Thursday, May 20, 2010

Song of the Week: The Marvelettes "Please Mr. Postman"

I'm not tech-savvy. I'm slightly better with computers than my parents. I can (sometimes) set up a printer. I spend my first five minutes in Kinko's nodding at stationary, hoping to cajole an employee into tackling the copier. My phone receives calls, plays music, and occasionally wakes me up in the morning. If I tried to make it do more, I'd stumble into a technomatrix, get blinded by lasers, and wake up in 2080.

I'm no techspert, but I think about technology. A lot. I don't think about what the next gadget will be, or whether I should wait for the next-gen-whatever, or how anything will impact my life in the future; I assume that it will, and I roll with it. Instead, I think about how today's technology will affect yesterday's pop culture.

Do you ever re-watch a favorite movie from yesteryear and say to yourself, "my God, look at the size of that cell phone"? If you're like me, you do this constantly. You do it and wish you didn't. I love The Departed, but worry how its cell-centric plot will look in fifteen years. Will I be able to love this movie in the future? I hope so.

And all of this got me thinking about Motown and my mailman.

Song of the Week: The Marvelettes, "Please Mr. Postman"

One of my earliest pop music memories is hearing this song--my mom is a Motown junkie, and played the Girl Groups constantly in the car. I remember riding home in the rain from day-care while the Marvellettes filled the car, those tinny backgrounds, the eager handclaps, the campy "ahh-oooo's" making angst sound fun. It's a great pop song, but it's also tailor-made for a four-year-old: simple melody, literal lyrics, and a simple story anyone can follow. I knew what mail was, I knew what a postman was, and I understood that a girl wanted a letter from a boy. Music is easy!

I love hearing the song today because I remember hearing it then--it's chock full of nostalgic value and happy memories. But if I were four now, would I love it at all? We don't (really) get mail anymore. We don't write letters. As a child of the Eighties, this song's premise made sense to me, because getting mail was a universal, daily experience. Would this song resonate with a child of the Aughts? Or would they just shrug and say, "lady, write the dude on Facebook and ask what his dealio is. Then, check his relationship status."

Of course, the song's emotional foundation is universal and lasting: feeling estranged from a loved one, and feeling more anxious as time goes by. Heck, that feeling inspired half Lucero's catalog. But the subtext of "Please Mr. Postman" is relayed through an outdated plot. It's a great love song that didn't age well.

Can you think of any other songs or movies that are outdated or in danger of becoming outdated? Or does "Please Mr. Postman" resonate for you anyway? Do you write letters--in calligraphy--and resent my post? Are you a four-year-old writing a "I'm Begging, Gmail" love song as we speak?

Hit up the comments and let me know!


John Baker said...

"Please Mr. Postman" has resonated for me ever since the movie "Backbeat" came out in 1994. It wasn't all that great of a movie (though it was a great idea for a movie), but the soundtrack was fantastic. It was all covers of pre-Beatles hits performed by Thurston Moore, Dave Grohl, Mike Mills, and Don Fleming with wither Dave Pirner or Greg Dulli on vocals. Their cover of "Please Mr. Postman" absolutely blew my mind. Not only was it sped up to an aggressive beat, but Greg Dulli spat out the vocals with such vitriol. It completely changed the sound of the song, and taught me that there might be something to those old Motown tunes, and that maybe anything could sound "punk".

Chris Milam said...

WOW--how do I not know about this soundtrack??? It sounds awesome.

If you like the oldie-turned-punk effect, you'll like the Reigning Sound's cover of "Stormy Weather." Check that out, John, if you haven't already.

And speaking of outdated premises, R.E.M.'s "Star 69" just came on shuffle.

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