Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact
Album: The Letter/Neon RainbowReleased: 1967Charted:
This song is about a guy who gets a letter from his former love telling him that she wants him back, and the guy wants to fly out and see her immediately. The Nashville songwriter Wayne Carson Thompson wrote the song after his father gave him the line, "Give me a ticket for an aeroplane."
Thompson gave the song to The Box Tops on the recommendation of his friend, Chips Moman, who ran ARS Studios and liked the sound of an unnamed band headed by then-16-year-old Alex Chilton, who auditioned for him in 1967.
Thompson played guitar on the recording. He didn't like the singing, believing the lead vocal was too husky, and wasn't fond of the production either. The addition of the jet sound "didn't make sense" to him. When producer Dan Penn added the airplane sound to the recording, Wayne Carson Thompson clearly thought that Penn had lost his mind. He hadn't - several weeks later it became one of the biggest records of the '60s, and The Box Tops went on to score with a few other Thompson compositions, including their follow-up release, "Neon Rainbow" (#24, 1967), "Soul Deep" (a #18 hit in 1969) and "You Keep Tightening Up On Me" (their last chart hit, which peaked at #74 in 1970). A few years later, Thompson won a Grammy for cowriting the hit "Always On My Mind
." (thanks to Kent Kotal at Forgotten Hits
When the group recorded this they still did not have a name. One band member suggested, "Let's have a contest and everybody can send in 50 cents and a box top." Producer Dan Penn then dubbed them The Box Tops.
At 1:58, the Box Tops' version of this was the last #1 hit to be shorter than two minutes in length.
Cover versions were US hits for two other artists, The Arbors (#20 in 1969 - arrangement by Joe Scott
) and Joe Cocker (#7 in 1970). Cocker's version is a live recording featuring Leon Russell; a studio version appears on his album Mad Dogs & Englishmen
The title is never sung in this song: his baby writes him "a letter."