Monday, 21 January 2013

My Top Ten Answering Machine Songs

Ten great songs left on answering machines...

10.  Ben Folds Five - Your Most Valuable Possession

So, apparently, Ben Folds' dad suffers from somniloquy, a condition where you talk in your sleep... which makes you, apparently, ring up your rock star son and leave garbled messages on his answering machine which he then sets to music and uses to pad out his records. Or so the internet would have me believe.

9. Dandy Warhols - Phone Call

I don't know the story behind this disturbing series of answer phone messages set to haunting music... but it scares the hell out of me nevertheless.

8. Laptop - End Credits

If you came home to an answering message like this one, you'd probably never sleep again.

7. Blake Shelton - Austin

Big-stetson C&W at its most shamelessly cheesey. Nothing wrong with that.
If you're callin' 'bout the car, I sold it
If this is Tuesday night, I'm bowling
If you've got somethin' to sell,
you're wastin' your time, I'm not
If it's anybody else, wait for the tone,
You know what to do
And P.S. if this is Austin, I still love you
6. Cinerama - Maniac

On the other hand, some exes leave rather less romantic answerphone messages. This one drives David Gedge to call back... no doubt making matters much worse. You've got to learn when to let it drop, Dave.
And when I made that stupid oath
About how I was going to
Pay for someone to kill you both
It was just my way of showing you

That I wasn't playing

Oh yeah, you're right, I sounded like a maniac
But that's just what I'm saying
You'll only see how much I've changed

If you come back
5. Shirley Lee - The Reservoir

Not the first time I've found a way to include this song in a Top Ten... doubt it'll be the last. A tribute to Shirley's dear departed dad, it's one of the most emotionally devastating songs I've ever heard. Never fails to bring a tear to my eye*, especially when he plays that answerphone message at the end.

the reservoir by Shirley Lee on Grooveshark

(*As proof, I just listened to it again now and my eyes are streaming.)

4. Paul Evans - Hello, This is Joannie (The Telephone Answering Machine Song)

Wow. Not heard this for years, but it does remind me of my childhood. Guess they must have played it lots on Radio 2 when I was 7.

Evans was an old rock 'n' roller from the 50s - he had a hit with the original version of Seven Little Girls (Sitting in the Back Seat). This was a surprise comeback hit in 1979, another excellent car crash song... with a morbid twist. The answerphone chorus is sung by Lea Jane Berinati. In case you were wondering.

3. De La Soul - Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)

You know, the one that Curiosity Killed The Cat... borrowed.

2. Pulp - Ansaphone
Are you really not at home?
Or are you there but not alone?
Screening calls you don't want to receive
Meaning calls... calls that come from me.
If you weren't such  perv, Jarvis, she'd pick up.

1. The Replacements - Answering Machine

Raw and beautiful, Paul Westerberg and co. at their best.
How do you say goodnight to an answering machine?

Leave your favourite after the bleep.


  1. How about some post-shark-jump (but I still like it) REM, At My Most Beautiful, with these lyrics:

    I read bad poetry
    Into your machine
    I save your messages
    Just to hear your voice.

    1. That's actually one of my favourite PSJ REM songs, so well-played.

    2. Genius. One of the all-time great TV theme tunes too.

  2. If you include De La Soul, I think you have to include Abba'a Ring Ring too...I thought there was an answering machine on Pink Floyd's Wall, but have so far not been able to find it..

    1. Abba's song is about sitting by the phone, waiting for it to ring. In which case, you wouldn't need an answering machine. De La Soul's song is written from the point of view of an answering machine message. As to The Wall... don't look too hard!

    2. NB are you thinking of the phone part at the end of Young Lust?

    3. Yes...I was thinking of Young Lust...but having listened to it, I see there's too much hanging up and not enough answer disappointed about Abba though....

    4. Hey, I don't make the rules - I just think them up, write them down and enforce them rigidly.

  3. Does Meri Wilson - Telephone Man count?

    1. No. It'll count when I get round to Telephone Songs though...

  4. I like Mika 'ring ring' - I'll get m'coat (again!)

    1. Mika isn't entirely frowned upon round these parts...

  5. I enjoyed that
    Came over from Steve's blog

    1. Thanks, John - you're welcome anytime!

  6. Damn it - I may have to redo this Top Ten. How could I forget Stan by Eminem... or, even better, Tony by M&M (The Shirehorses)?

    I'm really upset now.

  7. Mine is Lionel Ritchie's " Hello is it me your looking for- beep"

  8. I tried my best to leave
    This all on your machine
    But the persistent beat
    It sounded thin upon listening

    The Postal Service - Such Great Heights

    The album The Legend of Bird's Hill by vitaminsforyou has 3 or 4 interlude tracks (A Call from Curtis, A Call from Emm, etc.) that are pulled straight from his answering machine.

    Mount Sharp (friends of mine from Brooklyn) have a song called Bones which is about a depressed friend who has become reclusive. They never deleted messages so their voicemail account wouldn't record anything new. But as long as the phone rang, Sarah (who wrote the song) knew her friend was at least alive. I always get chills listening to these lines.

    Sometimes I call you
    Just to hear your phone ring
    Though you ran out of space for my messages
    Ages ago
    If it's not a dialtone
    Then it's not nothing

    I just hope you know

    If you never call me back, I guess that's fine, if you're ok


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