Please Mr. Postman

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"Please Mr. Postman"
Please Mr Postman by The Marvelettes US vinyl single.jpg
US picture sleeve
Single by the Marvelettes
from the album Please Mr. Postman
B-side"So Long Baby"
ReleasedAugust 21, 1961
RecordedApril 1961
StudioHitsville U.S.A., Detroit
GenrePop,[1] soul, doo-wop, R&B
Length2:31
LabelTamla
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Brianbert
The Marvelettes singles chronology
"Please Mr. Postman"
(1961)
"Twistin' Postman"
(1961)

"Please Mr. Postman" is a song written by Georgia Dobbins, William Garrett, Freddie Gorman, Brian Holland and Robert Bateman. It is the debut single by the Marvelettes for the Tamla (Motown) label,[2] notable as the first Motown song to reach the number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart. The single achieved this position in late 1961; it hit number one on the R&B chart as well.[3] "Please Mr. Postman" became a number-one hit again in early 1975 when the Carpenters' cover of the song reached the top position of the Billboard Hot 100. "Please Mr. Postman" has been covered several times, including by the British rock group the Beatles in 1963. The 2017 song Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man interpolates "Please Mr. Postman".[4][5]

Original version[edit]

Background[edit]

In April 1961, the Marvelettes (then known as the Marvels) arranged an audition for Berry Gordy's Tamla label. Marvels original lead singer Georgia Dobbins needed an original song for their audition, and got a blues song from her friend William Garrett, which she then reworked for the group. Dobbins left the group after the audition and was replaced, Gordy renamed the group and hired "Brianbert" – Brian Holland and Robert Bateman's songwriting partnership – to rework the song yet again. Freddie Gorman, himself a Detroit postman and another songwriting partner of Holland (before Holland became part of the Holland–Dozier–Holland team) was also involved in the final reworking.

Composition and recording[edit]

Songwriting credits for "Please Mr. Postman" have been inconsistent.[6] Journalist Ben Fong-Torres credits the song to Holland, Bateman, Gorman, Dobbins and Garrett.[7] The original Tamla 45 single for the Marvelettes' version credits "Dobbins/Garett/Brianbert" as the songwriters, and credits "Brianbert" as producer. The original With the Beatles album cover credited it to just Brian Holland (the 1987 CD release credits it to "Dobbin-Garrett-Garman-Brianbert"). The 1976 Beatles discography book All Together Now credits the songwriting to Holland, Bateman, and Berry Gordy. The 1992 Motown boxed set Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection credits Dobbins, Garrett, Holland, Bateman, and Gorman as the composers. The Songwriters Hall of Fame credits "Please Mr. Postman" to just Holland, Bateman, and Gorman.[8] EMI Music Publishing, the current music publisher of the song, list all five writers in their catalog.

Played in 4/4 time, the song features the common I–vi–IV–V chord progression.[6] The melody is hexatonic, avoiding "blue" notes.[9]

The Marvelettes recording features lead singer Gladys Horton hoping that the postman has brought her a letter from her boyfriend.[citation needed] Holland and Bateman – dubbing themselves "Brianbert" – produced the session.[10] The song's rhythm section is made up of piano, electric bass and drums.[11] The commercial failure of Marvin Gaye's 1961 debut album, The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye, led him to spend time as a studio musician for the remainder of the year.[12] Among these efforts was "Please Mr. Postman", on which he plays the drums.[13] Gaye's backbeat is busy throughout the song, playing his snare on the two and four beats while tapping the ride cymbal each half beat.[11] He uses fills to transition the song through sections. The bass mostly alternates between root and fifth chords. An electric rhythm guitar is buried in the mix, only occasionally audible, while handclaps are prominent.[14] Musicologist Walter Everett suggests that the appearance of reverb on the lead vocal at 2:10 is possibly the result of a vocal overdub being "punched into a mismatched circuit".[15]

Release[edit]

[W]e were never really given our just dues as Marvelettes. For instance, we never received a gold record for "Please Mr. Postman" ... We didn't think about it much at the time, but looking back I can admit that it really wasn't fair the way the Supremes were put ahead of us in every way.[16]

Katherine Anderson, 1986

Motown's Tamla label released the song as a single in the US in August 1961, then on the album of the same name in November 1961.[17] The single was a commercial success, becoming Motown's second ever million-selling record and its first number-one hit.[10] The song was on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 23 weeks, and peaked at number 1 the week of December 11, 1961.[18] Producer Berry Gordy credited Barney Ales' PR effort with the commercial success of the song.[19] The song's hit status left many at Motown expecting the Marvelettes to be the label's biggest act, though they failed to ever match their first effort.[10] Journalist Ben Fong-Torres describes the Marvelettes' next song, "Twistin' Postman", as a "calculated follow-up".[7] The song's success led to an expansion in Motown's efforts, with songs like the Miracles "I'll Try Something New" and "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" following in 1962.[20]

Fontana Records released the song as a single in the UK in November 1961.[21]

Billboard listed the song as #22 on their 2017 list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.[22]

Rolling Stone ranked it at No. 331 on their list of "Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[4]

Personnel[edit]

According to The Complete Motown Singles – Vol. 1: 1959–1961 liner notes,[23] except where noted:

Charts and certifications[edit]

The Beatles version[edit]

"Please Mr. Postman"
The-beatles-roll-over-beethoven-1964-27-s.jpg
Swedish single picture sleeve
Song by the Beatles
from the album With the Beatles
Released22 November 1963
Recorded30 July 1963
StudioEMI, London
GenreRock and roll
Length2:36
LabelParlophone
Songwriter(s)Brian Holland
Producer(s)George Martin

Background and recording[edit]

The English rock band the Beatles displayed an early interest in the music of girl groups, covering songs by groups like the Shirelles, the Cookies and the Donays.[31] They added "Please Mr. Postman" to their live repertoire in December 1961, their third Tamla song after the Miracles' "Who's Lovin' You" and Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)".[32] Having not made it into the British top fifty, few in the UK knew the song, allowing them to make it their own among all Liverpool groups.[33] John Lennon sang lead vocal, Paul McCartney and George Harrison providing backing vocals, while all three added handclaps at their head level.[34] In 2004, Billy Hatton of the Four Jays recalled seeing one of the Beatles' first live performances of the song, saying it was "a Wow moment. I was struck by how tight they were. As a semi-pro group, the Four Jays would take a month to start playing a new song really well."[35] Without their knowing it at the time, the Beatles' 7 March 1962 performance of the song on BBC Radio's Here We Go was the first time any Tamla song was played over BBC radio.[36] Beatles author Mark Lewisohn reflects: "Without even realising it (and they'd have been thrilled to know), the Beatles broke the Detroit 'Motown sound' to the British listening public."[37]

In 1963, Beatles manager Brian Epstein approached Gordy for the rights to record several Motown songs, including "Please Mr. Postman", "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" and "Money (That's What I Want)". Rather than the industry standard of two cents, Epstein only offered one and a half cents per record sold.[38] Gordy initially refused, only relenting two minutes before the offer was set to expire.[39] On 30 July 1963, the band covered the song for their second UK album, With the Beatles. Recorded in Studio Two of EMI Recording Studios, George Martin produced the session, supported by balance engineer Norman Smith.[40] The band recorded three takes in a similar style to their BBC performance, but found the results unsatisfactory. They altered the arrangement to sound closer to the Marvelettes' version, recording four more takes with a stop-time intro, drum breaks and a coda, the final take seven deemed "best".[41] Due to their different vocal range from the Marvelettes, the Beatles modulate their version into A major.[6] Between recording two takes of overdubs, the band added handclaps while Lennon double tracked his original vocal,[41] take nine marked "best".[40] Martin and Smith mixed the song for mono and stereo on 21 August and 29 October, respectively.[42]

Release and reception[edit]

EMI's Parlophone label released With the Beatles in the UK on 22 November 1963, with "Please Mr. Postman" sequenced as the final track on the first side, coming after Till There Was You".[43] In the US, Capitol released The Beatles' Second Album on 10 April 1964, with "Please Mr. Postman" sequenced as the ninth track, between "I Call Your Name" and "I'll Get You".[44] Both releases credit the song only to Holland.[43][6] Capitol also included the cover as the final track on the US-only four-song EP, Four by the Beatles, released 11 May 1964.[45]

Writing about The Beatles' Second Album, music critic Robert Christgau considers the covers of "Please Mr. Postman" and "Money (That's What I Want)" as two of the Beatles' best ever recordings, "both surpassing the superb Motown originals".[46] Music critic Tim Riley calls the song's beat "tremendous", and that "like all great rock 'n' roll, it sounds perilously close to falling apart at any minute".[47] He writes it is the "most reckless and completely irresistible playing" on the first side of With the Beatles, and "the most flammable rock 'n' roll they've given us since "She Loves You".[47] Musicologist Alan W. Pollack sees the opening shout of "Wait!" as anticipating as the opening shout of "Help!" in the Beatles' 1965 song of the same name.[6] Writer Chris Ingham calls the song "a dense curtain of guitars and harmonies" supported by "a delicious, elastic groove".[48] Writer Jonathan Gould writes that Lennon's strong vocal overpowers the weak lyric, while the band's backing "[explodes] off the record", ultimately "[epitomizing] all that is best about the Beatles' second album."[49] He further writes that, among the covers on With the Beatles, it is the only one that approaches the quality of "Twist and Shout" from Please Please Me.[49] Writer Ian MacDonald dismisses the cover as "[l]acking the loose-limbed playfulness of the original", with a "wall of sound that quickly weights on the ear".[50]

Personnel[edit]

According to MacDonald,[50] except where noted:

Carpenters version[edit]

"Please Mr. Postman"
Please Mr. Postman (Carpenters).jpg
Single by Carpenters
from the album Horizon
B-side"This Masquerade"
ReleasedNovember 8, 1974
RecordedSeptember 1974
GenrePop
Length2:50
LabelA&M 1646
Songwriter(s)Georgia Dobbins, William Garrett, Freddie Gorman, Brian Holland, Robert Bateman
Producer(s)Richard and Karen Carpenter
Carpenters singles chronology
"I Won't Last a Day Without You"
(1974)
"Please Mr. Postman" / "This Masquerade"
(1974)
"Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town"
(1974)

A hit cover of "Please Mr. Postman" was recorded by the Carpenters, whose version took the song again to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in early 1975. The Carpenters' version resembles an old 1950s rock & roll song. The single was released in late 1974, reached number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Easy Listening charts in January 1975,[51] and was the duo's 10th and final million-selling single. The corresponding Horizon album was belatedly released in June 1975 and went Platinum.

The Carpenters' cover version was also sampled by rapper Juelz Santana for his single "Oh Yes". It is used by the Rob, Arnie and Dawn Show to introduce their Listener Mail segment, and was sung by the presenters of British Saturday morning show SMTV Live to introduce the mailbag section. Reaching number two in the UK Singles Chart in 1975, in a UK television special on ITV in 2016 it was voted number one in The Nation's Favourite Carpenters Song.[52]

A music video of the song, filmed in Disneyland, can be found on the DVD Gold: Greatest Hits (released in 2002), originally packaged as Yesterday Once More (released on VHS and LaserDisc in 1985).

Personnel[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Posner 2002, pp. 92, 94; Fong-Torres 1990, p. 78.
  2. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 25 – The Soul Reformation: Phase two, the Motown story. [Part 4]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  3. ^ Whitburn 2004, p. 379.
  4. ^ a b Schlanger, Talia (May 2, 2017). "Portugal. The Man On World Cafe". NPR.org. NPR. Archived from the original on June 18, 2017. Retrieved June 20, 2017. Then there's the song itself, which bears a certain resemblance to the old Marvelettes song "Please Mr. Postman." And while Portugal. The Man certainly didn't try to pull one over on anybody, and even warned its team about the similarities between the two songs, the band explains why it had to get lawyers involved.
  5. ^ Havens, Lyndsey (July 17, 2017). "Portugal. The Man Explain How Bernie Sanders Inspired Surprise Hit 'Feel It Still'". Billboard. Archived from the original on December 9, 2020. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e Pollack, Alan W. (1996). "Notes on the cover songs on the 'With The Beatles' album". soundscapes.info. Archived from the original on 13 August 2020. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  7. ^ a b Fong-Torres 1990, p. 79.
  8. ^ "Brian Holland". Songwriters Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on April 2, 2008. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
  9. ^ Everett 2009, p. 287.
  10. ^ a b c Posner 2002, p. 92.
  11. ^ a b Everett 2009, p. 83.
  12. ^ Posner 2002, pp. 96–97.
  13. ^ Posner 2002, p. 97.
  14. ^ Everett 2009, p. 84.
  15. ^ Everett 2009, p. 341.
  16. ^ Taraborrelli 1986, p. 79.
  17. ^ Davis 1988, pp. 272, 306.
  18. ^ a b "The Marvelettes Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  19. ^ Posner 2002, p. 93.
  20. ^ Posner 2002, p. 94.
  21. ^ Davis 1988, p. 322.
  22. ^ "100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time: Critics' Picks". Billboard. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  23. ^ Anon. 2005.
  24. ^ Posner 2002, p. 97; Taraborrelli 1986, p. 78.
  25. ^ Jamerson 1989, p. 88.
  26. ^ Graff, Gary (20 August 2018). "Eddie Willis, Original Motown Funk Brother, Dies At 82". Billboard. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  27. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 29 March 1962
  28. ^ Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs – Please Mr. Postman The Marvelettes Chart History, Billboard.com. Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  29. ^ "British single certifications – Marvelettes – Please Mr Postman". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  30. ^ "American single certifications – The Marvelettes – Please Mr. Postman". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  31. ^ Whiteley 2006, pp. 60–61.
  32. ^ Lewisohn 2013, pp. 845, 1038.
  33. ^ Lewisohn 2013, pp. 1038, 1135.
  34. ^ Lewisohn 2013, p. 1038.
  35. ^ Lewisohn 2013, pp. 1038, 1561n34.
  36. ^ Lewisohn 2013, pp. 1122–1123.
  37. ^ Lewisohn 2013, p. 1123.
  38. ^ Posner 2002, p. 136.
  39. ^ Posner 2002, p. 137.
  40. ^ a b Lewisohn 1988, p. 34.
  41. ^ a b c Winn 2008, p. 63.
  42. ^ Lewisohn 1988, pp. 34, 37.
  43. ^ a b Lewisohn 1988, p. 37.
  44. ^ Womack 2009, p. 291.
  45. ^ Womack 2009, p. 290.
  46. ^ Christgau, Robert (17 June 2020). "Xgau Sez". Robert Christgau. Archived from the original on 26 September 2020. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  47. ^ a b Riley 2002, p. 77.
  48. ^ Ingham 2009, p. 23.
  49. ^ a b Gould 2007, p. 193.
  50. ^ a b MacDonald 2007, p. 91.
  51. ^ Whitburn 2002, p. 47.
  52. ^ "The Nation's Favourite Carpenters Song". ITV. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  53. ^ a b Kent 1993.
  54. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 3909." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved December 30, 2020.
  55. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 3918a." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved December 30, 2020.
  56. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Please Mr. Postman". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  57. ^ "Carpenters – Please Mr. Postman" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  58. ^ "Carpenters – Please Mr. Postman". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  59. ^ "SA Charts 1965 – March 1989". Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  60. ^ "Carpenters – Please Mr. Postman". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  61. ^ "Carpenters: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  62. ^ "Carpenters Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  63. ^ "Carpenters Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  64. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 1/25/75". tropicalglen.com. Archived from the original on 2015-06-20. Retrieved 2017-07-15.
  65. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Carpenters – Please Mr. Postman". GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved June 11, 2018. To see peak chart position, click "TITEL VON Carpenters"
  66. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". collectionscanada.gc.ca.
  67. ^ "The Official New Zealand Music Chart – NZ End Of Year Charts 1975".
  68. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1975". Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  69. ^ "Britain's best selling records of '75". Record Mirror. London: Billboard. January 10, 1976. p. 12. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  70. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1975/Top 100 Songs of 1975". www.musicoutfitters.com.
  71. ^ "Cash Box YE Pop Singles – 1975". tropicalglen.com. Archived from the original on 2016-10-22. Retrieved 2017-07-15.
  72. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Carpenters – Please Mr. Postman". Music Canada. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  73. ^ "British single certifications – Carpenters – Please Mr. Postman". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  74. ^ "American single certifications – The Carpenters – Please Mr. Postman". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved September 11, 2020.

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]