Tutone hit “867-5309/Jenny” rang up as #4 in the U.S.

The San Francisco area rockers included members of Clover (a band which morphed into Huey Lewis and the News) and is still going, forty or so years after they began. They actually recorded a new album in 2019, some 21 years after their previous one. According to Alex Call, the writer, “was just trying to write a four-chord rock song.” He explains “I actually came up with ‘Jenny’ and the telephone number and the music…just sitting in my backyard.” Despite rumors, the song wasn’t autobiographical. “There was no Jenny,” he says, adding that when guitarist Jim Keller dropped by, he suggested that the girl’s number should be up on a bathroom wall “we wrote the verses in 15 or 20 minutes.”

The song was from their second album, and although signed to Columbia and scraping onto the American charts a year earlier with a song called “Angel Say No”, no one had high expectations for Tommy Tutone 2. “It didn’t have a lot of promotion,” Call remembers. “It was just one of those songs that got a lot of requests…it was on the charts for 40 weeks.” It earned them a gold single and also rose to #2 in Canada, but they never found the winning number again, failing to have any major hits since.

It wasn’t necessarily a hit for those with the number- people with it (including the daughter of Buffalo’s police chief) were routinely inundated with callers looking for “Jenny” by the hundreds and often ended up changing the number. It also probably frustrated a lot of romeos who were trying to get girls numbers in later years. “A lot of women have told me they use the number as a brush-off…which I think is really great.” So, remember guys, if you see a hot girl who doesn’t seem to swoon at you and you ask for their number…if she writes “867-5309” on your hand, you’re probably never going to see them again. (Perhaps a little like Tommy Tutone itself!)

13 thoughts on “May 22 – What Was That Number Again?

  1. All I needed to read was the headline of your post to exactly know what it was about. Kind of crazy how songs can come together and turn into huge hits. Hate it or not, it’s a bloody catchy tune with a good guitar riff and easy-to-remember lyrics. You just need to listen one time and will never forget it.

    Occasionally, I find it harder to remember my own phone than 867 530 ni-ine! I’m glad Tommy Tutone are still around. Unlike countless other talented music artists, at least they had one big hit. I’m sure it helped pay for some bills!

    I’m gonna check out that new album. Any other phone numbers on there? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Back in the 90s I probably had two dozen numbers memorized…my own, family members, work, boss’s, friends…now with cellphones I sometimes have to look at mine to remember my own one. Not exactly progress!


  2. Badfinger (Max)

    I like this song as soon as it came out. It was good 1980s powerpop that actually got played. I don’t know why but this song and The Breakup Song have always gone together to me.

    I kid Jen about this song a lot… this and a little of Forrest Gump… run – Jen-ny run

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yeah, it and ‘The Breakup song’ do seem to go together… a bit similar and both were hot at the same time in ’82. I’m guessing your wife isn’t as fond of the song by now?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Badfinger (Max)

        Ah she sings along but is cautious lol…we were playing a year or so ago in the garage and we improvised it…she was shaking her head and laughing.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice hooky song, it’s no wonder it was a hit- its got just enough quirkiness to keep it memorable. And how many hit songs have a phone number running through the chorus? Thats songwriting genius!
    A ‘friend of mine’ asked a very cute passing girl for her number. She smiled sweetly, wrote it on a post-it, handed it to my friend and waved over her shoulder at my friend. Once I- my ‘friend’ unstuck the note the name writ there was Hope Little, the number 000-0000. Ah well, as we- my ‘friend’ says ‘never had a hope.’

    Liked by 1 person

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