Mid-term break means no discussion of music in the staffroom at quarter past seven each morning.
The eclectic conversations range across music of every genre. My colleague, a rock and blues guitarist, in his leisure time, is the expert. I try to follow, making the odd contribution from time.
When they resume, there is a point of clarification to be sought. Last week, he suggested that the best lyrics from The Carpenters were those of Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft.
How could someone who is particular in expressing his preference for the early works of Pink Floyd over the later, and who can recall the albums of rock bands of whom I have never heard, like a song that includes such lines as?
Please, interstellar policeman
Oh won’t you give us a sign
Give us a sign
That we’ve reached you
No, no, no.
If one is to recall memorable Carpenters lyrics, they have to be those of Please, Mr Postman, the lines of which remain instantly memorable five decades after Karen Carpenter sang them.
The Carpenters’ version of Please, Mr Postman was a cover of the song. It had first been released by The Marvelettes in 1961. The Carpenter siblings obviously saw something in the song, as did listeners to both groups for the song recahed Number One for both of them
But why should Please, Mr Postman linger in the memory when countless other songs have disappeared without trace? It is pure pop, the tune is simple and repetitive and the words are hardly literature:
There must be some word today
From my boyfriend so far away
Please Mr. Postman look and see
If there’s a letter a letter for me
Perhaps the genius of the best pop songs, and the reason they might get air time five and six decades later, lies not in their music, and certainly not in their lyrics, but in their capacity to capture the spirit of a time.
The mid-1970s were a time bleaker than anything now. The economy was in a dire state, the politicians were as dull and disingenuous as ever, but pop music was about an irrepressible optimism, an irrational exuberance.
Of course, Please, Mr Postman was a trivial, inconsequential and silly piece, but what did that matter? There would be plenty of years ahead to be serious, one could sing along with Karen Carpenter and smile.
My colleague is five years younger than I. Perhaps Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft recalls a similar irrepressible mood for him.