Song of the day 9/7

Posted: September 7, 2011 in J.C. Personal
Tags: ,

Our song today was originally recorded by the Memphis, TN quintet, The Box Tops and shot to number 1 in 1967. The Box Tops are a part of a genre known as “blue eyed soul” a term used to describe soul or R&B recoded by white artists. Although “The Letter” is less than two minutes, took over 30 takes to record due in part to a rookie producer and young musicians.

Lyrically, there’s not too much to the song. It is the spoken word and thoughts of a man traveling back home to his girlfriend or wife, but I must admit the tune is catchy and who doesn’t know the first two lines to this song? “Gimmie a ticket for an aeroplane, ain’t got time to take a fast train”. Originally written in a much higher key it was producer Dan Penn’s idea to pronounce “aer-o-plane” and to have vocalist Alex Chilton sing it “a little gruff”. Penn said that he didn’t really pay attention to the vocals after that until the song was completely recorded as he was too busy with the novice musicians.

In 1979, it was estimated that “The Letter” was recorded in over 200 different versions. Among the artists that have recorded versions of this are: Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the Beach Boys, Shaun Cassidy, Bobby Darin, Al Green, Brenda Lee, Barbara Mandrell, Lou Rawls, Johnny Rivers and Dionne Warwick. There have even been disco covers and an easy listening version of this song.

The most notable cover was by Mr. Joe Cocker in his blues take on the tune in 1970. Cocker’s take pushed the song back into the top 10 and was released as part of his “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” live album recorded at the Fillmore East.

“The Letter” is ranked by Rolling Stone as number 363 on the list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. I’d say that that minute and 58 seconds made a huge impact on music.

The next time you’re feeling too small to make a change, think of “The Letter”. A little group from Memphis, recording a song that was by all accounts a nightmare to record ends up being covered by over 200 other artists and lands on the list of 500 greatest songs of all time. Not too shabby.

See ya on the “B” side.

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