Song Lyric Sunday — Operator

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday, Jim Adams’ theme was suggested by Di of Pensitivity101 with the words Communication, Information, News, and Telephone. I decided to go with a song that encompasses all of those words: Jim Croce’s classic “Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels).”

“Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels)” was written and recorded by Jim Croce. The record was released on August 23, 1972 and was the second single released from Croce’s album You Don’t Mess Around with Jim. The song reached number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1972, spending twelve weeks on the chart.

The song relates one side of a conversation with a telephone operator. The speaker is trying to find the phone number of his former lover, who has moved to Los Angeles with his former best friend. He wants to demonstrate to both of them that he is well and over their betrayal, but admits to the operator that he is not. After the operator has given him the number, he is unable to read it, apparently due to the tears in his eyes. He then changes his mind and tells the operator not to place the call, appreciatively adding “you can keep the dime.”

The story in the song was inspired during Jim Croce’s military service in the days well before cell phones were ubiquitous. Croce would be standing in line waiting to use a an outdoor payphone and he would overhear one side of a dialogue of guys who were calling their wives or girlfriends after having received a “Dear John” letter.

Ingrid Croce, who was married to Jim from 1966 until his death in 1973, said in an interview that “Operator” is one of her favorite songs. “I can just picture it, all of them in line waiting for their 3-minute phone call,” she said. “Most of them were getting on the phone and they were okay, but some of them were getting these ‘Dear John’ letters or phone calls. That had to be heartbreaking for them.”

Here are the lyrics to “Operator.”

Operator, well could you help me place this call?
See, the number on the matchbook is old and faded
She’s living in L.A. with my best old ex-friend Ray
A guy she said she knew well and sometimes hated

Isn’t that the way they say it goes? Well, let’s forget all that
And give me the number if you can find it
So I can call just to tell ’em I’m fine and to show
I’ve overcome the blow, I’ve learned to take it well
I only wish my words could just convince myself
That it just wasn’t real, but that’s not the way it feels

Operator, well could you help me place this call?
Well, I can’t read the number that you just gave me
There’s something in my eyes, you know it happens every time
I think about a love that I thought would save me

Isn’t that the way they say it goes? Well, let’s forget all that
And give me the number if you can find it
So I can call just to tell ’em I’m fine and to show
I’ve overcome the blow, I’ve learned to take it well
I only wish my words could just convince myself
That it just wasn’t real, but that’s not the way it feels
No, no, no, no that’s not the way it feels

Operator, well let’s forget about this call
There’s no one there I really wanted to talk to
Thank you for your time, ah, you’ve been so much more than kind
And you can keep the dime

Isn’t that the way they say it goes? Well, let’s forget all that
And give me the number if you can find it
So I can call just to tell ’em I’m fine and to show
I’ve overcome the blow, I’ve learned to take it well
I only wish my words could just convince myself
That it just wasn’t real, but that’s not the way it feels

17 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — Operator

      • Marleen October 18, 2021 / 12:25 pm

        Dang, that’s a good song! As is Don’t mess around with Jim.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Nope, Not Pam October 17, 2021 / 11:52 am

    It’s amazing the stories behind songs. Thanks for sharing Fandango

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marleen October 18, 2021 / 11:47 am

    Sade – Smooth Operator

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marleen October 18, 2021 / 12:01 pm

      https://www.lyrics.com/lyric/568576/Sade/Smooth+Operator

      “Smooth Operator” is a song by English band Sade from their debut studio album, Diamond Life (1984). It was released as the album’s third single in the United Kingdom as a 7-inch single with “Spirit” as its B-side, and as a 12-inch maxi single with “Smooth Operator” and “Red Eye” on side A and “Spirit” on side B. In the United States, “Smooth Operator” was released in February 1985, serving as the album’s second US single. The song became Sade’s first top-10 entry in the US, peaking at number five on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in May 1985. more »

      Liked by 1 person

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