When The Marvelettes charted with the original ‘Please Mr. Postman,’ it was the Hot 100 era of Bobby Vee, Barry Mann and Lonnie Donegan. When the Carpenters’ skilled cover of the Motown tune joined the bestsellers in November 1974, Billy Swan was telling us he could help, the Three Degrees were wondering when they would see you again and Carl Douglas was practicing his kung fu. On 25 January, the duo’s remake was sitting pretty atop the Billboard chart.
In late 1961, ‘Postman’ made history by becoming the first pop No. 1 on a Motown label. The crossover audience it reached included Richard Carpenter, who was 15 as it became a hit, and his sister Karen, who was still only 11. Then, 13 years after the original, the siblings’ interpretation entered the Billboard survey and swiftly became not only their 11th US top ten single, but their third and final No. 1.
The Carpenters had often added deft covers to their own distinguished song collection, as when they had remade The Beatles’ ‘Ticket To Ride’ as their very first single. They also did Ruby and the Romantics’ ‘Hurting Each Other,’ Leon Russell’s ‘Superstar’ and even made the Sesame Street children’s favourite ‘Sing’ their own. They would also interpret Neil Sedaka’s ‘Solitaire’ on the same Horizon album that contained ‘Postman’ and, later, ‘There’s A Kind Of Hush,’ the Geoff Stephens/Les Reed composition first made famous by Herman’s Hermits.
Richard and Karen’s Motown remake entered the US pop chart at No. 77. Nine weeks later, it unseated Barry Manilow’s ‘Mandy’ to hit the summit for a week, becoming the third song of the pop era to hit No. 1 in two different versions. The others: ‘Go Away Little Girl’ by both Steve Lawrence and Donny Osmond, and ‘The Loco-motion’ by Little Eva and Grand Funk.
‘Please Mr. Postman’ is on the Carpenters’ Horizon album, which can be bought here.
Follow the official Carpenters Best Of playlist.