Sunday, February 20, 2011

Please Mister Postman

Richard Furnstein: John Lennon pleads with a common civil servant for a letter from his distant girlfriend. He's sure that something should be arriving; hell, he's been waiting for such a long time. The song was originally written for a woman to sing, and the long distance love angle at that time makes the most sense as a soldier writing home to his sweetheart. However, John's appeal to the postman just makes it seem like his high school girlfriend went off to college while he stayed in their hometown to work in a drug store. Settle down, John. She's probably grinding to some Shabba Ranks at a freshman mixer at Delta Omega. See, you should have tried harder in high school. You just played your guitar, listened to girl group singles, and acted bummed out about your dead mom. Now you are stuck at home with no real future, counting the days until winter break so you can officially get your dumb heart broken. Stupid.

Robert Bunter: Yeah, what a sad state of affairs for our downtrodden Liverpudlian hero. I guess all he can do now is leave the goddamn mailbox behind and mope over to Pete Best's house (his mom lets the boys use the front room for rock and roll practice) to meet his friends. Before you know it, they're smoking fags (effeminate British cigarettes), trading smutty jokes and laughing uproariously. Now it's time to plug in the cheap guitars and have band practice. While Ms. Best smiles indulgently over the whistling teapot in the nearby kitchen, four young lads are crafting the big beat sound that will soon seduce the entire planet. Pretty soon they'll be rich and famous with more girls than they know what to do with. Some other sad adolescent will be left to mope in his stinky bedroom while his beloved is off getting shagged by Mal Evans in the hospitality suite at the Beatles' plush hotel in the city. What can he do? Nothing but pick up a guitar and wail away the pain, in the process creating a new rock and roll sound that will soon set the world on its ear. That young man's name? Declan Patrick MacManus ... perhaps you know him as ELVIS COSTELLO. The cycle of life continues.

Richard Furnstein: Get ready for this, readers. This is the best John Lennon vocal track in his entire recorded output. Good lord, it rips me open. "Please Mister Postman" also has one of my favorite Beatles moments: Listen for John's vocal on "Deliver the letta, the sooner the bet...You gotta wait a minute, wait a minute..." He's so full of pure passion and anxiety that he can't even finish his simple rhyme, "better" is clipped to become "bet" and he is left screaming at the hapless postman.

Robert Bunter: I can't argue with you, man.

Richard Furnstein: Extra credit goes to the Carpenters for their completely neutered version. Where John seems like he'll kill himself if another afternoon goes by without this crucial letter, Karen gently reminds the postman that she should probably receive some kind of correspondence. "Oh, nothing? Sorry, sir. I'll continue to wait patiently. Have a great day!"

1 comment:

  1. I have to disagree with Richard Furnstein, although I understand why he would feel Karen has no passion on the Carpenters' version of "Postman." There are two recordings of "Please Mr. Postman" from Karen and Richard Carpenter. Version one is the original September 1974 A&M single release that eventually hit Number One on the Billboard Hot 100. On this recording Karen has the passion and the rock edge that made this the great record that it was, selling close to two million copies in the U.S. alone. Version two of "Postman" was remixed by Richard who toned it down to fit the lush-sounding "Horizon," their new album that was released nine months later in 1975, with a new lead vocal from Karen, who, as you say, sounds as if she could care less about the letter she's waiting for. Top 40 radio hasn't played the original Carpenters single in over 35 years, opting to choose the "Horizon" cut instead, especially since the original single mix is not widely available on CD. Programmers are too lazy to find the original 45. You can only find the original single mix of the Carpenters' "Postman" on an expensive 2006 Japanese Singles CD box set, that only a hardcore Carpenters collector like myself, would cough up the money to buy.

    Karen was a John Lennon fan. Give her a break, and try to find the original single mix, somewhere on YouTube, and you will hear the drive you claim is missing from this late, great singer. You will be astonished at the difference.