Caught On Tape: Jim Croce Records Acoustic “Operator” Demo, And It’s Absolutely Perfect

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Caught On Tape: Jim Croce Records Acoustic “Operator” Demo, And It’s Absolutely Perfect | Society Of Rock Videos

Left: huffingtonpost.com, Right: interstatemusic.com

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You Can Keep The Dime

Jim Croce’s ‘Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels)’ is one of the most iconic songs written by the late singer-songwriter, a time capsule of his time spent in the National Guard and written about the famed ‘Dear John’ letters sent to servicemen by girlfriends and wives who likely wouldn’t be there when they got home. Though it was eventually perfected and featured on his 1972 album You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, ‘Operator’ began like every other great song – a demo. Now, it’s worth noting that this demo just features Jim and his acoustic guitar, with Jim providing his own rhythm and melody; aside from a few key differences that come from not having a band behind him, Jim’s demo of ‘Operator’ sounds almost identical to the final cut featured on You Don’t Mess Around With Jim.

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Fun Fact: When he wrote ‘Operator,’ Croce was broke and working construction when he wrote the songs that would appear on You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, even asking his manager to shop them to other artists.

In fact, it very well could have stood on its own two feet without a backing band and still sound absolutely perfect! Whether it’s a testament to Jim’s ability to get to the heart of the human condition and have it translate flawlessly in any medium, or to his immense gift for crafting songs whose rough drafts were just ‘unplugged’ versions of the final studio cut, it’s pretty clear that no matter how you slice it ‘Operator’ is still one of the greatest songs ever written!

+ Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels) lyrics +

Operator, well could you help me place this call?
See, the number on the matchbook is old and faded
She’s living in L.A. with my best old ex-friend Ray
A guy she said she knew well and sometimes hated

Isn’t that the way they say it goes? Well, let’s forget all that
And give me the number if you can find it
So I can call just to tell ’em I’m fine and to show
I’ve overcome the blow, I’ve learned to take it well
I only wish my words could just convince myself
That it just wasn’t real, but that’s not the way it feels

Operator, well could you help me place this call?
Well, I can’t read the number that you just gave me
There’s something in my eyes, you know it happens every time
I think about a love that I thought would save me

Isn’t that the way they say it goes? Well, let’s forget all that
And give me the number if you can find it
So I can call just to tell ’em I’m fine and to show
I’ve overcome the blow, I’ve learned to take it well
I only wish my words could just convince myself
That it just wasn’t real, but that’s not the way it feels
No, no, no, no – that’s not the way it feels

Operator, well let’s forget about this call
There’s no one there I really wanted to talk to
Thank you for your time, ah, you’ve been so much more than kind
And you can keep the dime

Isn’t that the way they say it goes? Well, let’s forget all that
And give me the number if you can find it
So I can call just to tell ’em I’m fine and to show
I’ve overcome the blow, I’ve learned to take it well
I only wish my words could just convince myself
That it just wasn’t real, but that’s not the way it feels

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