“Please Mr. Postman” is a song written by Georgia Dobbins, William Garrett, Freddie Gorman, Brian Holland, and Robert Bateman. It is the debut single by the Marvelettes for the Tamla (Motown) label, notable as the first Motown song to reach the number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart. The single achieved this position in late 1961; it hit number one on the R&B chart as well. “Please Mr. Postman” became a number-one hit again in early 1975 when the Carpenters’ cover of the song reached the top position of the Billboard Hot 100. “Please Mr. Postman” has been covered several times, including by the English rock group The Beatles in 1963.
In April 1961, the Marvelettes (then known as “The Marvels”) arranged an audition for Berry Gordy’s Tamla label. Marvels member Georgia Dobbins needed an original song for their audition, and got a blues song from her friend William Garrett, which she then reworked for the group. Dobbins left the group after the audition and was replaced, Gordy renamed the group and hired “Brianbert”—Brian Holland and Robert Bateman’s songwriting partnership—to rework the song yet again. Freddie Gorman, another songwriting partner of Holland (before Holland became part of the Holland–Dozier–Holland team) was also involved in the final reworking.
The Marvelettes recording features lead singer Gladys Horton hoping that the postman has brought her a letter from her boyfriend, who is away at war. Accompaniment is provided by the Funk Brothers, including Marvin Gaye on drums. The Marvelettes’ version later appeared in a bar fight scene in the film Mean Streets (1973), directed by Martin Scorsese.
Songwriting credits for “Please Mr. Postman” seem to have changed over the years. The original Tamla 45 single for the Marvelettes’ version credits “Dobbins/Garett/Brianbert” as the songwriters, and credits “Brianbert” as producer. The original With the Beatles album cover credited it to just Brian Holland. The 1976 Beatles discography book All Together Now credits it to Holland, Bateman, and Berry Gordy. The 1992 Motown boxed set Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection credits Dobbins, Garrett, Holland, Bateman, and Gorman as the composers. The Songwriters Hall of Fame credits “Please Mr. Postman” to just Holland, Bateman, and Gorman. EMI Music Publishing, the current music publisher of the song, list all five writers in their catalog.
Billboard named the song #22 on their list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.
“Please Mr. Postman” was covered in a version by English rock group the Beatles on their With the Beatles album in the UK and on The Beatles’ Second Album in the US. Sung by John Lennon, their version reverses the genders. The song was produced by George Martin.
The Beatles included “Please Mister Postman” as part of their live act in 1962, performing it regularly at the Cavern Club. By the time it was recorded for their second album, With the Beatles, it had been dropped from their set, and required some work in the studio to bring it up to an acceptable standard. Ian MacDonald criticised their version for having a “wall of sound” and for a “general airlessness.”
John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocal, rhythm guitar, handclapping
Paul McCartney – backing vocal, bass, handclapping
George Harrison – backing vocal, lead guitar, handclapping
Ringo Starr – drums, cowbell, handclapping
George Martin – producer
Norman Smith – engineer