Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Originally uploaded by Bob.Fornal

I was listening to classic rock on the radio the other day, and I heard Joan Jett belting out this popular refrain: “I love rock ‘n’ roll, put another dime in the jukebox baby…”


And I thought to myself, now there’s a dated reference if ever there were one, because one, what can you even buy for a dime these days anyway? Certainly not a song on a jukebox… and two, kids? Do you even know what a jukebox is? Here, let me show you:




jukebox1You see, it was a big box that was often located in restaurants, bars, and, in my town, there was one at the public swimming pool.  One could hear the song of one’s choice simply by inserting a coin. The song was stored on something called a “45”, or a “single”, which was a black, sandwich-plate sized vinyl disc, and it had one song “pressed” on each side.  The jukebox did NOT have a USB jack for your iPod.  (Back then, Pods were for peas.) If your money got stuck, you could call your friend “Fonzie” and ask him to bang his fist on it in order to make the music play, and… oh no, wait, that was only on Happy Days.

ANYWAY. I got to thinking, what other popular rock songs reference the lowly dime? I came up with two other ones:

 One is from Kix, that 80s hair band, and their song Cool Kids. It’s about a bunch of teens hangin’ out, all bored and lookin’ for fun, and in the first verse, they say:

kixHey anybody got a cigarette
Anybody here got a dime
I heard that Frankie’s got a blue Corvette
She said to call her any time

I’m assuming the reference to the dime is so someone can use a pay phone to call Frankie, because kids? They didn’t have cell phones then, they had phones out in public – all of which featured a handset that was tethered to the phone base by a cord – that you could activate by inserting a coin. Kind of like a jukebox. Or a gumball machine.

Also? Back in the 80’s? They had to call each other because “txt” hadn’t been invented.  Back then,  TEXT was a noun, not a verb that often omitted its only vowel.

The other one I came up with (thanks, Curt!) was in Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”, which is, of course, vintage 1978:

rod_stewart_casualHe’s acting shy looking for an answer
Come on, honey, let’s spend the night together
Now hold on a minute before we go much further
Give me a dime so I can phone my mother
They catch a cab to his high rise apartment
At last he can tell her exactly what his heart meant

So then, let’s recap. What we have here is a post chock-full of dated references, including a nearly obsolete coin, a machine that used to play music without the magic of digital files and tiny electronic devices that held massive amounts of music, not one but two references to phones that required the user to insert a coin in order to reach their party, a TV show that was popular in the 1970s but was about life in the 1950s, and finally, three musical artists who, like Rick Springfield, reached maximum popularity in the 1980s, yet, amazingly, continue to attract audiences today by feasting on Generation X’s voracious appetite for nostalgia.

Got that?

If you can come up with other lyrics that reference that sad coin the dime, please leave ’em in the comments.

15 thoughts on “Buddy, can you spare a dime?

  1. Meg, there are TONS of them, The first is Operator by Jim Croce, “…you can keep the dime”. Loan Me a Dime, Boz Scaggs. Brother Can You Spare A Dime , Bing Crosby, Rock Box, Run DMC, Bryan Adams, Summer of 69 “…bought it at the five and dime, played it ’till my fingers bled” Sorry, but playing this game with me is not very fun, I imagine. Sorry…

  2. Speaking of dimes in a pay phone. . . . . .when the first (Reeve) Superman movie came out, and he went to look for a pay phone in which to change from Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter, to his alter ego, (whom nobody could recognize when he curled a lock of hair in the middle of his forehead and took off his glasses ) he looked around for the big wooden pay phone box from the 1950’s, and found only a shell of his former hideout. Everybody my age in the theater laughed, and I don’t think you and Bets, or anybody else your age got it.

  3. Ha! I got it, too. I was a huge fan of the George Reeves character and I have probably seen each and every episode. I had a hard time with the 1978 version because it was so…different.

  4. I do however agree that I am much younger than you. Too easy a lob to have left it alone. I hope you understand.

  5. That’s the only Rod Stewart song I liked and I didn’t just like it I loved it. Most people hated it, but that is further proof that I[‘m weird.

    BTW – Your test post didn’t pull up, although keep in mind I have technology from the T-Rex era, so it may haev something to do with that.

  6. I was so intrigued by this dime challenge, I posed it to my dear husband who came up with “Call me” by Blondie.

    Here’s my number and a dime, call me any time. Call me.

  7. Mom – you forget, I was born in the ’60s. I got it!

    CBW – I deleted the Test Post, I don’t know why you would have seen that. Was having tech difficulties yesterday between Flickr and WordPress, and… oh nevermind.

    Charlcie – WOOOOOOT! Good one!!

    E – I KNEW you would come up with at least one. That’s the makings of a whole nother post right there! Thanks for chiming in!

  8. How about “Happy Together” by the Turtles?

    “If I should call you up, invest a dime
    And you say you belong to me and ease my mind
    Imagine how the world could be, so very fine
    So happy together!”

  9. Meg – I hate to break it to you, but I suspect the Kix song was referring not to the monetary ‘dime’ but the more ‘natural’ one. Ya know, like ‘dimebag’.
    I can’t be sure, but I was a big fan of Kix and suspect that they would almost certainly not care about getting 10 cents, and would rather have something to smoke.

    1. Gordon – you could be right – I often miss the double entendre. Still, this was the era of pay phones and the verse does refer to making a call:
      Hey anybody got a cigarette
      Anybody here got a dime
      I heard that Frankie’s got a blue Corvette
      She said to call her any time
      Anybody got a situation
      Is there any place to go

      … I can see it both ways. Thanks for weighing in Gordon!

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