Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tommy Tutone -- "867-5309/Jenny" (1981)

Jenny, don't change your number

After this song became a hit in 1981, people who had the same phone number were deluged with prank calls, and most eventually asked the phone company to give them a different number.  As of 1982, 867-5309 was no longer a working number in 97 of the 106 then-existing area codes.  

"867-5309/Jenny" was on this album
Did you know that 8675309 is the fourth most popular seven-digit password?  Of course, you didn't know that -- and you never would have known it if your Uncle 2 or 3 lines hadn't told you.  (The most popular seven-digit password?  1234567, of course -- because a lot of people are lazy and clueless.)

Here's something else you didn't know:  8675309 is a prime number.  (A prime number is a whole number that can't be divided evenly by any numbers other than one and itself.  But you knew that already -- correct?)  It's also a "twin prime" -- that means it's a prime number that differs from another prime number by two.  For example, 41 and 43 are twin prime numbers -- as are 71 and 73, and 101 and 103, and 137 and 139.  (Let me know when you figure out whether 8675309's twin prime number is 8675307 or 8675311.)

(That's a damn good question.)
And here's one more thing you didn't know: 8675309 was recently featured in a Supreme Court decision.  The case was American Trucking Association v. City of Los Angeles, and it involved a challenge to regulations imposed by the Port of Los Angeles on trucks that haul cargo in and out of that port.  

One of those regulations required trucking companies to affix to each truck a placard with a phone number that busybodies could call to complain about safety or environmental concerns.  "You've seen the type," the opinion said: "How am I driving?  Call 213-867-5309."

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan
That opinion (which was unanimous) was authored by the Court's newest justice, Elena Kagan.  (Kagan is one of four Supreme Court justices who apparently doesn't have a middle name -- or who has a middle name that is so embarrassing that he or she refuses to disclose it.)  Click here if you'd like to read the opinion.

As you may know, Supreme Court decisions aren't really written by the justices personally.  Instead, they are written by law clerks.  Each justice usually has four clerks, who are usually recent graduates of prestigious law schools.  But you have to wonder if any of Justice Kagan's clerks was familiar with "867-5309/Jenny," which was released years before most of the current crop of Supreme Court law clerks was born.  

Kagan was 21 when the song was a hit, so you might assume she inserted that phone number herself.  But maybe not.  After all, one of her childhood friends has said that she and the future jurist "were more apt to sit on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and talk" on Saturday nights than go to parties.

Justice Kagan's college yearbook photo
Kagan wore a judge's robe and held a gavel in her high school yearbook picture, and the quote that accompanied the picture was by legendary Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.  Her college yearbook photo isn't quite as nerdy, but she doesn't exactly look like a big party girl, does she?  So I have a hard time picturing her at a trendy New York City club, dancing to Tommy Tutone's magnum opus and the other hits of that era.

Tommy Tutone -- it's the name of the band, not the name of the lead singer -- started out as Tommy and the Tu-tones.  ("Tommy" is Tommy Heath, the band's frontman.)  

Alex Cole, who co-wrote the song, told an interviewer that there was no Jenny, and that the 867-5309 number just came to him out of nowhere.  But lead singer Tommy Heath has said that the number belonged to a girl he knew.  And the group's lead guitarist, Jim Keller, told People magazine many years ago that friends of his once wrote a girl's name and number on the men's room wall at a bar, and her called it on a dare and dated her for awhile.

John Cowsill
The drummer on "867-5309/Jenny" was John Cowsill, once of the Cowsills.  (John also played with Dwight Twilley, and joined the Beach Boys touring band in 2000.  He married Bangles guitarist Vicki Peterson in 2003.)

In 2011, the Mayo Clinic released a public service announcement featuring staff cardiologists singing a parody of "867-5309/Jenny":

Jenny, please watch your numbers
Blood pressure, lipids, and B-M-I

Here's "867-5309/Jenny":

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

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