Dial-A-Song was a They Might Be Giants service that existed from the early 80’s to the late 00’s. For some reason John Flansburgh felt like making songs with his friend John Linnell and record them into an answering machine and then advertise this on the back of a paper called “The Village Voice“. What may surprise you is that this wasn’t to get money. In fact, they didn’t make anything out of it, much to the surprise of Gloria. However, this service worked as sort of a “popularity spreader”, if you will. People could call this number without paying any more than a regular call to Brooklyn, without even knowing what it was, they would hear a song and then they would be told they had just heard a song by They Might Be Giants. The advertisements and promo cards didn’t give the listener any particular information about what this Dial-A-Song was. That way They Might Be Giants could easily gain popularity.
Listeners would hear a new song every day and many people have claimed that calling this line often brightened up their day. The songs played were usually demos, and many of these demos were recorded (and later put on YouTube). Here are some examples of some songs that has been recorded off the Dial-A-Song service:
I think there’s a certain charm about these recorded off the phone songs.
The service worked great for a long time, and after a while it became so popular that the ordinary line was busy 99 % of the time. After a while the answering machine had a meltdown and stopped working. It would be fixed, then break down again, then fixed, break down, then replaced, then break down and so on and so on several times. After a while they started advertising with this:
25 hours a day, 6 days a week.
Free when you call from work.
Always busy, often broken.
Some time later they got so sick and tired of fixing and replacing this answering machine that they disconnected it, and never connected it again, in 2008. If you try to call the line today you will probably hear a song by Anthony Kapfler or Ricky Wells, who bought the number in 2010 (though I would suggest calling from America, seeing as calling from abroad will probably cost a lot of money).
I have to admit that I am quite jealous of the people living in New York around the 80’s and 90’s, having the ability to call this service whenever they wanted. As I was born in the early 90’s and didn’t hear about They Might Be Giants before they disconnected the entire thing I didn’t even get a chance. And that’s kind of sad, I think.
The service is still present, though, but it’s not the same at all. Dial-A-Song lives on, at DialASong.com, but it is very rarely updated, sadly.