"...long as she's been doing it right"

The Annotated "Operator"

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.
By David Dodd
Library, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Copyright notice
By Ron McKernan aka Pigpen


Recorded on American Beauty.

The Dead performed this song live four times. The first was August 18, 1970, in a show at the Fillmore West in San Francisco that also featured the first "Brokedown Palace," "Ripple", and "Truckin'". "Operator" appeared in the first, acoustic, set, following "Brokedown Palace" and preceding "Rosalie McFall."

Operator, can you help me?

An entire genre of American popular song might be called "Telephone songs." Lee Cooper, in his book Popular Music Perspectives, devotes an entire chapter to telephones in popular music, and includes a huge list of songs.

There are many songs; here's a list that's far from complete: (Note: links are provided to artists who have biographies in the CDNOW commercial database, which incorporates the excellent online version of the All Music Guide. No commerical endorsement is intended, it's just a good source of background information.)

Central done forgot it

From the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.):
"central, sb. U.S. A central telephone exchange; hence, any telephone exchange.
1889 MARK TWAIN Conn. Yankee xv. 184, I used to wake ...and say 'Hello, Central!' just to hear her dear voice."

House of Blue Lights

Gary Haggerty, of the Berklee College of Music, informs me that The House of Blue Lights was a Chicago after hours club. It was connected to the El Grotto (owned by Earl Hines) at the Pershing Hotel in the mid-1940's.

The song, "House of Blue Lights", words and music by Freddie Slack and Don Raye, (1947), gives some idea of what, generaically, a house of blue lights is:

Lace up your boots and we'll broom on down
To a knocked out shack on the edge of town
There's an eight beat combo that just won't quit
Keep walkin' 'til you see a blue light lit
Fall in there and we'll see some sights
At the house of blue lights

There's fryers and broilers and Detroit barbeque ribs
But the treat of the treats is when they serve you all those fine eight beats
You'll want to spend the rest of your nights
Down at the house, The house of blue lights

We'll have a time and we'll cut some rug
While we dig those tunes like they should be dug
It's a real home comin' for all the "Cats"
Just trilly down a path of welcome mats
Fall in there and we'll see some sights
At the house of blue lights

(c) 1946 Robbins Music

This song has been recorded by an impressive array of performers:

First posted: March 21, 1995 Last revised: March 24, 1995