Five Songs U.S. Postal Service Woes Have Changed Forever

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We're not seeing so many of these anymore.
The news about the budgetary crisis that is plaguing the U.S. Postal Service is not only distressing but also all but impossible to imagine. As a music writer, I depend on the CDs that arrive in the mail in order to write about music. Although it may be easier for a publicist to send me a link instead of an actual CD, I rue the day when there will no longer be any option and that's all that's offered.

And yet, two mail processing centers in Broward County may have to be closed, and their employees could be let go. It's part of a continuing trend caused by a $3 billion shortfall, a crisis that could have serious repercussions for the USPS overall. Sure, we can retreat to our computers and speak to one another on Skype or share a comment on Facebook, but the absence of a letter, card, or some other physical package passed from one person to another is just one more example of the isolation and indifference of modern society.

Nobody's saying the postal carrier will disappear, but the ramifications of an abbreviated number of delivery days and slower service could have a ripple effect on all segments of our society. Take for example, popular song. To illustrate our point, here are five pop classics that we'll never listen to in the same way:

5. "Please Mr. Postman" (the Marvelettes, the Beatles, Carpenters) -- "Please Mr. Postman, look and see/If there's a letter in your bag for me/(Please, Please Mister Postman)/Why's it takin' such a long time/For me to hear from that boy of mine?"

Unfortunately, the narrator may have to wait a little longer for that letter, if it arrives at all. And as far as it taking so long... well, blame it on budget woes, personnel cutbacks, no Saturday delivery... There's no happy answer here.



4. "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" (Stevie Wonder, Peter Frampton) -- Signed and sealed, maybe. But delivered? Well, soon that element may be in doubt. Perhaps the new lyric should read: "Ooh baby, here I am, signed, sealed and Skyped..." 




3. "Return to Sender" (Elvis Presley) -- In the new postal reality, Elvis would be lucky if the letter to his lover arrives at all. And if she does refuse it, would it be returned? Doubtful. Text her, you old hound dog! At least you'll know that the message got through! 


2. "The Letter" (Box Tops, Joe Cocker) -- "Give me a ticket for an airplane/I ain't got time to take a fast train/Lonely days are gone/I'm a-goin' home/My baby, she wrote me a letter."

Had the circumstance described in this song taken place nowadays, the narrator might not have known to buy that ticket or even consider that fast train. Lonely days might get lonelier because his baby wouldn't be writing a letter but, rather, posting a message on Facebook for the world to see. So she'll tag him, or poke him, or... well, we know what he really wants her to do to him... and it's a lot less awkward when the promise comes in the post rather than on a post. 


1. "Please Read the Letter" (Robert Plant and Alison Krauss) -- One of the highlights from Raising Sand, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' remarkable album collaboration, the meaning of this song is rapidly becoming as irrelevant and outmoded as a Betamax or an eight-track tape. Apparently, no one is reading letters much anymore because we're too busy checking our texts and emails. Please read the letter? How about, I'm friggin' begging you to read the letter! What's that? You've never read a letter? You don't know what a letter is? Not to worry... I'll instant message you...



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4 comments
JensenLee
JensenLee

In 1967, the Box Tops blasted onto the scene with “The Letter,” a number one hit for the blue-eyed soul band that would sell 4 million copies. Fronted by 16-year-old lead singer Alex Chilton, the band was produced by Dan Penn of American Sound Studio in Memphis. Rockaeology at http://bit.ly/rqhHK1 tells how it was Penn who instructed Chilton to sing “aer-o-plane”; Penn also added the jet plane takeoff from a sound effects record to the track’s close. Penn’s boss Chips Moman hated the jet sound but Penn threatened to destroy the record if forced to remove it.

Cam
Cam

It's nice to see someone writing about the current woes of the USPS and the role it's played over the years in pop culture. The USPS has been so entrenched in the American way of life that I fear that many are taking for granted that it will always be there in its current form. Your story comes at the issue from an entertaining perspective. As a matter of fact, as the social media manager for our company (a mail presort shop) I use the #MailMusicMonday hashtag to tweet a weekly snail mail related song every #MusicMonday. I have found songs from the ones you have here to songs from bands like Guster and Arcade Fire. I, too, wonder how much longer there will be songs that mention it?

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