For a good time, call 867-5309

What we're going to do right here is go back ... way back.

Back to a time when Jessie's Girl might or might not have been lost between the moon and New York City. A time when the Knack had an affair with a name-challenged Sharona. A time when Jenny had a phone number. 8675309-eyine and so forth.

Tommy Tutone's on the phone from his Oregon home, having apparently acquired my phone number from God himself. Or anyone at a bar after 1:30 a.m.

"What are you doing these days?"

"We still perform out. We do other things, but we're working on a new record," he shouldn't. "Very good reviews. It didn't make me rich, but it got me credibility. We do a blend of the old stuff and the new."

"No, really. What are you doing?" I search for a proper tense.

"Well, I do a lot of computer programming these days."

Clearly. Tutone on the phone is about as fun as a step cousin who doesn't like you. He's dry, like Steven Wright dry, and a little mumbley. I'm thinking "For a good time, for a good time caaaallllll," and this is not a good time at all. Send in the moisture. Oh, and get me a drink.

"And your 'new sound'?" I attempt an update.

"It always sounds just like me. I don't even try," he doesn't even. "I got a review that said it should have been the follow-up to [Tommy] Tutone 2. I don't even know how to describe it."

OK, um, try.

"It's just power-pop, mmmm, I don't know," he needs a publicist. "'Jenny' is kind of a funny song."

"You must be very proud of your legacy," I giggle to the point of nausea.

"It's pretty interesting," he still doesn't even. "Royalties have been going up since about '98. I think it's now more popular and has actually sold more than in that year. Everybody tells me where they were when they heard it."

Me, I was in Panama City Beach peeing on a roller coaster.

"Was there really a Jenny and was that really her phone number," I yawn the obvious.

"It is. It was," he confirms. "Some of the details were changed, but ... "

Details like, maybe, the name and number? What other details were there? I realize that if I can get him to make something up, I might be able to stay awake.

"Make something up, then."

"We sat in with some of the real rockers. We were coming after the real rockers," he confuses me. "I don't know, I think that our roadies were much cooler than we were. We were just kind of a bunch of nerds."

Oh, tell me more.

"We went out and toured all over the country with Tom Petty, and we were getting treated pretty much like stars. So, 'Jenny' just came along and it happened. I think it really affected people."

I peed.

"We were on our way to Dick Clark's show to do lip sync, and I remember thinking, 'I can't remember what I was saying.' Then the song came on the radio, and I practiced singing it so I could lip sync it."

And I chased my tail to find my head.

"We were not that cool. I didn't meet anyone actually."

I wonder why.

Talk obligatorily wanders to the threadbare topic of the "American Idol" juggernaut.

"Yeah, that's been pretty bad. That stuff goes in phases, though," he shovels his royalties. "I think we might be towards the end of that manufactured stuff, where people just care about the money."

Dear prudence, you don't care about the money?

"You know, I'm a singer and I keep singing because I've got angst, I guess," he guesses. "I guess there's a difference between rock musicians and entertainers. Entertainers are just packaged."

But you care about the money.

"Yeah, it makes it fun to walk down to the mailbox."

By now I'm chewing on my toenails, which might mean it's time to start repeating myself.

"And Jenny? There was a Jenny?"

"Yes, that was Jenny. And that was Jenny's phone number."

"8-6-7-5-3 ... oh, hell."

"She actually went out with my guitar player for a month. Somebody actually wanted to interview her."

"Does anyone recognize you?" I squint.

"I don't know. I don't walk around looking like a rock & roll person," he rocks then rolls. "I remember one story back in the '80s. I was trying to go back to this girl's house and sneak in her back door. I got stopped by this big old guy who said, 'Who are you?' I said, 'Tommy Tutone.' He said, 'Yeah, and I'm Iggy Stooge.'"

HAHAHAHAHA! Ahem. You seem a little humble.

"It's been nice that I can turn it on and turn it off, either way. I don't ride around thinking I'm Tommy Tutone. Then I show up and, hey, I am Tommy Tutone."

"But that's not your real name. It's Tommy Heath."

"I needed a name with hard syllables in it."

And maybe a toenail to chew on.