These days the sight of a land line phone seems like a relic from the distant past, so imagine how difficult it is for young folks now to conceive of a hand cranked phone. Actually, it has not been all that long ago that such communication devices were still in use.
According to the web site of a national TV network, it was on October 11 of 1983 that the last hand-cranked phone service went dead. On that day the antiquated phone system, operating at the Bryant Pond, Maine company, was the last to switch to dial service.
A few decades later, pay phones have suffered the same demise, even though the image of them will last much longer because of music. The image of people inserting coins to reach someone they love can be found in some of the most treasured recordings in rock and country music history.
On most of them the price is ten cents, and it stayed that way long after the rates had increased to a quarter to thirty five cents late in the last century. In fact, indie power pop band Fountains of Wayne struck with the old rate of ten cents when they recorded “Hung Up On You” for the album Welcome Interstate Managers in 2002.
Most songwriters avoid listing the cost of items in their songs, for it usually dates the record. Here are ten songs that, thankfully, ignore that omission by mentioning the price of a certain product or service.
Saturday Night Special by Lynyrd Skynyrd
In an unlikely call for gun control, the Southern rockers bemoan that for twenty dollars can buy you a handgun.
Haywire by the Jayhawks
The song from the Sound of Lies album mentions a restaurant in Pittsburgh, where you can get a sandwich for fifteen and a dime.
So Long It’s Been Good To Know You by Woody Guthrie
At the local grocery store, the folk singer despises the fact that it costs two pounds of gold for a pound of butter.
Ten Cents a Coup by Phil Ochs
Of course the protest singer aims this song at the White House, referring to Nixon and Agnew as a comic duo like Laurel and Hardy.
Ten Cents a Dance by Ella Fitzgerald
This standard has been covered by major artists across various genres, but it is mostly associated with Ella.
Go Tell Roger by the Kingston Trio
According to the man in this track from the folk group, two cents and a penny can you buy you a set of big wax lips.
Back When Gas Was Thirty Cents a Gallon by Tom T. Hall
The country legend fondly recalls when it took just over a few bucks to fill your tank, and nowadays drivers are tickled to find it under three dollars a gallon.
What the Price by Migos
Eighty for a show is the price listed in this hit, although the type of entertainment is never specified.
Blowin’ Down This Old Dusty Road by Woody Guthrie
Guthrie complains about the two dollar shoes hurting his feet, wishing that he could upgrade to a pair that cost ten bucks. It is obviously an old, old song.
I Love Rock And Roll by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
When she commands that someone put another dime in the jukebox, Jett is remembering the past. When this hit the charts in the Eighties, each song cost a quarter in those musical vending machines.