Hello, this is Joanie

A while ago I wrote a post about some songs I would be happy to never hear again. That was because those songs really encapsulated, for me, all that was negative in my childhood and teenage years growing up in a small country town.

Today I was reminded of 2 other songs that I was subjected to over and over again when I was a kid, in this case, by my neighbours. These 2 songs didn’t make my other list because they weren’t “easy listening” soft rock hits, the kind that were played daily in nostalgic rememberance for the “good ol’ days” for over a decade on country radio station 3BA. Hearing them again would be ok, and in fact I did listen to them today on Youtube while writing this post. These songs were contemporary (an important difference!) at the time that our neighbours must have lashed out and bought them on singles, and then proceeded to subject the entire local neighbourhood to them non-stop every day from morning until night.

These particular neighbours were a young, unemployed couple with a baby, who had moved in next door, to rent a tiny flat that had been built as a granny flat for the neighbours’ Grandma. It might have been made of cardboard, judging by the sound levels that carried out of the flat and into the street when they played their records. It couldn’t have been any louder inside the flat. They must have had only the 2 singles, because they played them over and over. and over. and over. and over. and over.

The 2 songs were “Hello, this is Joanie”, released in 1978 by Paul Evans, and “Goosebumps”, released in 1979 by Christie Allen. Goosebumps was a big hit for Christie Allen, and Christie was apparently the darling of Countdown because she lived in Australia and brought a bit of much-needed Aussie female repertoire to the show.  I’d never heard of Paul Evans until I googled “Hello this is Joanie” – and the song itself seems to have dropped right off our collective memories of popular music. Looking it up today, I discovered that it is also known as “Hello This is Joanie – The Telephone Answering Machine Song” . Hmmm……that could be why it didn’t linger in our memories.

For some reason the “hello this is Joanie” clip won’t show up – who knows why? – but you can view it if you copy and paste this address:

Kids: that object in the clip is a telephone with a dial. These were popular in 1978 (there wasn’t any choice), and presumably that enormous thing it’s sitting on must be what an answering machine looked like in 1978!!

I’ve included the lyrics here in case you couldn’t be bothered watching the clip. Warning: it’s a bit of a downer:

Hello, this is Joanie
I'm sorry that I'm not home
But if you leave me your name and number
I promise soon as I get in I'll call

Joanie came over to my house last night
Drank a little too much red and we got into a fight
She said "I'm leaving" and I let her go alone
I felt so damn bad this morning I reached right for the phone
I called her right away
To beg her to forgive
The phone rang once, the phone rang twice
And then I heard her say

Hello, this is Joanie
I'm sorry that I'm not home
But if you leave me your name and number
I promise soon as I get in I'll call

"Joanie I'm sorry and I'm feeling oh so small"
That was the message I left and I waited for her call
I waited with a sinking feeling in my heart
Not knowing if she forgive me was tearing me apart
I couldn't go on this way
I had to call again
The phone rang once, the phone rang twice
And then I heard her say

Hello, this is Joanie
  Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh
I'm sorry that I'm not home
But if you leave me your name and number
  Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh
I promise soon as I get in I'll call

My phone rang and my heart sang my baby's called at last
Instead it was a friend who said that Joanie's car had crashed
I never should have let her drive alone angry from my place
I'd never hold her again and kiss that funny face
But still there was a way to hear her voice
The phone rang once, the phone rang twice
And then I heard her say

Hello, this is Joanie
I'm sorry that I'm not home
  I'm so sorry for me
If you leave me your name and number
I promise soon as I get in I'll call
  Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh

Hello, this is Joanie
  Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh
I'm sorry that I'm not home
But if you leave me your name and number
  Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh
I promise soon as I get in I'll call

This reminded me of how far  technology has come since those summer evenings in the late 70’s when I was sipping orange cordial and listening to the neighbours crank up that song on their record player for the 100th time. At the time, answering machine technology was relatively new (I don’t recall seeing one, or  leaving answering machine messages for people, until the late 80’s, so I assume most people didn’t have them until then). It struck me that, at the time, it must have seemed really strange that you could hear someone’s voice saying hi and asking you to leave a message, when they had passed away. Of course the technology that made it possible to record voices had been around for a long time, but it was a new experience to have a recording of someone’s voice giving a casual, cheery greeting, on an answering machine that could cruelly be accessed and replayed every time you rang their phone number.

Anyway, after I’d read the lyrics, and thought about the historical significance of the answering machine in the late 70’s, I began to check out the website that I found the lyrics on, and realised that a kind of spooky synchronicity had occurred. I’m going to write about that in another post because this one is so long already, so stay tuned!

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4 Comments

  1. This is a fantastically sad, eerie song. I love it!

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  2. Brad

     /  March 11, 2014

    Those lyrics have haunted me since I was about 7 years old in 1978, they played it to death on radio stations here in Oz. If I close my eyes I seem to associate with this song a family road trip from Victoria to Queensland, and also lemon butter – a bitter/sweet spread for bread. I don’t know what is more disturbing, the lyrics implying he still rang a phone number to hear the voice of a deceased person, or lemon butter. Probably the latter. I reckon we had a single mini-cassette phone answering system at home around 1985-86 but there are some references of availability as early as 1960 in the USA. It’s quite a morbid song really but her voice is mesmerizing, some other tragic tales in lyrics, “Last Kiss” (various covers), Redgum’s “I was only 19” and the Dixie Chicks’ “Travelin’ Soldier” all tragic in similar ways. “Seasons in the sun” is a very sad song even in the English translation, apparently the original French version had sarcasm and references to his wife’s infidelity.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasons_in_the_Sun

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    Reply
    • Hi Brad, what a great comment! It took me the gamut from smiling at the fact that the song invoked a random taste/texture like lemon butter, to laughing that Lemon butter was the worst of the 2 memories, to interest in the other songs you listed. I’m familiar with Redgum of course, since I’m an Aussie too, & the English version of Seasons In The Sun. Don’t know the other 2 but if I’m doing more research on the topic I’ll look them up! Thanks for reading!

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