Robert Smith of The Cure was going through a period of depression when writing the songs on Wish, and he said that "A Letter to Elise" is about "resignation." He was inspired by the Jean Cocteau novel The Holy Terrors and by the David Bowie song "A Letter to Hermione." Smith says the song is a "'stream of consciousness' piece," with many personal references, and adds that "the mood is generally resignation in the face of inevitable change."
Eddie Vedder often changes the words when he sings "Yellow Ledbetter." The basic story is about a guy whose brother dies in the first Gulf War. Apparently, bad news in the army is given in yellow envelopes.