* Audio file gathered from BigGreenC's personal music library
The Letter - The Box Tops (4/4)
Introduction: _ _ _ _ | | | | | | | e|-----------------| B|-----------------| G|-----------------| D|---------2-0-----| A|-------2-----2---| E|---0-4---------0-| Am F Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane, G D Ain't got time to take a fast train. Am F Lonely days are gone, I'm goin' home, E Am Cause my baby just wrote me a letter. I don't care how much money I gotta spend, Got to get back to my baby again Lonely days are gone, I'm goin' home, Am Cause my baby just wrote me a letter. Chorus: [C G] Well, she wrote me a letter [F C] G G Said she couldn't live without me no more. [C G] [F C] Listen mister can't you see I got to get back G [E E7] To my baby once more' anyway Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane, Ain't got time to take a fast train. Lonely days are gone, I'm goin' home, Am Cause my baby just wrote me a letter. Chorus Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane, Ain't got time to take a fast train. Lonely days are gone, I'm goin' home, Cause my baby just wrote me a letter. Because my baby just wrote me a letter.
The track was recorded at American Sound Studio in Memphis in a session produced by Dan Penn. Previously a musician and engineer at FAME Studios, Penn had been hired as production assistant to American Sound's owner Chips Moman, who Penn felt was shutting him out as a collaborator. Penn recalls: "Finally, I just told [Moman]...'Look, we can't produce together...I think I can produce records [alone]...But I do need somebody to cut. Give me the worst one you got'." Moman suggested Penn record a local five man outfit who had been pitched to him by disc jockey Ray Banks (Penn - "Chips was just graspin'. He'd never heard [the group]") and also passed on to Penn a demo tape of songs cut by his friend Wayne Carson Thompson which included "The Letter". Thompson's father dabbled in songwriting and would suggest ideas to his son, who had written "The Letter" after his father had suggested: "Give me a ticket for an aeroplane" as a potential opening line for a song. Penn met with some of the members of the group - who were eventually dubbed the Box Tops - "and told them to pick anything they wanted from this tape [by Thompson], but make sure that we do 'The Letter'" which Penn considered the one outstanding song.
The session for "The Letter" began at 10 o'clock on a Saturday morning and took over thirty takes wrapping at either three or five o'clock that afternoon. Penn met Box Tops' vocalist Alex Chilton for the first time at the session: "I coached him a little...told him to say 'aer-o-plane", told him to get a little gruff, and I didn't have to say anything else to him". (Composer Thompson, who says he played guitar at the session, was thrown by Chilton's vocal, having imagined the song being sung in a higher key.) Penn - "[Chilton] picked it up exactly as I had in mind, maybe even better. I hadn't even paid any attention to how good he sang because I was busy trying to put the band together...I had a bunch of greenhorns who'd never cut a record, including me...I borrowed everything form Wayne Thompson's original demo - drums, bass, guitar. I added an organ with an 'I'm a Believer' lick." Penn added the sound of an airplane take-off to the track by recording off of a special effects record played in an office adjacent to the recording studio. When the track was previewed for Chips Moman he suggested the take-off sounds be excised, to which Penn responded: "Give me that razor blade right there...[and] I'll cut this damn tape up! The airplane stays on it, or we don't have a record.
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