The Beatles’ version of “Please Mr. Postman” is part of U.S. chart history

“Please Mr. Postman” was recorded by The Beatles for their With the Beatles album. The band had started playing it in 1962 in their act at The Cavern Club, but had not played it in a long while at the time of the recording. It took a bit of practice to bring it up to par. It was recorded on 30 July 1963, and released as a single in the UK on 22 November 1963. It was released in the U.S. on 10 April 1964, appearing in the U.S. on The Beatles Second Album.

They did covers of three Motown hits for With the Beatles: “Money (That’s What I Want)”, “You Really Got a Hold on Me”, and “Please Mr. Postman”. Berry Gordy, Jr., the founder of the Motown label who also co-wrote “Money (That’s What I Want)” was thrilled that the most popular band in the UK, then unknown in the U.S., was covering three of Motown’s biggest hits thus far.

The song, recorded by The Marvelettes, was actually the first ever number one hit for the Motown (Tamla) label, reaching the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1961. It took the longest time in chart history for a single on the Billboard Hot 100 to reach number one. The famed Funk Brothers were the musicians on the recording. However, on drums was a 22 year-old session drummer who was both eager and determined to break into the music industry; the drummer’s name was Marvin Gaye. “Please Mr. Postman” was co-written and co-produced by Brian Holland, who along with his brother Eddie and Lamont Holland, would later go on to both write and produce countless hit songs for Motown acts such as The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Martha and the Vandellas, The Isley Brothers and more.

The debut single by The Marvelettes also reached number one on the R&B charts.

“Please Mr. Postman” became the third song of the rock era to reach number one by two different artists when in 1975 The Carpenters made it into a chart-topper again. The brother and sister pop duo originally from New Haven, Connecticut took the advice of some music critics who said that Karen’s voice would be well-suited to covering pop hits. They decided to cover “Please Mr. Postman” on their Horizon album and release it as the album’s first single. “Please Mr. Postman” would be the duo’s third and final number one hit.

The following are all the songs that have reached number one by different artists on The Billboard Hot 100 charts:

1. “Go Away Little Girl” — Steve Lawrence (1963) and Donny Osmond (1971)

2. “The Loco-Motion” — Little Eva (1962) and Grand Funk (1974)

3. “Please Mr. Postman” — The Marvelettes (1961) and The Carpenters (1975)

4. “Venus” — Shocking Blue (1970) and Bananarama (1986)

5. “Lean on Me” — Bill Withers (1972) and Club Nouveau (1987)

6. “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” — The Supremes (1966) and Kim Wilde (1987)

7. “When a Man Loves a Woman” — Percy Sledge (1966) and Michael Bolton (1991)

8. “I’ll Be There” — The Jackson 5 (1970) and Mariah Carey (1992)

9. “Lady Marmalade” — LaBelle (1975) and Christina Aguilera/Lil Kim/Mya/P!nk (2001)

While “Please Mr. Postman” was the third single to reach number one by two different artists, it should be noted that there is an irony in the first two songs to achieve this distinction. The first one, “Go Away Little Girl”, and the second one, “The Loco-Motion” were both penned by the husband-and-wife songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King during the halcyon day of the famed writers of The Brill Building, the famed building at 1650 Broadway in Manhattan that turned into a factory of hit songwriting. “The Loco-Motion” is featured in the current Broadway smash Beautiful: The Carole King Musical as are many other Goffin/King compositions, solo King compositions, as well as songs by the other prominent Brill Building of songwriters, many of whom appear in the musical as characters.

Of course, The Beatles recorded the Goffin/King song “Chains”, which was a hit for The Cookies in 1962. Recorded as a single for their first LP, Please Please Me, the Beatles’ cover of the song was recorded in four takes on February 11, 1963; George Martin used the first take. “Chains” represents the first time that early Beatles fans heard George Harrison doing lead vocals on a song released as a single.

The Beatles rendition of “Please Mr. Postman” did not hit number one like the versions by The Marvelettes and The Carpenters did. In fact, it did not even crack the Top 40. But, it has always been one of my favorite Beatles songs and personally I think it is better than the versions that topped the charts in the U.S. You be the judge!

Please Mr. Postman – The Beatles by HadleyDoc

Cheap Trick makes it into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but was kicked off John Lennon album in 1979!

Last night the original members of Cheap Trick were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as were the original members of Chicago. Check out previous posts on this blog touched upon Chicago founding members trombonist James Pankow and bassist/vocalist Peter Cetera.

The original lineup of Cheap Trick played together last night for the first time since drummer Bun E. Carlos stopped performing with the band in 2010 despite still being a legal member of the band. Inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have healed rifts and brought bands back together – if only for a couple of hours. The Cheap Trick lineup that was inducted consists of Robin Zander (vocals), Rick Nielsen (guitar), Tom Petersson (bass), and Brad “Bun E. Carlos” Carlson (drums).

The breakthrough twelve month period for Cheap Trick was from October 1978 to October 1979, when their Cheap Trick at Budokan double album was wildly popular on its way to triple platinum certification. The following album Dream Police, proved to be the bands most commercially successful, reaching number six on The Billboard 200 album chart and being certified platinum in only a couple of short months. From these two albums, the hit songs “Surrender”, “I Want You To Want Me”, and “Dream Police” saturated both the AM and FM airwaves in the U.S.

In the late summer of 1979, after Cheap Trick had burst onto the scene the previous year in a great way, John Lennon was recording the Double Fantasy album. The album’s producer, Jack Douglas, suggested to John that he use Cheap Trick as the backing band for the song “I’m Losing You”. On 12 August 1980, Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos went to the Hit Factory studios to record “I’m Losing You”; while there they also recorded the track for Yoko’s “I’m Moving On.”

John told the Cheap Trick duo that he was very impressed with their work. He told Nielsen that he wished Nielsen had been the second guitarist on his solo song “Cold Turkey”.

However, the Cheap Trick version of “I’m Losing You” was entirely set aside and not included on the album. The reasons for the decision were not definitely known. There has always been speculation that the two members of Cheap Trick wanted too much money, or that the sound had more of a “rock” edge than Lennon or the producer had wanted. Also, the Cheap Trick-backed track of Yoko’s “I’m Moving On” was also discarded in favor of a re-recording by studio musicians.

The studio musicians for Double Fantasy recorded the second version of “I’m Losing You” on August 18, but that version was scrapped, too. They recorded a third version on August 26 that was used on the album. Lennon finally got around to recording the vocals he wanted used on September 22.

What is puzzling is that when the studio musicians recorded the second and third versions of the song, Lennon insisted that they wear earphones that played the Cheap Trick version of the recording so that the musicians would be inspired.

“I’m Losing You” was intended by both Lennon and the record company to be released as a single, but with the assassination of John Lennon shortly after the album’s release, it was decided that a song with such a title would not be appropriate in light of the events. Finally, the Cheap Trick-backed version of “I’m Losing You” was released in 1998 on the John Lennon Anthology CD. At the time of its release on the four CD boxed set, many prominent rock critics expressed that Lennon and producer Jack Douglas should have gone with the better version by Cheap Trick for Double Fantasy.

A 13 September 2009 article in the Las Vegas SunNielsen: Cheap Trick-infused ‘I’m Losing You’ with Lennon too hot to handle” sheds interesting light on Cheap Trick’s brief collaboration with the Beatles legend.

In the 2009 biography John Lennon: The Life, Philip Norman wrote, “Douglas wanted to give the album a contemporary edge and, to that end, enlisted Bun E. Carlos and Rick Nielsen, drummer and guitarist of Cheap Trick (who by an odd coincidence were currently working at George Martin’s AIR Studios in Montserrat) to play on “I’m Losing You”. But, funky as their contribution was, it simply did not fit. The spirit of Double Fantasy was Matisse rather than Picasso.”

Cheap Trick’s surge started in 1978 with wide airplay of “Surrender” on both FM and AM stations; despite the song’s popularity and conspicuous success, it never cracked the Top 40, stalling at number 62 on the Billboard Hot 100 . “I Want You To Want Me” reached # 7 in the summer of 1979, followed by “The Dream Police”, which only reached # 26 despite widespread radio play. Some nine years later the band would have their only number one hit, “The Flame”, which topped the charts for two weeks in July 1988. Two months later their cover of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” reached the number four position.

Cheap Trick may not have made into onto Double Fantasy, but they made into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Check out the Cheap Trick versions of “I’m Losing You” and “I’m Moving On” that were strangely rebuffed from appearing on John Lennon’s last album……

Steve Miller induction into Rock Hall of Fame; in 1969 Paul McCartney helped him in the studio

This evening veteran rocker Steve Miller will be inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Miller has had a high-profile career as the singer/songwriter/guitarist of The Steve Miller Band. Few people are aware of the fact that a young Miller collaborated in the studio with Paul McCartney a year before the break-up of The Beatles.

Miller was in London in May 1969 to record Brave New World, the third album of The Steve Miller Band and the first one since the departure of band member Boz Scaggs. The day of 9 May 1969 marked a bitter fight among the four members of The Beatles. The previous day, Lennon, Harrison and Starr had signed financial management contracts with Allen Klein but Paul did not toe the line. The three stormed out of Olympic Studios leaving McCartney alone there to stew. Steve Miller happened to come in ahead of time, and had a conversation with McCartney, who needed a sympathetic ear. Miller asked if he could use the studio, and Paul agreed if he could play drums. Miller’s producer Glyn Johns arrived shortly thereafter and together Miller and the Beatle recorded the song “My Dark Hour” on which Paul provided bass, drums, guitar and backing vocals. Miller handled all the other instruments. McCartney was not credited under his own name, but rather under Paul Ramon, his occasional pseudonym from 1960 in the struggling days of the band that would soon be known as The Beatles.

McCartney also provided backing vocals on the track “Celebration”. In addition, the song “Space Cowboy” features the exact primary riff as “Lady Madonna”, which naturally has always fueled speculation that McCartney gave Miller permission to do so because they were working in the studio together.

The Fab Four bass player elaborated on his collaboration with Steve Miller in the book Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now by Barry Miles:

“Steve Miller happened to be there recording, late at night, and he just breezed in. ‘Hey, what’s happening, man? Can I use the studio?’ ‘Yeah!’ I said. ‘Can I drum for you? I just had a terribly unholy argument with the guys there.’ I explained it to him, took ten minutes to get it off my chest. So I did a track, he and I stayed that night and did a track of his called My Dark Hour. I thrashed everything out on the drums. There’s a surfeit of aggressive drum fills, that’s all I can say about that. We stayed up until late. I played bass, guitar and drums and sang backing vocals. It’s actually a pretty good track.”

It would take The Steve Miller Band almost another five years to crack the Top 40 in the U.S. after numerous entries on The Billboard Hot 100. “The Joker” reached # 1 on January 12, 1974 and stayed in the top slot for a week. His second number one hit was “Rock ‘n Me” which topped the charts for the week of November 6, 1976. His third and final number one hit, “Abracadabra”, spent two weeks on the top of the charts during the first two weeks of September 1982. Also, Toto keyboardist Steve Porcaro wrote the music and words to the hit song “Human Nature” on the famous album, while handling synthesizer chores on four tracks.

Miller’s highly popular song “Fly Like An Eagle”, which has been used in several television ad campaigns over the last forty years, just missed the mark as it stayed in the number two position for two weeks in 1977 but could not make the jump to the top slot; it was kept out of the top position by “Love Theme From ‘A Star Is Born’ (Evergreen)”, the Barbara Streisand hit she co-wrote with famed songwriter Paul Williams. The main guitar hook in “Fly Like An Eagle” was actually first used in “My Dark Hour”.

In total Miller scored nine songs in The Top 40 between 1973 and 1982. The others were “Take the Money and Run” (# 11 in 1977); “Jet Airliner” (# 8 in 1977); “Jungle Love” (# 23 in 1977); “Swingtown” ( # 17 in 1977); “Heart Like a Wheel” (# 24 in 1981).

Not wanting to release a double album, Miller released two albums within a year of each other; songs for both albums were recorded during the same studio sessions. The album Fly Like an Eagle was released in May 1976 while Book of Dreams was released in May 1977.

The Steve Miller Band was officially formed in 1966 and has had countless members in a revolving line-up since then. Longtime Miller friend Boz Scaggs was an original member of The Steve Miller Band, appearing on the first two albums and playing with the band at the famous Monterey Pop Festival, the three day festival held in June 1967. Scaggs left The Steve Miller Band in 1968 en route to a successful solo career. Scaggs’ highly successful album Silk Degrees is considered one of the top albums of the 1970’s, and spawned Top 40 hits like “Lido Shuffle” and “Lowdown”. For the Silk Degrees album and tour, Scaggs was backed up by a group of young musicians who started playing during their early high school years in the Los Angeles area. Following the tour, they went out on their own as a band under the name Toto. Five years later, their 1982 album Toto IV would win seven Grammy Awards, including “Album of the Year”, “Record of the Year”, and “Producer of the Year”. The album that would win the Grammy for “Album of the Year” the following year was Michael Jackson’s legendary Thriller. Ironically, members of Toto served as studio musicians for several of the tracks on Thriller, such as “The Girl is Mine”, the duet by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, which was the first single released from Thriller and peaked at number two on The Billboard Hot 100.

The bond between Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs goes back to high school in Dallas when Scaggs was a freshman and Miller was a sophomore at the elite St. Mark’s School of Texas. St. Mark’s was founded by Dallas businessmen who had attended elite prep schools in New England and wanted to create a school in the mold of a New England private school so that their own sons could have that type of educational experience without having to leave Dallas. While at St. Mark’s, Miller and Scaggs formed their first band which was appropriately called The Marksmen. Steve Miller went to college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the following year Scaggs enrolled at Madison after his graduation from St. Mark’s. A few years in back of Miller and Scaggs at St. Mark’s was future Oscar-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones, who enrolled at Harvard after graduating from St. Mark’s. Many years later actors Owen and Luke Wilson went to St. Mark’s, too. In 1969, Tommy Lee Jones was Al Gore’s real-life roommate at Harvard; the following year, after graduating, he played Ryan O’Neal’s Harvard roommate in the classic movie Love Story. However, Jones was already famous in his own right at Harvard because he was an offensive lineman on the famous 1968 Harvard football team that was 16 points down against Yale in the final minute and tied it. The headline in the Harvard Crimson was “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29”, a headline recycled as the title of the 2008 documentary Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 about the famous 1968 game, which was directed by Kevin Rafferty.

Steve Miller deserves this induction tonight. Be assured that no media coverage of this event will mention his unique collaboration with Paul McCartney during the Beatle years.

A First (and Last): John and Paul both lend their help on a song

While it is well known that Paul McCartney and John Lennon helped out other artists on songs during the Beatle years, the one and only time that they ever helped out on song together was in 1967 on The Rolling Stones hit “We Love You”. The song is for the most part unknown in the U.S., but it reached # 8 on the British pop charts. In the U.S., it only reached # 50 on the Billboard Hot 100 and therefore was off the radar screen because it fell short of the coveted Top 40.

“We Love You” is definitely “interesting”. Its Moroccan influence is obvious. One critic at the time described it as a “psychedelic collage of jail sounds.”

The song was written in response to the drug arrests of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones on 12 February 1967 at Richards’ country home in Sussex. The band made an accompanying video that was a re-enactment of the 1895 trial of Oscar Wilde for indecency. Needless, to say the BBC immediately banned the video, or “promotional film” as was the term back then.

“We Love You” was a brazen and public “thank you” to The Beatles, The Who and the editorial page of the London Times for taking the bold initiative to voice public support for the three members of The Rolling Stones after their drug arrests. Since the song was written in part for The Beatles, Paul McCartney and John Lennon were asked to help out with backing vocals, marking the first and only time that these two Beatles would help out on a song together.

Interestingly, Stones lead guitarist Brian Jones played the Mellotron on the track.

The backing vocals provided by John Lennon and Paul McCartney went uncredited.

A 24 October 2010 article in the Daily Mail entitled “How the Acid King confessed he DID set up Rolling Stones drug bust for MI5 and FBI” shed light on the infamous 1967 drug bust. Also, the drug raid was the subject of a 2012 book, Butterfly on a Wheel: The Great Rolling Stones Drug Bust by Simon Wells.

Check out the song that never made the Top 40 in the U.S., and the promotional film the Stones made for it: