The Beatlephone was a unique precursor to social media.
Before the internet, we music fans got much of our information from fanzines. Zines were great for a million reasons but the wait between issues often seemed endless. We wanted to read about our favorite bands more often than zines could be published. Any actual news usually arrived too late to do anything about it.
Today we get our daily fix from music blogs, but how could daily music news be distributed before the internet?
In the early 1990s, Joe Pope, publisher of Strawberry Fields Forever and A Thousand Pages, figured it out using the latest technology: voicemail. Five days a week, he put a different piece of Beatles news on his outgoing voicemail message. He even had a way for fans to support Beatlephone. There was no PayPal-powered tip jar; we sponsored Beatlephone by mailing Joe a $5 or $10 check.
Joe gave us a preview of eBay when he set up Sale Phone. Every week he offered a different piece of memorabilia on Sale Phone. We had to leave a message if we wanted it. I was able to snag a tie-died Paul McCartney Tug of War t-shirt and a 45 by Beatles Costello. (First there was Elvis, then The Beatles. Therefore after Elvis Costello, there should be…)
It’s nice to be able to get the latest info whenever we want, but there was something very sweet about all this. I wish I could go to archive.org to hear the old Beatlephone messages.