Almanac Music: Songs About Mail


Elvis Presley stamp, USA, 1992. {Wikimedia Commons.]



Almanac Music: Songs About Mail


This week’s piece about key popular song themes involves songs about mail, and concerns mail in general terms, letters, postmen/women, writing a letter etc. So, my dear readers, please put your relevant songs in the ‘Comments’ section.


‘Love Letters in the Sand’, written by J. Fred Coots, Nick Kenny and Charles Kenny, performed by Pat Boone (1957)


Pat Boone had a worldwide hit hit with this pop ballad in 1957 – he even whistles in the song, which possesses one of my favourite time signatures: 12/8. Any person (above fifty, anyway) should know this number for certain! ‘On a day like today / We passed the time away / Writing love letters in the sand…’





‘P. S. I Love You’, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, performed by the Beatles (1962)


A lovely, melodic pop song with McCartney on lead vocals and beautiful harmonies from Lennon and Harrison, this was the B-side to the Beatles first single, ‘Love Me Do’. Interestingly, for various reasons, Andy White played drums (an oddly cool cha-cha rhythm) on the original recording of the song, with Ringo on the maracas. The song was mainly written by Paul McCartney.





‘Return to Sender’, written by Winfield Scott and Otis Blackwell, performed by Elvis Presley (1962)


This snappy, pop-rock classic, with the catchy sax riff, from the album Girls!Girls! Girls!, was a big hit for Presley in its time, reaching No. 1 in many places around the world.





‘Please Mr Postman’, written by Holland, Bateman, Gorman, Dobbins and Garrett, performed by the Beatles (1963)


John Lennon was wonderful in his performances of American pop-rock songs generally, and his lead vocal in this Beatles cover, from the With the Beatles album, is no exception. The backing vocals, by McCartney and Harrison are fine, too, as to be expected. The original version of the song, by the female group the Marvelettes, was Number 1 in the USA, but their version pales in comparison with what the Beatles came up with, lacking in immediacy, a sense of excitement, and being vocally inferior, especially the backing work.





‘The Letter’, written by Wayne Carson, performed by The Box Tops (1967)


A classic sixties pop-rock-soul song, this was a worldwide hit for The Box Tops in 1967, and a big hit for Joe Cocker a few years later.





‘Up the Junction’, written by Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, performed by Squeeze (1979)


This is a beautiful rock ballad, from Squeeze’s Cool for Cats album. The song is set in a working class milieu, about the rise and fall of a relationship, sung from the male’s point-of-view. Where does the ‘mail’ bit come in? In the last verse of the song:

‘Alone here in the kitchen
I feel there’s something missing
I’d beg for some forgiveness
But begging’s not my business
And she won’t write a letter…’





‘Razor’s Edge’, written by Shane Howard and Ian Wilson, performed by Goanna (1982)


This pleasantly drifty pop-rock song is from Goanna’s debut album, Spirit of Place. It begins: ‘Got a letter from Davy just the other day…’





‘Plastic Loveless Letter’, written and performed by Magic Dirt (2003)


Fabulous, driving, grungy song sung by the charismatic Adalita Srsen. Magic Dirt is probably the best band to come out of my home town, Geelong – ever.






Now, wonderful readers (and listeners) – over to you. Your responses to this topic are warmly welcomed. In the ‘Comments’ section, please add your own choice of a song (or songs) involving mail, along with any other relevant material you wish to include.



[Note: Wikipedia has been a good general reference for this piece, particularly in relation to checking dates and other details.]




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Kevin Densley is a graduate of both Deakin University and The University of Melbourne. He has taught writing and literature in numerous Victorian universities and TAFES. He is a poet and writer-in-general. His fifth book-length poetry collection, Please Feed the Macaws ... I'm Feeling Too Indolent, will be published in late 2023 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Hate to admit it KD but ‘Love Letters …’ was a favourite of mine when I was young!

  2. ‘Take a Letter Maria’ by RB Greaves has not aged well but there’s a catchiness with the horns and the swinging melody despite the somewhat dark lyrics. It has a glorious naivety.

    Another great topic, KD. Thanks.

  3. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Col. Fair enough – each to their own! (And thanks for getting the ball rolling on this theme.)

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Mickey. Glad you really connect with the theme. I can find something to enjoy in ‘Take a Letter, Maria’, too, especially its Latin feel and, like you, its catchiness and melody. I suppose when I was a kid I didn’t listen to the lyrics much, with the exception of the chorus – lyrically, the verses are a load of bollocks when you think about them.

  5. The Police: “Message In A Bottle”

  6. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Smokie. Good one! A favourite of mine at the time.

  7. Mark ‘Swish’ Schwerdt says

    Telegram Sam – T Rex

  8. Kevin Densley says

    Thank you, Swish.


    Almost made me want to get up from the computer desk and boogie!

  9. Bruce Springsteen: “Letter To You”
    Split Enz: “Message To My Girl”

  10. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks again, Smokie.

    The ‘mail’ songlist is certainly off to a promising start.

  11. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    More from the Rolodex of rhythm. Thanks again KD

    Postcard Love – 801
    Mexican Postcard – Go Betweens
    Letter To Elise – Cure
    Letter To Hermione – Bowie
    Letterbox – They Might Be Giants
    Tear Stained Letter – Johnny Cash
    Mailed It to Your Sister – Sports
    Fan Mail – Blondie
    Message To You Rudi – Specials
    The Message – Grandmaster Flash
    I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You – Bee Gees
    Message Of Love – Pretenders
    Career Opportunities – Clash
    The Letter Home – Elvis Costello/Brodsky Quartet
    Green Shirt – Elvis Costello and the Attractions
    Poison Pen – Hoodoo Gurus

  12. Kevin Densley says

    Great list, Swish! Some rippers here!

    The song I had on repeated play in my head before writing this was ‘Message To You, Rudy’ – there you go.

  13. Peter Crossing says

    Death Letter Blues – Son House
    Riveting voice and guitar work.
    Cassandra Wilson does a haunting cover.

  14. Kevin Densley says

    Thank you, Peter.

    I’ll certainly check these two out.

  15. Another ripper KD and some excellent songs already thrown in. Big shout out to Green Shirt by Little Elvis.

    My first contribution is Can’t Hardly Wait, by The Replacements. Also, Justin Townes Earle does an excellent cover, with mandolin playing the melody. And who can resist a mandolin.

    Oh, and of course, Dave Warner’s Million Miles from Home. Do yerself a favour!


  16. Our national bard of letters and music – Paul Kelly – has a fine repertoire.
    The ones that came to mind first were “To Her Door” where he writes from rehab:
    “Then he wrote a letter, and said, “I want to see ya”
    She thought he sounded better, she sent him up the fare”
    And “How to Make Gravy” has lyrics in the entire form of a letter from Joe in prison to his brother Dan expressing his regrets, fears and hopes. I’ve got a boxful of those – given and received – from the days when “love” letters were a thing.
    Digging a little deeper uncovered plenty more:
    “None of Your Business Now” starts with “send me no more letters”.
    “Little Aches and Pains” stars with “thanks for your letter and your kind words of comfort”
    “I Had Forgotten You” continues “then I got a letter, it came today”
    And then the songs with it in the title – “Love Letter” and “Letter in the Rain”
    Who Is our national Man of Letters? Kelly or Flanagan – the Irish win either way.

  17. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Rick K. Yep, love ‘Green Shirt’ – a bit like a punk/new wave ‘Penny Lane’ to me. Early ‘LIttle Elvis’ is generally excellent, like early ‘Big Elvis’.

    Love The Replacements’ riffy ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’, too (nice horns, also) – haven’t heard the JTE one yet.

    And Dave Warner’s ‘Million Miles from Home’ is an absolute beauty. Warner’s our larrikin Poet Laureate, I reckon.

  18. And of course, a Celtic punk offering:
    “Last Letter Home” by the Dropkick Murphys.

    Note that DKM played this song at the funeral of an armed forces fan who was killed in service.

  19. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks PB, for your contribution – stimulating stuff, as usual. ‘To Her Door’ and ‘How to Make Gravy’ are Oz classics, of course. Thank you, also, for your other ‘mail’ selections.

    Oh – and your mention of the lost art of ‘love letters’ – those given and those received … the letters ‘Young KD’ wrote to young women were earnest, in the main, while the letters I got back from these women were mainly humorous, breezy and fun. Jeez, I was ‘lord of the idiots’ back then – as a youth, humorous, breezy and fun would have got me better results!

  20. Kevin Densley says

    Thank you, Smokie – always good to get the ‘Dropkicks’ in somewhere!

  21. Kevin Densley says

    One more thing, Peter B – as for our national Person of Letters, for me it used to be Les Murray. (I had a small correspondence with him spread over about twenty years, which I valued.) Now that Les is gone, I don’t know who I’d pick.

  22. I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter – Billy Williams

    The Dear John Letter – Stan Freberg.

  23. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Fisho. Thanks for these two – a couple of classics. Always a fine thing to receive your input on these themed music pieces.

  24. Casting a bit of a net and some absolute ripper in this lot, starting with:

    Western Union Man, Jerry Butler
    West Nashville Ballroom Gown, Jimmy Buffett
    Please Read the Letter, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
    Letter She Sent, Laura Cantrell
    Letters, also by Laura Cantrell but written by Lucinda Williams
    Letter to Me, Brad Paisley (excellent)
    Dear God, XTC
    Day after Tomorrow, Tom Waits
    Famous Blue Raincoat, Leonard C
    Stan, Eminem
    You Wear it Well, Rod Stewart

  25. Kevin Densley says

    Fabulous, Rick! Probably over the weekend, I’ll work through the ones in your latest list that I don’t know.

  26. And my fave Billy Bragg song, Honey I’m a Big Boy Now.

  27. Kevin Densley says

    Fabulous Bragg song, Rick; in particular, for its brilliant lyrics, and pub-singalong piano.

  28. Karl Dubravs says

    Hey KD – my copy of the Almanac only arrived this morning (Tues) – I guess I’m still on the snail mail list :).
    Once again, great theme – I really really miss getting letters in the mail or sending letters/cards by mail. There is beauty in the effort & thought of sending/receiving posted letters/cards. It seems that each generation loses a bit of the magic of human communication in exchange for new technologies.
    Anyway, we are just back from our long weekend in Melb – the State Rose Garden at Werribee was exceptional (praise the volunteers!). Then, on the spur of the moment, we decided to see the roses at Flemington on Derby Day and stayed for the 9 races. Good news is that I invested $45 & walked out with $50.50.
    My opening bid on the ‘Songs About Mail’ theme is:
    “They’re selling postcards of the hanging’…..then 128 lines of lyric later…..’Don’t send me no more letters, no Not unless you mail them from Desolation Row’.
    Cheers, Karl

  29. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Karl. Glad you like the theme – I though it would be a ‘goer’. I do agree with what you say about mail vis-a-vis new technologies; in this context, I feel, a great deal is lost, but not as much is gained.

    The Dylan classic, ‘Desolation Row’, is an opening bid that’s almost impossible to top. Thank you.

  30. Kevin Densley says

    And further, Karl – your Melbourne long weekend sounds like it went very well. I used to go to an occasional race meeting during Flemington’s Spring Carnival, but that was a long time ago, when I actually lived in Melbourne.

  31. Karl Dubravs says

    Well KD – my scan of Dylan related songs on the theme (in this case – Mail) has, to my surprise, come up a bit short. The only other contender outside Desolation Row is off the John Wesley Harding album;
    The Wicked Messenger.
    I actually like the final line of this song and use it as a mantra to guide my interactions with others (not overly successfully, but I do try):
    ‘If ye cannot bring good news. then don’t bring any’.

    Now, I’m not sure if you tube links work in this comment section, but I do have my own contribution to the ‘mail’ theme – a song I wrote in early 2018 called ‘First & Last Goodbye’…which opens with ‘I’ll write you a letter/Explain everything/Return your possessions/Even that old wedding ring’

    cheers, Karl

  32. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Karl, for this additional material. I’ll check out the link, too.


  33. Dave Nadel says

    I’ve been away at the Maldon Folk Festival so I have arrived a little late.
    Russell Morris – Rachel, in which Rachel’s Mum reads her latest letter about the problems of nursing in a war zone (probably Vietnam – given the date of the song’s release.
    Pete Seeger – King Henry – also a letter home about the Vietnam War this time from a soldier.
    Joni Mitchell – Little Green – “So you write him a letter and say “her eye’s are blue” He sends you a poem and she’s lost to you.”
    Wallis and Matilda “Clancy of the Overflow.” This is Banjo Patterson’s poem set to music (not very well) by an 80s folk group. I find Lawson’s poems work much better as songs than Patterson’s e.g Gary Shearston’s version of The Bush Girl, Bernadette Robinson, Andy’s Gone With Cattle or Phyl Lobl, Past Caring.

  34. Kevin Densley says

    Thank you, Dave, for your words concerning the ‘mail’ topic, and your song choices. I found your brief discussion of Patterson and Lawson’s verse set to music particularly interesting. I’d need to think considerably more about it before coming to a personal conclusion about this matter. One thing I’m reasonably sure of, though, is that Lawson’s absolute best work is better than Patterson’s. In saying that, though, Patterson’s ‘How Gilbert Died’ is a blinder of a bush poem and comparable to something like ‘Andy’s Gone With Cattle’ as a potential lyric – both should work very well put to music by a good composer. (Still, however, Lawson’s poem in this comparison is better than Patterson’s, being more tightly written and the characters more sharply drawn.)

  35. Liam Hauser says

    Letter from Spain: Electric Light Orchestra
    Letter from Zimbabwe: Australian Crawl
    Letters in my head: Fleming and John
    Why don’t you write me: Simon and Garfunkel
    Summer of ’81: Mondo Rock

    And in primary school, I learned the song which is mentioned at this link:

  36. I’m in an Adeliade hotel room, watching Afghanistan take it right up to the Aussies and thinking about songs with mail related themes. Last night Vicki and I were down in Rosebuddy with friends, and we put together a playlist of fave Rolling Stones and Beach Boys songs.

    I included the following song, which also fits very neatly with this thread. That song being, Dead Flowers. Vicki and I saw Steve Earle (back when he was something else) in 1998 at the Central Club and he covered this remarkable Stones song. It’s not too shabby.

    Here are a few more “mail” themey songs:

    Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours, Stevie Wonder
    Box Full of Letters, Wilco
    Love Letters, Miranda Lambert
    All Too Well, Taylor Swift
    Roll Over Beethoven, Chuck Berry
    He Stopped Loving Her Today, George Jones
    Over Yonder (Jonathan’s Song), Steve Earle
    To Daddy, Dolly Parton (Sock it to him Dolly! And Emmylou does a pretty good version as well)
    Anchorage, Michelle Shocked
    Letter Never Sent, REM

    I can’t wait to see Taylor Swift next Feb and hear the 10-minute version of All Too Well live! Now that is a remarkable song!


  37. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Liam, for your contributions. A couple of your titles made me recall The Proclaimers’ ‘Letter From America’.

  38. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks again, Rick, for some wonderful additions to this week’s theme.

    Thanks for reminding me of that timeless classic, ‘Anchorage’, too.

  39. Frank Perich says

    Hi Kevin and all.
    Had to dig deep at the tail end but came up with some offerings. I guess haven’t been mentioned.
    Mr Postman by Marvelettes also covered by some obscure English Foursome.
    Dear One by Larry Finnegan lamenting getting the good bye from girlfriend by letter.
    Mailman bring me no more blues by Buddy Holly.
    The letter that Johnny Walker Read by Asleep at the Wheel who appeared recently at Out on the Weekend.
    24 Hours from Tulsa by Gene Pitney writing that he can’t come home again.
    Rhinestone Cowboy by Glen Campbell getting cards and letters from people I don’t even know.
    Now a few quirky ones:
    I couldn’t leave out Bryan Ferry a la Roxy Music with
    Strictly Confidential Before I die I write this letter and
    In every dream home a heartache receiving his plain wrapper baby by mail order.
    Staying with the package theme The Gift by Velvet Underground whereby the jilted Waldo Jeffers after failed attempts of responses to his letters mails himself in a crate to Marsha with a messy ending.
    Finally, and I seem to recollect a long long time ago at a Pete Best Beatles gig the Helicopter song. Rotor Rotor (I never got a letter back!)

  40. Kevin Densley says

    Thank you, Frank – some excellent material here! (Note: ‘Please Mr Postman’ performed by the Fab Four, the Marvelettes – and others – has already been covered, by me in my initial article.)

  41. Damian Balassone says

    “Take a Message to Mary” The Everly Brothers

  42. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, DB. I felt that the implication in this song is that the message to Mary will be a verbal one, as opposed to something written down (you know, in the semi-literate ‘Wild West, an’ all) – that said, it I suppose could be interpreted as a written-down message, too. Cheers.

  43. A couple more from long ago.

    Sealed with a Kiss – Brian Hyland
    Love letters straight from your Heart – Ketty Lester

    One that’s already been mentioned ‘I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter’ is an interesting one. I remember the Billy Williams version from when I was a kid, with his ‘Oh yeah’ flourish at the end. Until I did a bit of research though I didn’t realize it had been covered by so many other artists, including Fats Waller, Frank Sinatra, Bill Haley and the Comets, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. Even Paul McCartney covered it on his album ‘Kisses on the Bottom’.

    Cheers, Burkie

  44. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Burkie – some classic selections and interesting comments. In the latter context, so many ‘mail’ songs have been big successes, it seems, and also much covered.

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