Jan 16, 1998
Stories of who we are on the phone, of things we learn on the phone, and of things that happen on the phone that don't happen anywhere else.
- Host Ira Glass explains why some old answering machine messages from a decade ago have such power for him: there's a special power to recordings of phone conversations. The phone is intimate — more intimate than a photograph. Even when the person on the phone is a public figure like Lyndon Johnson. He plays some tapes from the Simon & Schuster audiobook of Johnson phone tapes, Taking Charge, The Johnson White House Tapes, 1963-1964, by Michael Beschloss, to demonstrate. (7 minutes)
- Sure you can try to get your pop songs onto records, or on the radio, or onto MTV. But what happens if your medium of choice is ... the telephone? Before they had record contracts, the band They Might Be Giants distributed their songs through the medium of Answering Machine. They created their own Dial-a-Song line. They say it taught them a lot about songwriting, because they could hear which songs people hated, because people hung up on the bad songs. It taught them how to do better musical arrangements for their songs. Sarah Vowell visited John Linnell and John Flansberg in Brooklyn and talked to them about Dial-a-Song. (15 minutes)Song: "I'm Sick", They Might Be Giants (A song they wrote about This American Life, for us)