The “Inappropriate Disclosure Song” Game, and Continued Blog Break

My health problems are mostly cleared up — thanks to everyone for the kind thoughts! But now I’m going out of town to visit friends for the holiday weekend. I’ll try to blog when I’m away, but I can’t promise anything: this blasted blog break may have to go on a couple/few more days. (Driving me up a tree, I tell you. I hate not blogging.)

So in the meantime, let’s play a game! There’s a trope in popular songs that’s been tickling me recently, and I’m trying to come up with more examples of it. It’s the “Inappropriate Disclosure to Service or Retail Personnel” trope, in which the singer of the song tells the sad/ hopeful story of his or her love life to postal carriers, airline ticketing agents, telephone operators, and other government or commercial representatives who almost certainly care not about the singer’s love life, even in the slightest amount.

PostmanThe quintessential example may be Please Mr. Postman, originally by The Marvelettes, covered by The Carpenters, The Beatles, and probably everyone else on Loki’s green earth, including Captain Beefheart and Snoop Dogg:

Please Mister Postman, look and see
(Oh yeah)
If there’s a letter in your bag for me
(Please, Please Mister Postman)
Why’s it takin’ such a long time
(Oh yeah)
For me to hear from that boy of mine

There must be some word today
From my boyfriend so far away
Pleas Mister Postman, look and see
If there’s a letter, a letter for me

I’ve been standin’ here waitin’ Mister Postman
So patiently
For just a card, or just a letter
Sayin’ he’s returnin’ home to me

Adding to the entertaining inappropriateness of the disclosure, we have the bonus inappropriateness of blaming the service personnel for the emotional distress (“So many days you passed me by/ See the tears standin’ in my eyes/ You didn’t stop to make me feel better/ By leavin’ me a card or a letter”). Giving the song, from the postal carrier’s viewpoint, that extra piquant touch of annoyance.

Check_inThen we have The Letter, originally by the Box Tops, covered by Joe Cocker:

Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane,
Ain’t got time to take a fast train.
Lonely days are gone, I’m a-goin’ home,
‘Cause my baby just a-wrote me a letter.

Well, she wrote me a letter
Said she couldn’t live without me no mo’.
Listen mister can’t you see I got to get back
To my baby once a-mo’–anyway…

Dude: The agent at the airline ticket counter doesn’t care why you want the ticket. They just need to know what city you’re going to, and if you have any baggage to check, and if any people unknown to you have given you items to carry.

Prison-busI can’t go on about this trope without mentioning Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree

Bus driver, please look for me
‘Cause I couldn’t bear to see what I might see
I’m really still in prison, and my love she holds the key
A simple yellow ribbon’s what I need to set me free
I wrote and told her please:

— in which the singer seeks a sympathetic ear from, of all people, the prison bus driver.

Lily tomlin ernestineAnd when I mentioned this trope to Ingrid, she immediately came up with one of the very best: Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels), by Jim Croce:

Operator, oh could you help me place this call
You see the number on the matchbook is old and faded
She’s livin’ in L.A.
With my best old ex-friend Ray
A guy she said she knew well and sometimes hated

Isn’t that the way they say it goes
But let’s forget all that
And give me the number if you can find it
So i can call just to tell them I’m fine and to show
I’ve overcome the blow
I’ve learned to take it well
I only wish my words could just convince myself
That it just wasn’t real
But that’s not the way it feels

This one wins some sort of prize for “Highest Ratio of Inappropriate Disclosure to Actual Request for Service.” And Croce definitely gets bonus points for spending two verses and two choruses telling the operator all about his sad love life… and then changing his mind and deciding he doesn’t want to place the phone call after all.

So what other ones am I missing? I know I’m forgetting some important and obvious ones: I know, for instance, that there have got to be songs about inappropriate disclosure to train conductors and other railway personnel. Help me out, y’all!

BTW, I’m going to impose an arbitrary limit here, and rule out disclosures to bartenders. In theory because it could be argued that listening to people drone on about their love lives is an implicit part of a bartender’s job; but mostly for the practical reason that if we don’t rule out bartenders, we’ll be here all day. Let’s play!


  1. says

    Chuck Berry, “Memphis Tennessee”:
    Long distance information, give me Memphis Tennessee
    Help me find the party trying to get in touch with me
    She could not leave her number, but I know who placed the call
    ‘Cause my uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall
    Help me, information, get in touch with my Marie
    She’s the only one who’d phone me here from Memphis
    Her home is on the south side, high up on a ridge
    Just a half a mile from the Mississippi Bridge
    Help me, information, more than that I cannot add
    Only that I miss her and all the fun we had
    But we were pulled apart because her mom did not agree
    And tore apart our happy home in Memphis Tennessee
    Last time I saw Marie she’s waving me good-bye
    With hurry home drops on her cheek that trickled from her eye
    Marie is only six years old, information please
    Try to put me through to her in Memphis Tennessee
    (Lyrics ganked from the net; “hurry home drops,” for starters, may not be accurate.)

  2. says

    Richard Thompson, “Taking My Business Elsewhere”
    If she’s not here by now, then I guess she’s not coming
    If she’s not here by now, then I guess she don’t care
    Oh waiter, I won’t waste your time anymore
    You’ve already started to sweep down the floor
    And I guess she’s not coming, so I’ll head for the door
    I’ll be taking my business elsewhere
    It wasn’t for me, that spark in her eyes
    It wasn’t for me, that halo in her hair
    When she touched me a lump rose up into my throat
    But she must act that way with any old soak
    And waiter you don’t seem to share in the joke
    So I’ll be taking my business elsewhere
    She called me her fantasy
    And boldly she kissed me
    I’ll never get over the sheer surprise
    Of her acting that way
    And I’m healing okay
    But for the eyes of her…
    Oh it’s cold in the rain and it’s dark and it’s sad
    And I’ll miss her tonight on my lonely back stair
    I’m sorry for taking so much of your space
    I’ll move down the street to some friendlier place
    ‘Cause I guess she’s not coming, and you’re sick of my face
    I’ll be taking my business elsewhere
    Admittedly, this would probably be addressed to a bartender if “bartender” had two syllables, but technically it counts.

  3. says

    How about a little “Magic Bus” by The Who?

    Every day I get in the queue (Too much, the Magic Bus)
    To get on the bus that takes me to you (Too much, the Magic Bus)
    I’m so nervous, I just sit and smile (Too much, the Magic Bus)
    Your house is only another mile (Too much, the Magic Bus)
    Thank you, driver, for getting me here (Too much, the Magic Bus)
    You’ll be an inspector, have no fear (Too much, the Magic Bus)
    I don’t want to cause no fuss (Too much, the Magic Bus)
    But can I buy your Magic Bus? (Too much, the Magic Bus)
    I don’t care how much I pay (Too much, the Magic Bus)
    I wanna drive my bus to my baby each day (Too much, the Magic Bus)
    *[Magic Bus, Magic Bus, Magic Bus
    Magic Bus, Magic Bus, Magic Bus
    Give me a hundred (Magic Bus)
    I won’t take under (Magic Bus)
    Goes like thunder (Magic Bus)
    It’s a four-stage wonder (Magic Bus)
    Magic Bus, Magic Bus, Magic Bus, Magic Bus
    I want it, I want it, I want it…(You can’t have it!)
    Think how much you’ll save…(You can’t have it!)]
    I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it … (You can’t have it!)
    Thruppence and sixpence every day
    Just to drive to my baby
    Thruppence and sixpence each day
    ‘Cause I drive my baby every way
    Magic Bus, Magic Bus, Magic Bus, Magic Bus, Magic Bus…
    I want the Magic Bus, I want the Magic Bus, I want the Magic Bus…
    I said, now I’ve got my Magic Bus (Too much, the Magic Bus)
    I said, now I’ve got my Magic Bus (Too much, the Magic Bus)
    I drive my baby every way (Too much, the Magic Bus)
    Each time I go a different way (Too much, the Magic Bus)
    I want it, i want it, I want it, I want it …
    Every day you’ll see the dust (Too much, the Magic Bus)
    As I drive my baby in my Magic Bus (Too much, the Magic Bus)

    Of course, some people say this song is all code for drugs, but I don’t really buy that myself. It makes even less sense than a guy that’s never heard of a car buying a bus for only a hundred pounds.

  4. Jessica says

    How about “Take a Letter, Maria”? Does that count, even though the service employee is the singer’s own secretary? Surely it would merit bonus points for the fact that, after telling Maria all about his cheating wife and impending divorce plans, he tries to hit on her. Certainly asking her to take down the letters to his wife and lawyer constitutes misuse of company resources.

  5. Nes says

    Everything I can think of right now (since mine were already mentioned…) are borderline cases.
    Would Piano Man by Billy Joel count? He, as the titular piano man, is telling us about the bar patrons’ problems — including the bartender’s! Though, with the exception of Paul, we don’t really know anything about their love lives, just general life problems.
    Callin’ Baton Rouge by Garth Brooks might count, though it’s doubtful that most of the song is directed to the operator. (I really doubt that he’s telling the operator that there’s a truck stop sign ahead, so he’s changing lanes to get coffee and a couple of dollars in change.) The only part that is clearly speaking to the operator is the chorus:
    Operator, won’t you put me on through/I gotta send my love down to Baton Rouge/Hurry up, won’t you put her on the line/I gotta talk to the girl just one more time
    Then there’s Weird Al Yankovic’s Talk Soup which is all about revealing Too Much Information, but do talk show hosts count as service personnel? (For that matter, considering what talk shows are like, does that even count as inappropriate?)

  6. says

    My first thought was of The Telephone Call by Kraftwerk, but that’s not about TMI, it’s about stalking and harrassment.
    Yazoo’s Bad Connection comes closer, since the chorus can be interpreted as the singer pestering the phone repair crew to work faster. The first verse also implies that the singer has called the local news radio station and unburdened herself on the reporter.

  7. sav says

    Mr. Sandman (The Chordettes)–a fairy-tale service provider, but a service provider nonetheless.
    I love this game.

  8. Elin says

    Not sure this counts:
    Doctor, doctor
    Give me the news
    I’ve got a bad case of lovin’ you

  9. says

    Hitchin’ A Ride by Vanity Fare
    A thumb goes up, a car goes by.
    It’s nearly one a. m. and here am I
    Hitching’ a ride,
    Hitching’ a ride.
    Gotta get me home
    By the morning light.
    I got no fare to ride a train,
    I’m nearly drowning in the pouring rain
    Hitching a ride,
    Hitching a ride.
    Gotta get me home
    To my baby’s side.
    Long distant call l got today,
    She sounded lonely so I’m on my way
    Hitching a ride,
    Hitching a ride.
    Gotta get me home
    To my baby’s side.
    A thumb goes up a car goes by
    Oh won’t somebody stop and help a guy
    Hitching a ride,
    Hitching a ride,
    Been away too long
    From my baby’s side
    Not sure if this counts or not, since the dude is basically talking to himself. But it seems to fit.

  10. says

    The first one that came to my mind:
    “Mr. Ambulance Driver” by The Flaming Lips
    Waiting… for the ambulance to come
    Hoping that it doesn’t come… too late
    Hearing the sirens in the distance
    Hold on help… Is on the way
    Mr. Ambulance Driver
    I’m right here beside her
    Though I’ll live some how I’ve found
    Mr. Ambulance Driver
    I’m not a real survivor
    Wishing that i was the one that…wasn’t gonna be here anymore
    The one that isn’t here anymore
    The one that isn’t here anymore
    Oh…we can’t trade places
    Our lives are strangely our own
    Mr. Ambulance Driver
    Tell Me…for everyone that dies someone new is born
    Mr. Ambulance Driver
    I’m right here beside her
    And tho I’ll live somehow I’ve found
    Mr. Ambulance Driver
    I’m not a real survivor
    Cause I’m wishing that i was the one that…wasn’t gonna be here anymore
    Mr. Ambulance Driver
    I’m right here beside her
    And tho I’ll live somehow I’ve found
    Mr. Ambulance Driver
    I’m not a real survivor
    Cause I’m wishing that i was the one that
    Wasn’t gonna be here anymore
    The one that isn’t here anymore
    Waiting for the ambulance to come
    Mr. Ambulance Driver

  11. Nosmo King says

    I guess my only contribution would be Johnny Cash’s “Hey Porter”; here’s the second verse:
    Hey porter! Hey porter!
    What time did ya say?
    How much longer will it be till I can
    see the light of day?
    When we hit Dixie will you tell that engineer
    to ring his bell?
    And ask everybody that ain’t asleep
    to stand right up and yell.
    This is an example of too much information by way of exuberance, not heartbreak, but still– if I were that porter, I’d tell the guy to sit down and shut up, or this train will be going to Dixie without him. In a nice way, of course.
    Oh wait, how could I forget “Lady Cab Driver” by Prince? Obviously, I didn’t. But you have to ignore the parts where he’s coming on to her. So, maybe half a point for that. Obviously, transit professionals (cf “Tie a Yellow Ribbon
” above) have it rough.
    –Nosmo King

  12. Freak says

    The Christmas Shoes
    Made worse by the fact that the singer complains that the clerk is taking a while.

  13. Jonathan Coxhead says

    Hey Greta,
    I’ve been lurking here a while. Thought I’d step forward with this one … I know you’ll like it, ’cause the caller is complaining to the operator that they won’t put her through to a supernatural being.
    Manhattan Transfer – Operator
    Give me information
    Give me long distance
    Long distance
    Give me heaven…
    (Two, three)
    Give me Jesus on the line
    I’d like to speak to a friend of mine
    Oh prayer is the number
    Faith is the exchange
    Heaven is the street
    And Jesus is his name
    Please give me Jesus on the line
    Won’t you tell me why
    Tell me why
    Don’t try to tell me
    What number to call
    My mother used this number
    When I was very small
    And everytime she dialed it
    She always got ‘t call the
    Please give me Jesus on the line
    Please hurry if you can
    Oh Operator
    Please connect me
    With the man
    Don’t worry ’bout the money
    You know I will pay the charge
    Just give me on the line
    I’m callin’ from my heart
    Please give me Jesus on the line
    Please give me Jesus on the line
    Won’t you please –
    Give me Jesus
    Give me Jesus on the line

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