Here’s a Quarter

For those visitors from outside of the United States, Country-Western music (CW) has a long tradition among US popular music genres.

Part of that tradition includes being looked down on by more than a few people who feel they have more refined musical tastes. While its popularity extends across the US, fans tend to be most concentrated in unfashionable mostly-rural states in the South and lower Midwest.

Yes, PG enjoys classical music and listens to it through most of his workday, but he’s also always enjoyed the gritty, in your face, I-don’t-care-what-anybody-thinks-I-like-it, working-class attitude that is present in a lot of CW songs.

Therefore, last night, PG decided to experiment by dropping a CW video into TPV from time to time. All of the songs PG will use are old ones because he has no knowledge of what’s been happening in this world for several years. For those who hate country music, PG isn’t going to be posting videos featuring it very often. He’ll try to make sure they don’t autoplay on your viewing device, but can’t guarantee anything.

The first is called Here’s A Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares).

The song was written and performed long before anybody but James Bond had cell phones and, if you were away from your home, you needed to use a pay phone to make a call to someone. At the time this song was created, a local call from a pay phone cost a quarter – 25 cents – in most places in the United States.

More than a few CW songs are about lost love, cheatin’ men and cheatin’ women (one famous CW song was titled, “Your Cheatin’ Heart”) and the human tendency to desire a little payback. So, here’s a little country from the point of view of a man who’s been betrayed.

31 thoughts on “Here’s a Quarter”

  1. There was an interesting battle in C&W culture a few decades back between the traditionalists and the “countrypolitans” who were leaning more toward the pop side of the music industry. I believe Dolly Parton was one of those straddling the line, capable of writing songs like “Jolene” and scoring mainstream hits with “9 to 5” (which had a strong working-class vibe too, with lines like “you’re just another step on the boss man’s ladder.”)

    • The battle is still ongoing, with a lot of today’s “C&W” being material that would’ve been marketed as pop in previous decades, mostly because most of today’s pop isn’t. A lot of it is from studio overprocessing that produces songs that can’t be recognizably performed live.

      I’m fond of the older C&W and pop.
      And rockabilly.
      (That’s one thing music streaming is good at.)

      World would be a different place if Buddy had lived.

      • I’m not sure that it is true, but It’s nice to think that the world would have been a different – and better – place had Buddy lived. And or course his influence still continues via admirers like the Beatles.

        I like songs with melody, rhythm and understandable lyrics so a lot of CW actually appeals to me, as does a fair amount of music from up to 90 or100 years ago, but not so much the current century’s output as mainline music seems to have lost the melody whilst a lot of the poppy stuff is drastically overproduced. I guess that this is what happens when one gets old!

        • The thing to keep in mind about Buddy is his musical persona, much like the Beach Boys, was that of a “square” (today’s nerds) which made him an anti-Elvis to the older generation. He didn’t rely on overt sexuality (Elvis the Pelvis) to engage his female fans, who were legion.
          Plus unlike Elvis, and like the Beach Boys, he wrote some of his material. Those were the early days of rock and roll and he was still evolving musically. You’d have to compare the changes between his earliest songs to his last performances to get an idea of how fast he was “growing”. And a lot of his growth was towards outright Rockabilly. Given the size of his fanbase at the time he would almost certainly changed the music world of the sixties.
          Something similar could be said about Richie Valens, who was just starting out, and tbe Beach Boys “hiatus”.
          Don MacLean was right when he called that day “the day music died”.

          • One of the recurring themes in CW is “country” vs. “city” and “regular folks” vs. those who, for one reason or another, think they’re better than other people.

  2. actually, when the song first came out, it was “Here’s a dime (call someone who cares)”, the song and title were updated several years later when the pay phone rates had increased

    • Sadly, I’m old enough to remember when “dropping a dime on him” meant you were going to dial a pay phone to call the cops… before 911 became a national standard, so you had to know the number. And I’m not joking at all about “dial” either (I remember having to train a colonel on the asterisk and pound-sign keys on his new touch-tone desk phone, especially on how to program the five hard-coded speed dials and lock them so he couldn’t change them by accident).

        • When I still had a land line, I kept an old dial phone hooked up to it. A friend told her ten-year-old to call her father and pointed to the phone.
          The kid gave the phone a puzzled look, hesitated, and carefully started punching the numbers on the dial.

      • If you literally dropped a dime on the street today, I wonder what percentage of those over the age of 10 would think it worthwhile to bend over and pick it up.

        • Now, the age of 10 has faded into the fog in the rear view mirror for me, PG – but I always stop to pick up change, when on a walkway and I won’t be bowled over. You just never know…

          No, I haven’t hit the jackpot (yet). No extremely rare double strike numismatic specimens, but one silver quarter and two steel pennies from the war years. (I also at one time had a fine collection of electrical box punch outs.)

    • I didn’t know that, David.

      So Travis updated the original to 25 cents.

      I’m not quite sure how “dime” would have worked in the song’s meter, but those little things never bother a true performer.

  3. I saw the title of this and had the song stuck in my head before I even started reading the rest. I’ve quit listening to most country, (Thanks Taylor) since it’s so hard to tell from random pop songs, but I do still love the stuff I grew up with.

  4. Humans are such interesting creatures. Among fiction readers there’s a divide between those who ready “literary” fiction and those who read genre fiction. And then a further divide among genre readers about which is “better.” The same is true about those who listen to music for entertainment. That one person “hates” CW and another “hates” rap or blues or jazz or rock or or or is just humans being humans. (When I hear anyone say they “hate” anything at all, I think Oh, how very special you must feel. [grin])

    But when you stop struggling through the underbrush and break into the actual forest of towering professionals, you find commercial fiction writers also writing literary fiction and writing across genres, and you find commercial music artists collaborating across genres in the writing and arrangement and even presentation of songs. Great songs are great songs, no matter the genre.

    This one is very good, but it isn’t great. Now “Every Light in the House is On” is great. It’s pretty much genius:

    • There’s a certain personality type who seems compelled to feel superior to other people.

      That’s certainly the case in the US.

      In Britain, it was formalized in the class system, although, if British literature depicting the time when the class system was more dominant is correct, even within a given class, there was lots of superior/inferior posturing going on.

      Ditto for every Communist country about which PG has read.

      • Of course there were lots of superior/inferior posturing going on within classes. Surely you don’t expect the respectable working class not to look down on the drunken layabouts at the bottom of the working classes. They were also often not impressed by the grubby little clerks at the bottom of the middle class (even though they believed enough in education – at least for men – to hope that their kids might end up as school teachers or the like).

        Not that the class system was really that formalised. The idea that it was mostly comes from statisticians and sociologists trying to analyse the census and other survey results. Real life was much messier and much more varied from place to place. Also there was a lot of variation with time: my first paragraph is a bit of a caricature of life 80 to 100 years ago.

      • It was.
        I recently ran into a series of videos analyzing PRIDE AND PREJUDICE in historical terms; especially social and economic. One of the key points in it was the way the class system actually worked. It was more than just upstairs/doenstairs; it was possible to be upper class and “poor” just as it was possible to be filthy rich economically but still be low class. It was all a function of the sphere they were born into; there was mobility within the dual spheres but rarely between them. And class trumped money at the border.

        They also had dual “currencies”, one based on revenue and net value, the other about the circle of connections. Even within the upper class the connection-poor were looked down upon. That system actually endures to this day in the US and elsewhere, among the political classes, where actual wealth is secondary to connections, the ability to dispense favors, the power to ruin lives.

        Humans can get very creative when it comes to segregating themselves as “kin and other”.
        They always have and likely always will.

        • The aristocracy would have died out had it not regularly recruited from other classes. It was generally thought that three generations were required for full assimilation, so grandad was the super rich merchant or manufacturer and grandson was the aristo with no touch of trade. In between there might be a rich, but low born, heiress (which obviated the need to “buy” a new title for the grandson). There was also a good feed of new titles created for war heroes, and these would often – at least on the naval side – be of middle class, but respectable origins.

          • That’s in line with what the P&P videos discussed although the videos (being Austen-centered) focused on the landed gentry and their economics.

            The one about the dowries/portions was particularly interesting. The practices might seem odd or even cruel by presentist standards but were hardheaded, logical, and reasonable for the times. As an aside it pointed out the massive inflation during the late 18th-early 19th. Not something you see mentioned often.

            • Treatment of younger sons could also be fairly brutal, given that the aim was to maintain the value of the estate being inherited by the first born (or the heir if no sons are available). There would normally be enough money/connections to start them in a respectable career (Army, Church or maybe the Navy) but the grandchildren would likely sink to much lower levels in society. Good breeding in the absence of money could only take you so far unless an heiress came along (and mostly heiress’s guardians preferred to marry them to spouses with titles or lots of their own money). Of course, the younger son’s career may come good (cf. Arthur Wellesley).

              And you are right about the inflation rarely getting a mention in the accounts of the era. The early 1800s weren’t too bad – and deflation set in after the wars ended – but the last decade of the 19th century was another matter. Reconstructed price indices have to be treated with caution but the years 1799 to 1800 seems to have been like the worst times in the 1970s and the earlier years were not good.

              • I think the numbers quoted for tbe 1790-1830 period were in the 600% range. So yes, the 1970’s stagflation era is a good comparison. Makes me wonder if the milking of the Empire was driven by both the younger sons’ need for personal fortunes and the high inflation at home.

                I’ll have to check for a good book on the economics of Empires in general.

                • But if you feed those years into the bank of England’s inflation calculator:
                  you get only a 32% increase: goods costing £100 in 1790 cost £132 in 1830, though 1830 is not a good end date as there was significant deflation from 1815 onwards. The cost of goods in 1815 would be £169, at least using this system. I suspect one needs to know a lot more about this than I do to be able to evaluate the reliability of these numbers.

                  The real kicker comes when you input 1799 and 1800 and get 34% inflation for the year.

                  I assume that the BOE’s calculations use the price indices from this paper:

                • Yes, the video mentioned the crash after the war.
                  But it was focusing on landowner rents so those rates might have been different. The topic at hand was whether or not MR Darcy’s £10,000 rental income alone was really big wealth and the matter of when the story was set brought the inflationary period.
                  Between the wars and the industrialization wave british economy was taking some pretty serious shocks.

        • It’s probably been that way since recognizable humans evolved, Felix. Or at least with civilization.

          A Roman could be dirt poor, but if he was from a Senatorial family, he was on top of the pyramid. Also subject to forced suicide, of course. The rich, well, there was a thriving trade in faked genealogies…

          • Roman culture is fun to read about.
            In some ways it was thoroughly modern and in others thoroughly alien.
            They had great engineers, though. 😀

    • For books, it has to be by a real author rather than an author. Alternatively, a serious writer is much preferred to a writer.

  5. And then there’s a whole shallow subset of humans who assume that everyone else sees things exactly as they do and therefore assume “their” artists/writers are as biased for a particular genre as they are (vs. favoring genius over mediocrity). I’ve lost count (okay, I was never counting) of all the fans of Nine Inch Nails who were angry that Johnny Cash covered “Hurt.” Yet he did a great rendition, and the band itself was flattered. Sigh.

Comments are closed.