Songs I love-8675309/Jenny



Songs I Love 8675309/Jenny by Tommy Tutone

It was 1981, and Doug Treadway fired the serve that would make him our class badminton champion. He strutted with his fist in the air, then began ferociously strumming his racket like a guitar and bellowing out a string of numbers. Even with his puberty-addled voice crackling amidst squeaking tennis shoes, I knew I was hearing something special.  It wasn’t long before the radio worked its magic and I fully experienced 8675309/Jenny. I was singing at full volume by the time it had ended.

Me, shortly after hearing 8675309 for the first time (yes I am going to post this pic every time I mention the 80s)

Even though the subject is creepy (a guy calling a phone number he sees written on a wall in search of a “good time”), Tommy Tutone’s warbling vocals make it seem more like the plot of a teen hanky-panky movie than a song about a lonely man desperate for companionship. It’s a compelling storyline, but the quirky, endearing lyrics are overshadowed by the melody; the mega earworm that twists and turns through the verse, riding on a chunky guitar pattern, then diving straight into the best part of the song. The chorus!

Equal parts brilliant and simple, the chorus consists of “8675309” repeated as a call and response with the 9 stretched out to accommodate a melodic hook. It commands you to sing along. If you ever find yourself at a party with me and this song comes on, I’ll probably loudly proclaim, “this is the best chorus ever, man.” If you wish to disagree, you’d better have an amazing alternative to suggest because I have razor-sharp music nerd skills and I’m not afraid to use them.

The obvious reasons to love this song are many and varied, but I’m further drawn to it because of its ability to function in two unexpected situations.

Exhibit A: the campfire.

We’ve all found ourselves staring into the flames of a bonfire as the sky darkens and the air turns chilly. Acoustic guitar music is as common here as roasting marshmallows. I used to find myself numbly singing along as Kumbaya morphed into Neil Young, wondering what I could bring to the campfire. Enter 8675309. You may not realize it, but you probably know 60% of the words to this song, and if you don’t, the very learnable chorus is always right around the corner. More than once I’ve been elevated from quiet guy no one noticed to life of the party once I managed to get my mitts on the guitar and busted this one out. Even the fireflies like it.

Exhibit B: the music store

Music stores are unofficial showcases for guitar geeks to flaunt their blues licks. Mine are more lavender in color, so when guitar shopping, I’m a little self-conscious. Enter 8675309. The lead line is unusual, simple, and cool. Even with the eyes of the shredders upon me, I can get my brain and hands to cooperate enough to rock it. I’m often met with cheers—usually from a guitarist’s significant other (or mother)—who is elated to hear anything but another squealing Stevie Ray Vaughn riff. It puts the geeks at ease: they know that the blues throne is not being challenged, but it also lets everybody know that this guy (being me) is looking for a new axe.

When 8675309/Jenny was released in 1981, the decade was still feeling its way towards what would become its signature sound. Synth-heavy Euro-pop would soon dominate the airwaves, and it’s great stuff, but it’s always nice to hear some good old American rock and roll, which is exactly what Mr. Tutone gifted the world with this classic power popper. It gives me something that I can hold on to.




Story Time at McIntyre’s Books

Billy Sugarfix singing with the storytime crew this morning

Posted by McIntyre's Books on Tuesday, April 3, 2018

In addition to being the world’s most accomplished writer of custom songs, I’m also really into books, and I’m a former teacher. Add all of that together and you’ve got a prime candidate to provide music for a children’s story time!

McIntyre’s Books, where I work as a bookseller, has an incredibly popular story time twice a week. Kids range in age from babes in arms to the occasional elementary schooler. Every now and again I will reset my  teacher skills and do the entire story time, but usually I’m happy to be the music guy.

Each story time has a theme. At first I tried to find related songs, but quickly figured out that it was actually easier to write a song about the week’s topic (usually an animal) than it was to dig around for an appropriate and relevant tune. The storytime songs are usually appreciated, but the big hit every week is the song that I close with, in which I request that the audience “Jump jump up and down.” It’s not exactly poetry, but you should see the reaction!

Recently, the kids surprised me with some special coloring sheets, and I thought I’d share some of them here. I mean, how could I not?


Songs I Love-Cryin’ Inside by The Heart Beats

In addition to being the principal songwriter for Custom Serenade, I am also an avid music fan. Not only do I like to listen to music, I like to think about it, talk about it, and write about it. In the Songs I Love series of blog posts, I will present some of my favorite songs, and tell you why I love them.

Back in the day, I was a mixtape maniac. I especially liked making tapes for other people, and one of the best additions to any mix would be a great song that the recipient hadn’t heard before; something that would send them scrambling for the hand-scrawled track list to find out who they were listening to. I had a lot of aces up my sleeve in that department, but the king (or queen in this case) had to be Cryin’ Inside by The Heart Beats, a little known all girl garage band from Lubbock, Texas.

I found out about The Heart Beats from a compilation album called Girls in the Garage Volume 3, a collection of 60s bands comprised solely of women. It’s a fantastic record without a bum track on it, but Cryin’ Inside stood out from the very first spin.


One listen to the song and you can understand why. The minor key vocal melody delivered in a whispered voice, paired with the swirling organ sounds are absolute heaven for the ears. Then there’s the rock steady beat accented by crisp rhythm guitar and a very lively tambourine. This song puts the groove in groovy. The lyrics are pure teen-drama bubblegum bliss, delivered with an urgency and innocence that only a teenager could muster (The Heart Beats were aged 12-15 when the record came out.)
I can see daylight in your kiss,
I can see sunshine through the mist,
I don’t have your love,
but my tears pile high,
I’m smiling, while I’m crying inside.

When I first heard Cryin’ Inside, all I knew about the song and the band came from a scant paragraph on the back of the album, and a picture of the Heart Beats that made me think the Brady Sisters had formed a band with Gidget.

Now, thanks to the internet, there’s plenty of information about the band via fan pages, wikipedia, and even a radio interview. The song itself was co-written by Ronnie Weiss of Mouse and the Traps (a frequent flyer on garage rock compilations). The band’s claim to fame was winning a nationally televised battle of the bands called Happening ’68.


Cryin’ Inside  is a fantastic mixtape song not only because it is a great song, but also because of its versatility. It fits the wholesome image that the Heart Beats projected, but is also perfectly at home in the midst of a garage rock compilation that features bare-breasted women on the cover. It will sound great following anything from Judas Priest to Abba. It is an all around winner, and I hope that you enjoy listening to it.