Hello, my New Media
Today I was changing my kid’s diaper and singing Hello my Baby to comfort him — I had learned the whole thing in college as part of a barbershop quartet. Everybody knows the first part of the song:
Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gal
Why don’t you send me a kiss by wire? Baby, my heart’s on fire!
If you refuse me, honey you’ll lose me, then you’ll be left alone,
Oh baby — telephone, and tell me I’m your own.
Cliches aside, this song is fascinating to me. It dates back to the (prior) turn of the century and is all about the “novelty” of that crazy new technology called the telephone. It’s a bit like somebody writing a song today extolling the innovation of instant messaging or Facebook. When I got to the relatively unknown bridge part, I was struck by one phrase (in bold):
I’ve got a little baby but she’s out of sight,
I talk to her across the telephone.
I’ve never seen my honey, but she’s mine alright,
So take a tip and leave her alone.
Now every single morning you will hear me yell,
“Hey Central, fix me up across the line” —
he connects me with my honey, and I ring the bell,
and this is what I say to baby mine…
Wait a second. He’s never seen his baby? I’ve heard internet pundits make fun of chatrooms and dating sites… “oh ha ha, they met over the internet. They’ve never even seen each other!” But clearly this is not a new phenomenon! Given that this song is tongue-in-cheek humor, the authors were clearly mocking the telephone in exactly the same way. That’s a revelation to me. Maybe all new communication technologies go through the same stages of sneers and disbelief.
For your cheesy enjoyment, I’ve included an mp3 link of my college barbershop quartet singing this song so you can hear the obscure middle section. If you’re a masochist, I’ve included two more songs performed by our quartet. (The reverb is real: we recorded in a gothic stone foyer.)
And yes, in our quartet photo below (circa 1994) that really is me all the way on the right. We were trying very hard to mimic the famous Norman Rockwell inset.