“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!
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