This week I have been trying to cancel my landline – a long, arduous and probably expensive task. Telephones, phone calls, numbers have been going round in my head and last night first line of the Stones’ Off the Hook came to me. This morning I found the clip on YouTube.
I listened to this track on the juke box in the Orpheus coffee bar. It was the B side of Little Red Rooster, another great song. Although the Stones, in the beginning, were seen more as a Rocker-ish kind of group (as compared to the Beatles who were cleaner, prettier and more Moddy) what the Stones had was good bluesy music, which is what Mods liked. Off the Hook was raw, it scratched its way into the room, it was clean and dirty at the same time. It was simple but it rocked and it was our experience. Sitting in your bedroom, getting into bed and reading your book, turning out the light – and taking your phone right off the hook, thinking about your baby. It was pain, uncertainty, assertiveness. It could have been me.
Could have been me but probably not, partly because the notion of a bedside lamp hadn’t reached the Woodhall Estate in 1964, and then our phone was in the hall and not in the bedroom – what an idea! – but mainly because we had a party-line. We shared the line with the Conservative family along the road – so we were morally obliged to keep our phone in order at all times.
But when the first high guitar notes snaked into the Orpheus, you knew you were in the right place at the right time. And so is my old landline. It’s gone. Right off the hook.