Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tommy Tutone -- "867-5309/Jenny" (1982)

This week's New Yorker magazine featured a small profile of former Tommy Tutone guitarist Jim Keller, co-writer of their biggest hit, "867-5309/Jenny." Keller is now living in New York City, running classical composer Phillip Glass' publishing company, and only recently performing in low key joints by himself.

If anybody doubts the staying power of this one-hit wonder from the New Wave era, look no further than Bruce Springsteen's recent "Radio Nowhere," which pretty much copped the riff right out from under the California band.

There can't be a New Wave CD compilation without "867-5309/Jenny" licensed for the deal. This was the perfect song for a time when skinny tie bands were still the rage, and people were still dancing to rock and roll. A jangly arpeggio riff, a singer who sounded like he had cotton in his mouth, a band named after a non-existent entity, and the requisite killed power pop hook.

Yes, there was plenty of phone number hysteria, and woe befell all those who had that phone number. And what's with the backwards slash in the title -- couldn't a parenthesis do the trick?

Although the band pretty much shot their load with this song -- they had three albums on Columbia Records -- they did have at least one other quality song which didn't quite scale the charts like "867" and that was "Angels Say No."

Below are two videos -- Tommy Tutone performing "867-5309/Jenny" in 1983 on the old ABC-TV Saturday Night Live rip-off "Fridays", and then a very cool one from 1979 of "Angels Say No," way before it appeared on an album, shot in Marin County. Jim Keller is wearing the green shirt in the first video and barechested in the second.

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