Cell Block - Songwriting in The Age of The Smartphone

As a fiction writer, I have a love/hate relationship with my smart phone. The power of research is amazing, and I can't tell you how many times I have instantly looked up the info I needed. I can check out a street view to see exactly what my character would be seeing, or order sustenance to keep me hammering at the keyboard all from the same device. These are great things.

But man, what a pain in the ass it is for my characters to have these same conveniences.

No longer can I reliably have characters cut off from contact or rescue, or struggle for answers that are only a Google search away.

Cell phones suck for fiction writers, and songwriters face the same dilemma. Think of all the classic songs that could never be written today.

Sylvia's Mother - Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show

Sylvia's mother would not have been involved at all, if little Miss Sylvia had her own damn phone. And in this day and age, our suitor would have his own cell phone as well, so we'd miss out on the drama of the operator asking for forty cents more.

Rocky Top - Osborne Brothers

Life on Rocky Top was a testament to remoteness. As the song, penned by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, goes ... "Ain't no telephone bills up on Rocky Top."

Back in the day there might not have been telephone poles running up Rocky Top, but nowadays the folks up there have cell phones. Though I reckon maybe, those who dwell up on Rocky Top do still get their corn from a jar.

Love On The Telephone - Foreigner

These days sexting and "nudes" have redefined what "Love On the Telephone" even means in every possible way.

Here's A Quarter - Travis Tritt

Tritt tells his former lover to start smiling and dialing, after offering her a quarter to call someone who cares.

While it remains a great song and was still a topical burn back in 1991, however, just like the bygone satisfaction in the slam of a receiver, this phrase no longer works in the age of cell phones.

Operator - Jim Croce

Poor old Jim is dealing with the heartbreak of his affection now hitched up to his best ol' ex friend Ray.

Nowadays not only could Jim Google that number rather than beg a telephone operator for help, but he could also stalk the new couple via Facebook and Instagram as they flaunted their relationship out in LA.

Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old) - Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

Yeah I know, this one is a Garth song - the very first Garth single in fact. And while I do like his version, I am pissed at Garth and forever will be. (That is a blog post for another day and trust me, it will be forthcoming.)

Like most music fans in the late 80's and early 90's, I did enjoy Garth when he hit the scene. In hindsight, however, I blame him for a WHOLE LOT of what went wrong in Nashville.

That said, it was after hearing this punk version of Garth's classic that I first started thinking about the impact cell phones have had on songwriting.

Our rodeo cowboy has been calling home for two weeks straight and no one has picked up. Back in the day that might have worked as an excuse, and I understand the implication that his gal's out on the town. But if written today the line would have to go something like this ...

I called her up but no one answered
For two weeks I've been like, "what the hell, answer your damn cell!"
I guess she's through with me. To tell the truth I just can't see, 
What's kept the woman here through all this hell.
 Yeah I blew up her cell, but she ghosting me so damn well.

So tell me what other songs of old would not be written today, with the ubiquitous advent of cell phones?


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