Song of the day – 352: The Marvelettes
Google is so clumsy! Vincent‘s words here translate via Google as, “When you take me a letter from him, it’s been too long since I expect he wrote me” – and I can’t imagine for one moment that’s accurate.
Ah well. This was Motown first US #1, according to my extensive research (a comment on YouTube). For years, I was more familiar with John Lennon’s killer strained vocal on The Beatles’ faithful cover – harmonised and made jangly for popular consumption. Wait … what am I saying? The original was a Number One hit and already plenty harmonic enough! You could tell this must’ve been a staple of The Beatles’ live set, the song feels so natural in their hands. Ah well. Here’s the original. Awesome stuff. A raw cry of youthful anguish to an impersonal go-between that echoes down the ages.
The song means little. It’s not meant to mean much. It’s a child’s lament. Waiting by the door, hoping for a sign from the outside world that you’re alive. Of course you’re alive! Look around you: at the coke fire your dad has to stoke early each winter’s morning, at the battered radio on the mantlepiece that only plays Radio 3 (classical) or Radio 4 (cricket), at the endless bookcases stacked neatly with Penguins on the wall. Test the ice on the inside of your windowpane. Feel the freezing floor beneath your feet as you rush your clothes on, preparatory to your paper round. Maybe you could play a few Beatles songs on the piano first? There’s a knock at the door: the postman. Letters, bills, handwritten correspondence … for everyone but you. Of course, everyone but you. You tried writing to a cousin in Australia, but your pen wasn’t interested. Immediacy, that’s the key.
Postmen, railway stations, talking in the street for half-an-hour after you last said goodbye … folk go for the most obvious signifiers. I corresponded with a female cartoonist briefly. I had a crush on her. She called me “schoolboy”. We rubbed knees underneath a cafe table. I made fun of folk who went to art school because The Jam did. (Might have got that one wrong.) She wrote me several sides, making fun, pointing out that I was an obvious candidate. Took me 20 years to understand what she meant. The letters showed up on time, because that’s what happened in those days. And if they didn’t show … ? They didn’t show.