Sleepless Nights, “Please Mr. Postman” and Songs About Aretha

Tuesday, 21st August, 9.30am

Well, as I sit down to start blogging for the first time in a couple of weeks, I feel a little nauseous – No, not at the thought of blogging, but because half and hour ago I had to leap out of bed and get ready to face the day at breakneck speed. The reason for this haste? – I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of the postman!

This sounds ridiculous I know, but since giving up work last year I’ve been able to have a more laissez-faire attitude to becoming suited and booted by 8am every morning. Problem is, once you log on for the day, the hours and minutes can whizz by and I sometimes find myself still in pyjamas when the doorbell rings, knowing full well it will be our smiling postman, with some parcel or other I have to sign for. I probably imagine it, but he makes me feel like a tardy teen who has been festering under the duvet, as opposed to a busy bee who has already put on a washing, tidied the kitchen, paid a few bills and checked the various email accounts. To compensate I end up gibbering, telling him about everything that is going on in my life, but a nice little exchange all the same. My friend the postman is the only person other than my family (and the blogging fraternity who very kindly take the time to read my posts) who knows of the journey I have been on over the last year, since deciding the world of the paperless office was not for me.

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As this blog always features a song or two, this would seem like the perfect time to squeeze in something I have long wanted to include, Please Mr. Postman. Now this is a song I am very familiar with as one of my favourite duos, the Carpenters, got to No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart in 1975 with their version. It started out however as the debut single for the Marvelettes and in late 1961 became the first Motown song to reach the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The Beatles started performing it as part of their live set at the Cavern Club in 1962 and also included it on one of their first albums. Here is a great clip from those days, the boys dressed in their very smart suits complete with snake hips and mop top haircuts. They would have had no idea back then of what was yet to come.

Last time the Beatles cropped up around these parts was when I did a compare and contrast (link here) between their version of Ticket to Ride and the slower paced one, yet again, by the Carpenters. Seems like a good time to offer up both versions of Mr Postman then (although I won’t inflict the Carpenter’s official Disney-themed video clip on you). Which one do you prefer, or would it be the original by the Marvelettes that floats your boat?

Please Mr. Postman by the Carpenters:

But I digress and have yet to explain my morning nausea caused by leaping out of bed at such speed. I woke up last night at 4.30am, which is fairly normal for me, but I usually get back to sleep at some point and get a few extra hours in before the 7 o’clock alarm goes off. Last night however I didn’t, as I had committed the cardinal sin of surfing the net on my phone before going to sleep as I still hadn’t worked out the angle I was going to take when I eventually get round to writing my Aretha Franklin tribute. Not so long ago, after “experiencing” the song I Say A Little Prayer at great volume on the car radio, I wrote another compare and contrast post (link here). The Aretha version of course won hands down, but other than that I’m finding it difficult to find a personal connection to her music. I can see how she came along at just the right time, when America was going through a period of massive change, but having been born about 20 years later in rural Scotland, other than appreciating that great voice and the passion with which she sang, nothing much else for me to write about.

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Aretha Franklin 1942- 2018

So, the last thing I did last night before switching off my phone was to visit some of the other blogs in my little circle to remind myself what they had written about Aretha. Last week, even before it was announced she had passed away, CC over at Charity Chic Music had posted something very fitting and then Rol dedicated the whole weekend on his My Top Ten blog to the lady and her music. Both of these dedicated daily bloggers chose to include the song Aretha by Rumer and that was the cause of last night’s sleeplessness – After listening to it twice before turning the lights out, it was the first thing to enter my head when I woke up at 4.30am and subsequently formed an earworm for the rest of the night however hard I tried to get back to sleep. As earworms go it’s a very pleasing one, and quite a soporific one you would have thought, Rumer having a voice not that dissimilar to the late great Karen Carpenter. But no, last night it just didn’t work out that way at all.

Aretha by Rumer:

Typically though, once Mr WIAA said goodbye and headed off to work, I slipped into a deep, deep earworm-free sleep only waking up at five past nine, thus the mad panic to get up and dressed before the postman’s inevitable ring of the doorbell. I made it, just, and so avoided that feeling of guilt at not being up and at it yet. Despite often talking gibberish of a morning, I decided that to recount the tale of the “Rumer earworm” was taking casual conversation a tad too far, so on this occasion resisted – Lucky chap!

As for the tribute song, I might not have had a personal connection to Aretha and her music, but the narrator in this song certainly does – All about a girl who goes to school listening to Aretha Franklin on her headphones. Like the fate of so many others, she’s having trouble there, and as her mother seems to be suffering from depression, she doesn’t have anyone to turn to. Fortunately Aretha comes to life in her imagination, encouraging her to stand up for herself and strike out on her own. The songwriter was asked why she chose Aretha Franklin: “She’s the Queen of Soul. If you’re going to write about somebody who embodies the spirit of music itself you go to the top of the list – and there she is. Her voice is probably the closest you get to God. There’s an incredible amount of passion and heartbreak in her voice as she’s lost a lot of family members. She’s just got something in her voice that puts her at the top of the tree and there’s no negotiation.” And on that note I think I’ve just written my tribute post.

Until next time, RIP Aretha Franklin.

Aretha Lyrics
(Song by Steve Brown/Sarah Joyce)

I got Aretha in the morning
High on my headphones and walking to school
I got the blues in springtime ’cause I know that I’ll never have the right shoes

Mamma she’d notice but she’s always crying
I got no one to confide in, Aretha nobody but you
Momma she’d notice but she’s always fighting
Something in her mind and it sounds like breaking glass

I tell Aretha in the morning
High on my headphones and walking to school
I got the blues in springtime ’cause I know that I’ll never have the right shoes

You got the words, baby you got the words
You got the words, baby you got the words

“Oh Aretha
Aretha, I don’t want to go to school
‘Cause they just don’t understand me and I think the place is cruel”

“Child singer, raise your voice
Stand up on your own, go out there and strike out”

I tell Aretha in the morning
High on my headphones and walking to school
I got the blues in springtime ’cause I know that I’ll never have the right shoes
But I got the words